A photo tour of Sigiriya

The first time I visited Sigiriya is more a memory of my parents than mine, as I was around a year old at that time. They keep recounting the story of how one of my father’s colleagues had offered to carry me up the mountain, during an office trip with family, as my parents had their hands full with my siblings. I think their memory of Sigiriya is associated with the subsequent scare they received when my father’s colleague took off running up the mountain, after I was handed over, and my parents feared that I was going to be dropped.

My own memory of Sigiriya is a more pleasant one as it was a trip I took with my friends during the first year of my undergrad years. It was a fun trip though I remember it being terribly hot and crowded, as we climbed up the rock. I think the climb is best experienced early in the morning.

Sigiriya, the UNESCO heritage site, is a rock fortress built in the 5th century by King Kashyapa whose story is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Macbeth complete with greed for power, murder, revenge and battle. However gory Kashyapa’s life might have been, the ruins of the fortress he built are a marvel to see as are the gardens, which are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world.

Some of the unique features of the rock fortress are the mirror wall and the frescoes. The mirror wall is said to have been highly polished enough to see one’s own reflection during the King’s time but subsequently became a place for visitors to scribble verses. Some of the earliest verses scribbled on by visiting vandals date back to the 8th century. While those ancient verses have become part of the treasured archaeological site, today’s scribbler could find himself or herself in jail. The famed Sigiriya frescoes are the remains of murals that survived time, exposure and vandalism. Only a handful remain in the cave though it is believed that there had once been thousands of them.


View of Sigiriya from Kandalama Hotel, 2010

This post is a photo tour of Sigiriya, as seen through the lens of my friend, Nishanie Jayamaha, during her more recent visit. Nishanie tells me that she finds the engineering aspect of Sigiriya a marvel, some of which are still in working condition. She especially mentions the hydraulic technology that was used to pump water from ground water sources up to the pools at the top of the rock.


View of the rock from the fountain gardens, photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Sigiriya frescoes, photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Surviving Sigiriya frescoes, photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Ruins of the palace at the top of the rock, photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


Photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha


View of the water gardens from the top, photo credit: Nishanie Jayamaha

Despite the dark and ugly history behind the creation of Sigiriya, the ruins of the ancient city remains an architectural marvel and one of the most visited sites in Sri Lanka.

Have you visited Sigiriya? What feature of the ancient rock fortress fascinates you the most?

[I am linking this post to The Weekly Postcard]

Travel Notes & Beyond