Sigiriya, also called the Lion Rock Citadel or Sinhagiri in Sinhalese, is one of the most famed sights in Sri Lanka. This rock fortress is located in the north central Matale district and is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and is thought to be one of the best preserved illustrations of ancient architectural ingenuity and urban planning. With massive, near vertical walls almost 200m high this fortress plateaus off, portraying the ruins of an ancient civilization. This rock citadel has an interesting history dating back to the 3rd century BC where even at this time it used to serve as a place of refuge for Buddhist monks.
However this rock fortress rose to fame only during the 5th century BC when there was a power struggle between the two sons of King Dhatusena, Mogallana and Kasyappa. Although Mogallana was the rightful heir to the throne after the reign of King Dhatusena, Kasyappa rebelled against it, sent Mogallana into exile in India and also held King Dhatusena in captive, where he was left to die. After this, fearing the backlash from Mogallana, Kasyappa made preparations for the expected invasion by constructing his new dwelling atop the 200m high Sigiriya rock. From an indestructible fortress to a pleasure palace as well a city at its base, the entire structure was established in just seven years between from 477-485 AD. After the invasion by Mogallana and the defeat and death of King Kasyappa, the fortress was handed back to the monks and remained forgotten for many years until the British discovered it in the year 1828. Following this there was great interest shown on this fortress with various archeological experts playing a role in unearthing the treasures hidden within.
Today this rock fortress is a modern day wonder that refuses to easily reveal its secrets. You will have to take up the challenge of climbing up nearly vertiginous sets of staircases attached to the walls in order to get to the top. But along the way you will be passing some of the terraced gardens as well as the water garden which are a sight to behold. Along the way you will be able to set your sigts on some of the famed frescos of celestial nymphs of Sigiriya which are of great beauty and artistic value. And it is thought that there were about 500 such paintings spanning across a space of 140m to produce what could have been the largest picture gallery in the world. But unfortunately due to the ravages of time and to a certain extent vandalism, only 21 of these paintings still survive. As you climb further you will encounter the lion platform just below the summit that holds the palace. On this platform you will find there is the final staircase flanked on either side by gigantic lion paws that have been carved out of rock and leads up to the remainder of the lion statue and what remains of the once mighty palace.