Sunday, January 1, 2012


Sigiriya seen from the gardens
View from the top

Today was our first tour of the Kandy area. Kapila, our driver for the next week or so, came to pick us up this morning to take us to Sigiriya, the Lion’s Rock, a huge stone rising up through the jungle, dominating the skyline. According to the guide book, Sigiriya was largely forgotten by the locals until it was discovered by the Euoropeans in the 1800...forgotten?? How in the world do you forget something that large?? To be fair, it was not protected or explored for historical value but then again, the country has been in almost continuous warfare for a mighty long time...could be that archeological expeditions were not a high priority (kinda like the whales).  

Anyway...they are making up for lost time with some extensive digs and restorations. It is now a World Heritage site as well as the 8th Wonder of the World. They have found some gorgeous paintings of celestial beings, wives of the king, or concubines - take your pick. Surrounding this forgotten rock are huge water gardens, with water features that quickly started working again once plugged waterways were opened up. The museum has some interesting pictures showing the archeology and restoration that has been done in the area. The wooden structures, sadly, have all deteriorated in this hot, humid climate, but the brick structures and foundations give you an idea of what was built into this solid rock.

Fresco of the ladies

The palace was built by King Kashyap on the very top of the rock to better protect the aforementioned damsels (whichever interpretation you have chosen). Apparently he had stolen the throne from his brother,Mogallana, so he had good reason to want a really secure castle. There were literally 1000 or more steps to get up to the top. At any point, people, troops, warriors, trying to scale the rock could be hit, scalded, or pushed off the winding stairways.
Lion's claws, surrounding final staircase

The entrance to the final stairs we surrounded by a stone lion – there to intimidate anyone who came to see the king. Now, said king probably would have lived out his life richly had he stayed on top of the lion throne, protected as it was, and not gone down to show off to his brother what a good general he was. Turns out he lost control of his elephant as well as the kingdom. After he died, it was used as a Buddhist Monastery.

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