Sensational Sigiriya *Video*

Sigiriya, which means Lion’s Rock in Sinhalese (සීගිරිය), is an ancient rock fortress and palace in the Sri Lanka’s Ancient Cities.

Built in the 5th century by King Kashyapa, Sigiriya was later used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

Palace Complex

Sigiriya comprises an ancient castle surrounded by gardens, moats, and reflecting pools. On the top of the rock are the palace remains.

The mid-level terrace features the Lion’s Gate, where you walk through the lion’s gaping mouth to ascend to the upper palace structure. The mid-level also includes the famous mirror wall and frescos.

Here I am at the top of the rock:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Erin at Sigiriya

The rock itself is hardened magma from an extinct volcano and stands approximately 370 meters (1,214 ft) above sea level. It is sheer on all sides and you climb the rock via stairs originally built by the British in 1938 — 1,232 stairs in all. Thankfully, the stairs were re-built in 2002, as the original spiral staircase is quite rickety.

Painted Ladies

On the western facing wall of the rock, there are painted frescos featuring the ladies of the Kind’s entourage (some say wives) – a supposed 500 separate portraits at one time. The ladies come from the world over, with beautiful women representing China, Africa, and India.

The frescos are painted with a distinctive style that gives deeper color toward the edge of the painting. Even today, the colors are still intact and fairly vibrant.

Originally, the fresco wall was 140 meters long (450+ feet) by 40 meters (130+ feet). The ladies are said to be pointing toward the Kandy temple which is sacred to the Sinhalese.

The popular myth is that the bare-chested beauties were so disturbing to the monks during their meditation that they destroyed them. Hence only 10-12 remain today. I was later told by some local friends that this is a tale only for tourists. Hmmmm.

Mirror Wall

The polished wall opposite the frescos created a mirrored image of the paintings which allowed the King (as he ascended to this palace at the top) to view the paintings from both sides.

The mirror wall was made from a kind of porcelain and is partially covered with verses dating from the 8th century. The verses span all topics from love to palace intrigue.

Regardless of whom the ladies are and why their images were nearly totally destroyed, we’re lucky that portions of Sigiriya survived. The mirror wall and frescos are indeed a sign of Sri Lankan beauty!

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 and is filed under Asia Pacific.

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