Built by King Kashyapa of Sri Lanka between the years 473 and 495, the imposing 660-foot-tall rock castle and palace of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka dominate the landscape. It lies in the central region of Sri Lanka, in the northern Matale district, close to the city of Dambulla. There are 1,200 stairs leading up to the Lion Rock Fortress atop Sigiriya, also known as Sinhagiri. Both names indicate “the Lion’s Rock.”

There are many resting places along the way to give you a breather if you need one. The ancient city of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, now known as Sigiriya Rock Fortress, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

A Brief Overview of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress's Rich and Interesting Past

Evidence from archaeological digs at Sigiriya in Sri Lanka suggests the city has been there since prehistoric times. A monadnock known as Aligala may be seen near Sigiriya Rock’s eastern foot (Elephant Rock). A cave below it has been excavated, and its contents have revealed the remnants of a prehistoric human village from approximately 5,500 B.P. As far back as the ninth and tenth centuries B.C., there is also evidence that people lived in this region.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress in the 3rd Century

A Buddhist monastery had been founded in the Sigiriya rock fortification as early as the third century B.C. It has been determined that there are thirty monastic cave shelters at the huge rock’s foot, each equipped with a drip ledge. There are eight Brahmi inscriptions that describe the contributions of cave dwellings.

King Kasyapa (A.D. 477–495) made Sigiriya his capital city, and during his reign, all the major buildings seen today were built. Archaeologists believe that the sensuality of a pleasure-seeking monarch is reflected in the design of Sigiriya, which was inspired by the mythological Alakamanda of the deity Kuvera.

Affinity for Persian styles was evident in the development of pleasure gardens as well as in coins and ceramics from the Sassanian dynasty of Persia (Iran) discovered in the Sigiriya rock stronghold. All these show trade and cultural contacts with other nations during this short time.

The 7th-century AD Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya eventually lost its political significance in the sixth and seventh centuries A.D., and it was once again used as a monastery by Buddhist priests. The drip ledges in the cave shelters that had been built during the previous monastic era were upgraded even more at this time. Additional shrines were created, including stupas, image homes, and bodhi tree shrines. Up to the 12th and 13th centuries A.D., the monastic movement was in its second stage of growth.

19th Century Sigiriya Rock

It wasn’t until the 19th century that the monarchs of Kandy began using Sigiriya as a military stronghold after decades of abandonment. Sigiriya wasn’t brought back into the historical spotlight until 1832, when a British military commander named Jonathan Forbes did so. Under H.C.P. Bell’s direction, the Archaeological Department began digging at Sigiriya in 1894. The Central Cultural Fund picked it up in 1982, over a century later, and has been doing a fantastic job with it ever since.

The top attractions of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Both the western and eastern precincts of the Lion Rock at Sigiriya are defended areas, with the former covering 90 and the latter 40 hectares, respectively. An asymmetrical pleasure garden with intricate water-retaining structures and both subsurface and surface hydraulic systems could be found to the west, in the region known as Royal Park. It is a rectangular structure with inner precincts of roughly 700 meters east to west and 500 meters north to south, encircled by three walls and two moats.

The eastern area of the rock fortress

A massive center pavilion is the sole seemingly permanent construction in the eastern part of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, on the opposite side of the Lion Rock. Within these fortifications, Kasyapa and his royal family spent their whole lives. A succession of boulder gardens and then terraced gardens extends inward from the two precincts, climbing in altitude all the way to the Sigiriya rock’s entrance. The rock may be reached by a long corridor that starts on the western side of the garden terraces and travels north along the mirror wall to the lion platform. The most famous features of Sigiriya Rock are:

  • Inscriptions on Lion Rock, Sigiriya
  • Sigiri graffiti
  • The Lion’s Paw entrance
  • The boulder garden
  • The mirror wall
  • The fresco paintings of female figures
  • The extensive networks of landscaped gardens
  • The water gardens
  • The moats
  • The ramparts
  • The remains of the palace

On the mirror wall of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, the graffiti “Lion Rock Sigiriya” was scrawled. Over the years, ancient travelers have scribbled over 1800 pieces of prose, poetry, and criticism on the wall. Insight into Sigiriya’s history and the development of language in Sri Lanka over the past 800 years may be gleaned from this graffiti. Many of the tags make allusions to the lovely paintings of half-naked women. The inscriptions here attest to the fact that King Kashyapa, who reigned from A.D. 477 to 495, lived here at this location. The writings also imply that the women in the paintings are members of the king’s royal court, or the harem.

Boulder Garden of Lion Rock, Sigiriya

Slopes surround a central rock in the Boulder Garden, and the rock itself is studded with rocks of varying sizes. You may get to the palace at the top of the rock by following a series of twisting paths through the boulder garden. And these routes are separated at intervals by arches made from the boulders themselves. Among the unique highlights of this garden are:

  • The Cistern Rock
  • The “Audience Hall
  • The “Preaching Rock”
  • The “Asana Cave”

In addition, there are rock caverns with drip ledges and shrines here that were utilized when Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, was a Buddhist monastery. Between the Boulder Garden and Sigiriya Rock is the elevated terraced garden of Sigiriya Lion Rock. And using stone retaining walls, it has been sculpted into a sequence of roughly concentric terraces.

The Climb of the Lion Rock

The Lion Staircase, named after the two enormous lion paws that flank its northern approach, leads to the royal residence atop Sigiriya Rock. These brick and plaster lion paws likely belonged to a larger lion statue that used to stand in this spot.

The Sigiriya Lion Rock Palace Complex

Situated on top of Sigiriya, the palace complex there covers an area of around 1.5 ha. The royal palace, the area’s most famous structure, may be found in the western part of the area. To the east of the palace is a garden with a big man-made pool and other garden elements. A throne hewn from solid rock sits on a rock just outside the palace, facing east.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka FAQs

The legendary Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, the Lion Rock, was created by King Kashyapa of Sri Lanka.

An ancient rock stronghold, Sigiriya is one of the most important archaeological sites in all of South Asia. It's a work of old fine art with a rare symbiosis between nature and human creativity as well as ancient talents of urban planning, landscape design, building technology, remarkable hydraulic engineering and administration, and more. Thus, this location was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

There are around 1,200 stairs leading up to the peak

The elevation here is 660 feet above sea level.

While climbing is not inherently risky, you should be in good enough shape to complete 1,200 repetitions.

Yes, but the ascent may be slow and difficult for others. You may take a break and go up some stairs. We advise you to ascend and keep older citizens at a neighboring restaurant. Let them check out the Sigiriya museum beside the entrance.

It's not advised, but parents of kids aged 8 and above have reported seeing them up there.

Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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