Sigiriya – A Heavenly palace on Earth

Believed to have been built in reminiscence of Alakamandawa, the legendary palace of Kuvera, the treasurer of the gods and a mythical king of Lanka, Sigiriya is a palace and a pleasure garden built atop a 200 meter rock in the Fifth century AC by King Kashyapa.

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Having seized power after killing his father through a coup, Price Kashyapa, the son of King Dathusena born to a non-royal consort, chose to establish his kingdom in Sigiriya, away from Anuradhapura, the seat of power at the time. Fearing military threats by Price Moggallana, the rightful heir to the throne, King Kashyapa, chose to build his castle on a strategically beneficial position, on top of the 200 meter tall Sigiriya.

The grounds around the rock had long been the premises for Buddhist monasteries but the new king established himself on Sigiriya in the most fashionable manner. His castle on the top of the rock was a unique creation consisting of landscaped gardens with ponds and wall murals. The palace complex included an upper palace sited on the flat top of the rock, a mid-level terrace with the Lion Gate, mirror wall and a wall filled with frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, moats, walls, and gardens that extended hundreds of meters out from the base of the rock.

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It is considered one of the best urban planning sites of the first millennium as the plan includes concepts of symmetry and asymmetry, combining man-made structures and natural forms of the surroundings. On the west side of the rock is a park for the royals, laid out on a symmetrical plan, containing reservoirs and ponds, including sophisticated surface and subsurface hydraulic systems, which are in working condition even today.

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Yet the most famed and beautiful are the frescoes of Sigiriya, which according to archaeologists would have covered the whole western face of the rock fortress, creating a large picture gallery, 140 meters long and 40 meters wide. It is believed to have contained 500 images of beautiful damsels, which have won the admiration of many who visited Sigiriya, after it lost its master. Eighteen years after the palace was built, Kashyapa lost his throne and life to his royal sibling Moggallana, who chose to rule from Anuradhapura.

To this day the beautiful ladies of Sigiriya are admired by many who climbed its steeps and their admiration was noted in poems on the mirror wall, initially built as a mirrored wall. Made of porcelain, the wall is now partially covered with verses scribbled by visitors to the rock as far back as the 8th century BC. People of all walks had written on varying subjects such as love, irony, and experiences of all sorts but mainly their admiration for the damsels of Sigiriya.

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The paintings belong to the Anuradhapura period and contain sketchy lines unlike other paintings of the same period while the artists had employed the technique of sweeping strokes, using more pressure on one side, giving the effect of a deeper colour tone towards the edge. The true identities of the ladies in these paintings still have not been confirmed. Some believe them to be the wives of the king while some depict them as women taking part in religious observances.

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