Famous for ancient paintings – frescoes resembling the Ajanta Caves of India, Sigiriya refers to the ruins of an ancient rock citadel and palace in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka. Also known as the Lions Rock, this marvel is enclosed by the residues of a vast system of gardens, reservoirs, and other formations.
Built somewhere between 477 A.D. to 495 A.D. during King Kassapa I, Sigiriya was utilized as a rock-sheltered monastery whose caves were throng by the Buddhist people. It is ranked among the seven World Heritage Sites of the nation.
Overall, the site is the home of a palace atop the flat terrain of the rock, a mid-level terrace containing the Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes, another palace affixed to the rock slopes at the base, moats, walls, and gardens in front of the rock. Despite being quite ancient, the grandeur of the palace is still intact with its beautiful carvings and art.
The entire layout exhibits both symmetrical and asymmetrical features. To the west is a symmetrical park of the royals holding water retaining structures such as advanced hydraulic systems some even functioning today. In the south, an artificial reservoir is seen. There are five gates for entrances out of which the west one was kept only for royals.
Among all, the Gardens here are among the most ancient landscaped gardens on Earth, which are split into three categories namely, water gardens, Cave and boulder gardens, and terraced gardens.
These lie to the west holding three major gardens. Based on the char bagh model, the first garden is an island linked by four causeways to main precinct. The second one contains two deep pools accessed via two shallow streams. You can also see fountains comprised of round limestone plates whose water supply is taken care by still working underground water conduits. Even here, you can see two large islands on which summer palaces are on the flat surfaces.
Next is the third garden on a higher level holding a big octagonal pool with an elevated podium. On its east edge, you can spot the large citadel of brick and stone wall.
The water gardens are linked to the outer moat and the large artificial lake. A small version of water gardens is seen at the west of the first water garden, which has a myriad of small pools and water ways.
The Boulder Garden
Holding many large boulders with a pavilion of building upon and connected with twisted routes, this garden start from the northern slope at the foot of the rock. One can see some cuttings on these huge rocks utilized as footings for brick walls. The remains on a flat and furnished summit of a big boulder including a long granite throne attached to it indicate that the audience hall of the king was here.
Another attraction of this garden is the Cistern rock called so due to a great carved cistern atop the rock. Made by two boulders, a large arcade leads you to the terraced gardens.
The Terraced Gardens
Located at the base of the rock, these gardens are created from the natural hill. The roadways of the boulder garden link the staircases via these series of terraces each increasing above the other created by building the brick walls. A limestone staircase takes you through these terraced gardens. From here, a covered path on the side is the way to the uppermost terrace holding the lion staircase.
The Mirror Wall
This wall is so named because of its polish due to which the king could his reflection while walking alongside. Now, its partial area is full of verses written by the visitors since the 8th century. The wall is built from a kind of porcelain and is well preserved. All sorts of writings are seen here, but any more writing is banned.
These paintings are seen on the entire west face of the rock once holding 500 ladies. However, later they were wiped out as the palace had become a monastery for the purpose of undisturbed meditation. The frescos are also seen on the surface called the Cobra Hood Cave, not in west. Sweeping strokes form the paint in which the edges are given the effect of having a deep color tone.