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Sigiriya, Sri Lanka


A splendid ancient rock fortress and ruins of a unique ancient castle, Sigiriya is the brainchild of King Kasyapa who ruled the country between 477and 495 AD.  The summit of this extraordinary rock is 600 feet high, above the jungles that surround the base of it.  Sigiriya is a unique witness to the civilization of Ceylon during the years of the reign of Kassapa I. The site of the 'Lion Mountain' was visited from the 6th century AD, by passionate admirers. The frescoes of Sigiriya inaugurated a pictorial style which endured over many centuries.
The history of Sigiriya, however, extends from prehistoric times to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The earliest evidence of human habitation is in the Aligala rock-shelter which lies to the east of the Sigiriya rock. This is a major prehistoric site of the mesolithic period, with an occupational sequence starting nearly five thousand years ago and extending up to early historic times. The historical period at Sigiriya begins about the third century B.C., with the establishment of a Buddhist monastic settlement on the rock-strewn western and northern slopes of the hill around the rock. 
It is believed that Sigiriya was occupied during prehistoric times.  Rock inscriptions and caves reveal that nearby rocks surrounding Sigiriya were inhabited as early as the first century and these caves were donated to the Buddhist monastic as residences.  However it was during the reigning period of King Kasyapa that Sigiriya transformed in to a city and fortress. The King developed the summit of the rock amazingly with the inclusion of defence structures, gardens and palaces.
Sigiriya mainly consist of a palace created on the summit of the rock, the terrace with the lion gate, mirror wall with beautiful frescoes, the moats and of course the beautiful gardens at the base of the rock.At the summit of the rock is the fortified palace with its ruined buildings, its cisterns and its rock sculptures. At the foot of the rock are the two quarters of the lower city which are defended by a massive wall: the eastern quarter (perhaps postdating the 5th century), which has not been sufficiently excavated, and the aristocratic quarter of the capital of Kassapa I, noteworthy for its terraced gardens embellished by canals and fountains, as well as for numerous monumental remains which have been disengaged from the forest which had invaded the ruins.
Many remains of Sigiriya still seem to surprise archaeologists, antiquarians and travellers about the creativity and knowledge of its builders. For instance, the cisterns dug into the rock in the summit still retain water. The gardens, moats and walls surrounding the base of the rock are also picturesque and astounding.
The Frescoes are regarded as the most fascinating features of all. These are paintings of figures of women known as the cloud damsels. These paintings are made different to each other by the mood, face, clothes and body. It is recorded that originally there were 500 paintings forming a massive gallery of paintings at the rock. As large as two football fields the area that contained the paintings is known as the biggest frescos ever made by man. However, today only 23 paintings are visible.  
Sigiriya is truly an incredible work of art that is simply matchless. It is the finest example of Sri Lanka’s ancient culture, philosophy, beliefs and civilisation.

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