Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Cave Temple
Referred to as the world’s 8th wonder by locals, Sigiriya Citadel Rock, the fortress designed in the form of a huge stone lion originating from the word Sihagri, i.e., Lion Rock, thus named this place. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. On a massive rocky plateau formed from the magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the surrounding jungles. This pleasure palace, gardens and fortress complex are recognized as one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning, water engineering, a complex hydraulic system, horticulture and arts -canals, water fountains, boulder and terraced gardens, surface, and underground water pumps. The royal residence of Sigiriya built by King Kashyapa in the 5th century (477-495 AD) was well fortified.
Eighteen ancient frescoes remaining to date and preserved reminisce those of Ajanta Caves in India. Its Mirror Wall is painted with inscriptions and poems written by the ancient visitors of Sigiriya, was polished enough to see king’s reflection!
A power struggle in the reign of King Dhatusena (455-473 AD) of Anuradhapura, the king, indicating that the water of Kala Wewa ( a hydraulic engineering marvel with a slope of 6 inches per mile) built by him was all the treasure he possessed, ended Kashyapa killing his father plastering him to a wall. Folklore says that King Kashyapa was defeated later in the battle with his brother and heir to the throne Moggallana who returned the capital to Anuradhapura, converting Sigiriya into a monastery complex until the 14th century.
Created over 2,000 years ago is the Dambulla Cave Temple, less than 20 km from Sigiriya, on a rock with five separate caves housing about 150 stunning Buddha statues and murals epitomize Sri Lanka’s religious art. Thought to have been a place of worship since the 1st century BC, when King Valagamba (aka Vattagamani Abhaya) driven out of Anuradhapura sought refuge in Dambulla. Following regaining of his throne, he had the interior of the caves carved into an outstanding rock temple. Subsequently, paintings were added later by kings, including King Nissanka Malla of the Polonnaruwa kingdom who had the caves’ interiors gilded, earning the place the name Ran Giri (Golden Rock). It cannot be explained how a spring which drips endless drops of water from a crack in the ceiling never fill the age-old metal vessel!