Sigiriya rock fortress

Part hedonistic pleasure palace, part fortress and part sacred complex, Sigiriya is one of the island's most awe-inspiring archaeological sites and a leading tourist attraction. In fact some consider it to be one of the oldest tourist attractions in the world with visitors recording their impressions in some of the earliest-known graffiti. Located north of Dambulla, 116km from Colombo, the site consists of a sheer rock that rises over 200m with the ruins of a palace on the top and a vast pleasure garden complex at the foot. For just two decades in the 5th century AD, Sigiriya rose to prominence following a power struggle between two brothers, and an act of patricide that saw the then king walled-up alive by his son, Kasyapa. Fearful that his defeated brother would return from exile to extract vengeance, Kasyapa shifted the capital to Sigiriya.

The megalomaniac yet spiritual Kasyapa clearly had an eye for beauty. The pleasure gardens include a series of symmetric pools, channels and fountains that still spurt water after 1,500 years. Partway up the rock are the famous Sigiriya frescoes, featuring 21 bare-breasted damsels that may represent celestial nymphs, but were surely modelled on Kasyapa's own consorts. Halfway you'll encounter a pair of giant lion's paws, part of the original entrance, which required visitors to pass through the open mouth of a lion. The summit yields a dramatic vista of the surrounding jungle and contains the foundations of the palace complex, replete with bathing pool. But all this was to be in vain.

Sigiriya also known as the Lion's rock and considered to be the 8th wonder of the world by many is an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin situated in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka. It is surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. Sigiriya is one of the seven World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.

There are many different stories of how the masterpiece Sigiriya came into existence. Originally it is believed that this great rock palace was built under the rule of Moggallana, after defeating Kasyapa who was his brother. Moggallana was the rightful owner of the throne. His father King Datusena's reign saw 15 years of peace and prosperity in the land. He built the greatest tank in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Kalaveva, which he considered as all the wealth he ever possessed.

An Alternative story states that the primary builder was King Datusena, and it further goes on to say that Kasyapa fulfilled the dream of his father of building a palace in the sky. Other stories identify Kasyapa as a playboy king, and Sigiriya as his pleasure palace.