Have you ever dreamt of places inspired by books and been dying to visit such places.? Sigiriya was one such place for me. If you have read Ponniyinselvan, you would know the place “simhagiri” where Arulmozhivarman, also known as Ponniyinselvan, disguises himself as a mahout and goes around with the Buddhist monks.
We have been dreaming of this place for the last one year and finally the day dawned when the dream came true. Sigiriya – the oldest fortress of SriLanka dating back to the 5th century BC was our first stop in our 8 day tour of Srilanka.
We boarded an early morning flight from Chennai and landed in the island country at 7 in the morning. Completing the immigration formalities we headed out looking for our chauffeur cum guide Mr. Rajapskshae. After some welcoming handshakes, formal inquiry about the travel and we headed straight to the destination with no delay.
A 4 hours drive from Colombo through the country side took us to Sigiriya. The sign boards in Tamil-Sinhalese and the skirt clad women were the only reminders to us that we were not in Kerala. A small village restaurant en-route served us yummy Srilankan rice and curry as lunch. We were now nearing the Sigiriya village and the excitement was building up in me. We went through the curvy village roads with tourists everywhere. I lavishly splashed on the sunscreen lotion on my arms and face ,put on those sun shades and tied up my yellow scarf to my neck before the vehicle came to a halt. We purchased our entry tickets. 30USD for foreign visitors and 15USD for SAARC country nationals.
Of Ruins and gardens
We stepped into the sprawling royal campus ,walked through the manicured gardens and the immaculately maintained ponds and ruins, steering off the services offered by the local guides. While many were interested in taking just the climb to the summit,we detoured every now and then following the sign boards to see the ruins and the frescoes on the caves.
The climb upto the Lion’s rock
The afternoon sun was blazing away and as we reached the base where the steps begin we were drenched in sweat.We began the ascend slowly and we observed sign boards to maintain silence and not to disturb the Wasps.
To add more horror , the locals who were sheltering after their lunch warned us about a wasp attack on some tourists that morning. We warned the little fellow to not make any loud noise and follow us and for a surprise he obeyed! Half way through the climb, we caught a panoramic view of the villages around the rock.
A little further up, the steep staircases gave way to a spiral staircase that led us to a cave with the ancient frescoes. The colors were intact and well-preserved. It is worth de-touring to take a look at those thousand years old frescoes.Clicking pictures was prohibited and so we made our way further up to the lion’s rock. On the way, there’s a vertical wall built on the rock and its called the mirror wall.
During the ancient days, the king used this to see his reflection, which now is a graffiti wall with inscriptions. No!you cannot touch that wall to feel the inscriptions. Crossed passed that and it wasn’t easy at that time of the day with barely 3 hours of night’s sleep and a long journey all the way from Chennai. But the dream, that kept us going. We sipped water then and there , took short 2 mins break and kept smiling and reciprocating the fellow visitors who were making their way down.
Up there at the base of the lion’s rock is the structure of a lion’s paw, two huge ones.
Might have once served as the entrance to the secluded fortress. Time again to climb before we reached the rocky plateau.It gets a little tricky and risky here.A narrow stairway but incredible view.As we were reaching the summit, a slight drizzle and a cool breeze replenished us. And finally we made it to the summit.
Up there at the summit
Now,I was elated about the amazing view and the vast spread of ruins which once served as a monastery and as the palace of the Royals.
All we could see was an enormous stretch of lush green forest and the shades of the green varying as the sun played a game of hide and seek in-between the clouds. I wondered and questioned the photographer how on earth during the 5th Century did the king bring in those materials to build a fort palace. Did he and his queen(s) really climb all these steps huffing and puffing. ?As per the photographer,slaves must have been used for carrying the Royals and the building materials.
The tale about the lion’s rock
As I spoke about the kings and queens, here’s my bit of history lesson for you’ll.So, in the 3rd century BC, king Kashyappa de-thrones his father King Dattusena. The rightful heir flees to South India fearing his life. Now Kashyappa afraid of an attack moves his capital and builds a fort on top of this lion rock. Finally the rightful heir declares war after he secures an army with the help of a few Indian kings. Kashyappa’s soldiers abandon him during the war and he kills himself.
Well, now getting back to the present, we decided to make our descend and we assumed it was going to be easy. We were totally wrong. For some reason, my legs began to tremble as we walked down the stairs. We took breaks and unfortunately we had nearly emptied the water bottle. We had to wait to quench our thirst and saved the little bit of water left with us for the little wanderer. Parental responsibility you see 🙂
Our chauffeur Mr Raj had asked us to come to the foreign tourist car parking slot and we rightly missed the route and walked up to the main entrance. Despite all the fatigue and a parched throat, we kept looking back at the towering structure as we made our exit. We got into the car,gulped down bottles of water and were driven to our resort(Grand Kalunduwa Water front resort).
We had the evening all for ourselves. A short nap, brewed some tea for ourselves,the little wanderer and I walked out to explore the property and the small stream running through the property. A pretty long day and we were wrapping it up in a very leisure way till dinner time. Yet again a plate full of rice and bowls full of vegetable curries. As darkness crept in,I kept tossing on and on fidgeting with my phone, sharing my euphoric moments to my friends who are as equally interested as I am in history , travel and Buddhism 🙂
So, here are a few pointers from us:
What to do: If you are in Srilanka, make sure you add Sigiriya to your itinerary. This place cannot be missed. You can climb the ‘Piddurangula’ boulder if in-case you think the entry fee to the lion rock is exorbitant. But seek the help from the locals for guidance. You can also take a village safari around the Sigiriya village where you are taken deep into the villages to witness the rural Srilankan society.
What to wear : Wear easy breezy clothes , sturdy shoes . Take an umbrella or a cap to keep you cool under the sun. Shades and sunscreens not to be missed.
- Sigiriya site is open at 7 in the morning. So plan your trip for the early hours in the morning or after 3 PM to catch a glimpse of the sunset. During the other times of the day, school picnic crowds,families and couples swarm the place. Needless to say how merciless the Sun God becomes.
- If you have made it up to the stairway, then there is no coming back. In most of the places there’s room just for one person and getting back is nearly impossible.
- Follow the sign boards. There are ruins where you are not allowed to step on and walk over. There are certain places where you are not allowed to photograph.Watch out for those.
- Be-ware of wasps. Make less noise and keep climbing quietly.
- Carry ample amount of water.You don’t find any shops on the way selling bottles and snacks as you see in India.
- Last but not the least, live your moment in the thousand year old historical site.