Seegiriya 
Seegiriya (The marvel of 5th Century AD)

The Vast flat-topped 200m high Lion Rock stands starkly above the surrounding countryside of the central forest with magnificent views over the Dry Zone and south to the the Central Highlands It was an exceptional natural site for a fortress, which were gets its name from the lions which were believed to occupy the caves. For many visitors, this impressive site is their favorite in the whole of Sri Lanka. There are stunning views from the top. In addition to the rock fortress with its palace and famous frescoes, there are extensive grounds at the base and the whole is enclosed by an outer moat  which contains water. Seegiriya declared a  World Heritage site in 1982. 

Entry

The main bus stop is close to the bridge by the south entrance but those without a Cultural Triangle Permit have to walk round to the main West Entrance to bye their tickets. Those visiting by car may avoid the long walk from the South Entrance. There is an unofficial car park inside the inner moat.

Tickets

The gate to the site opens at 0600 but the ticket office only opens around 0700. If you wish to make an early start (avoiding groups which start arriving by 0800) buy your ticket on the previous day if you arrive in time. 

Allow at least 2 hrs for a visit. Very early morning is beautiful-the site still very quiet until 0730, but the late afternoon light is better for the frescoes. There can be long queues on public holidays and the rock can be very crowded from mid morning.

Guides

There are over 60 licensed guides here so competition is fierce; it is worth getting one. Charge, about Rs 300 for hrs.

Background

Hieroglyphs suggest that it was occupied by humans from very early times, long before the fortress was built. The Royal  citadel (477-495 AD) was surrounded by an impressive wall and double moat; the city had the Palace and quarters for the ordinary people who built with the royal pavilions, pools and fortifications. The top of the rock has a surface area of 1.5 ha built on the precipitous edge.When the citadel ceased to be a palace, it was inhabited by monks until 1155, and then abandoned. It was rediscovered by archeologists in 1828. The Mahavanasa records that King Kasyapa, having killed his farther to gain the throne, lived in terror that his half-brother, who had taken refuge in India, would return to kill him. He did come back, after 18 years, to find that Kashyapa had built a combination of pleasure palace and massive fortress. Kasyapa come down from the hill to face his half-brother's army on elephant back. Mistakenly thinking he had been abounded, he killed himself with his dagger.

At seegiriya, Kasyapa intended to reproduce on earth the legendary palace of Kubera, the God of Wealth, and so had it decorated lavishly with impressive gardens, cisterns and ponds. Excavations have revealed surface and underground drainage systems. For the famous frescoes he gathered together the best artists of his day.Water,  a scarce commodity in the Dry Zone, was conserved and diverted cleverly through pipes and rock-cut channels to provide bathing pools for the palace above, and enhance the gardens bellow with pools and fountains. The water pumps are through to have been powered by windmills. It is through that on the islands in the water garden near the entrance, stood  pavilions, while the shallow marble pools reflected the changing patterns of the clouds. 
Apart from the exceptional frescos, it is worth nothing that the entire site was built over a period of 7 years and effectively abandoned after 18 years. The engineering skills required for the water and fountain gardens as well as lifting water by a series of bamboo lift to the top of the rock. were remarkable for the time.

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