Sigiriya - Sri Lanka
Although it seems as if it will only interest the culture vultures, the myths, legends and the mystery that surround Sigiriya will enthrall even the most skeptical of us. Sigirya's name loosely translating to 'Lions Rock', evolved through the years with much debate. The translation however seeming more fit as the fortresses main gate decorated with two giant paws on either side of its entry way. It is said that once an entire figure in the shape of a lion existed with a staircase leading right up to the lion's mouth.
The fortress is built around tales of King Kassapa (AD 477–495), guilty of assassinating the King who was his own father, and purportedly built his Kingdom on top of this giant rock, thought to have been irrefutable.
The Royal Gardens, as you enter the site will amuse your imagination as you will picture the King along with his faithful servants and consorts, taking a leisurely stroll in these vast landscaped pleasure gardens. It is hard to miss the regal aura the sights of the terraced water gardens, and the boulder gardens housing the audience hall creates. The bathing pools, little springs and fountains which still function after centuries of their creation, is fascinating insight to the ancient Ceylonese technology of irrigation.
As you make your way up the rock, you will come across a gallery housing a series of well preserved frescoes. A much loved artifact of the local population, the women depicted in the frescoes, named 'Apsaras' or celestial deities have long been the muse of artists over the centuries, for their mystical beauty. Preserved and sheltered remarkably, the murals also showcase the flair of artists of the bygone days.
Prepare for an amazing sight as you make your way towards the Mirror wall. The wall is christened as the mirror wall owing to the lustrous sheen it displays, as you will be able to see your own reflection once you stand before the wall. It is not clear as to why such a wall was built at this fortress but later on creative minds used it to convey their thoughts in the form of graffiti. Breath taken by the beauty illustrated in the frescoes, poets from far and wide have expressed their ardent love and fascination for the Apsaras on this wall and have gained celebrity status in the local language and culture.
The climb up the rock can sometimes be vertigo inducing as a forceful gust might just blow your hat away. But the ramble is just worth it, as you will notice lush greenery, with thick canopies weaving their way in the surrounding groves. When you finally reach the top, your interests will be tweaked with the sights of the ruins and foundations of a number of buildings that existed back in the day. Here, the perceptions that Sigiriya was more likely to be a monastery instead of a royal palace will seem likely, as its serenity and the astonishing view will take your breath away.