The king of the jungle

//The king of the jungle

The king of the jungle

Amongst the trees, a hill rises majestically, hiding an archaeological site and the oldest gardens in Asia.
A lion reigned over the jungle, portrayed as a figure carved into the rock. Today only its claws remain, which welcome you at the foot of the steps that lead to the summit. Judging by the enormous size of its claws, it must have been a very impressive creature, even if it didn’t roar like the physical beast itself.
Sigiriya, which means “lion rock”, stands 370 metres above sea level. It was created from volcanic magma thousands of years ago. Its imposing appearance and the other constructions that make this archaeological site a must-see destination are the work of the King of Sri Lanka, Kashyapa I, who reigned from 477 to 495. After murdering his father, he sought a place to take refuge from revenge. He found it in the Matale district, on a rock 180 metres above the treetops. He built his palace and moved the capital there, although this is just one version of the events: the other (radically different) one says that he built this complex in honour of his father after inheriting the throne. He wanted to make it a safe place, and that’s why it was encircled by a moat containing crocodiles. The really impressive thing isn’t its inaccessibility (1,200 steps up some incredibly steep stairways that appear to hang in the air) but its gardens and its history.
The gardens of the ancient fortress begin at ground level, where we can find a square green blanket lined by narrow paths and fountains. These are known as the Royal Gardens. They continue throughout the ascent to the summit, including ponds excavated into the rock and tiered aquatic gardens on its terraces. This is all decorated with canals, fountains and numerous enormous archaeological remains. Its complex hydraulic system is responsible for providing the water required for this intense collection of greenery. In the rainy season the system fills with water and circulates throughout the entire area of Sigiriya, making it one of the best examples of ancient urban planning.
Ascending a spiral staircase you’ll arrive at the frescoes of the “Maidens of the Clouds”, which are perfectly preserved paintings that may represent either the King’s wives or celestial nymphs. In any case, the bejewelled topless women in these murals are an ode to feminine beauty. A little higher, the “Mirror Wall” will prove to you that graffiti is not a modern concept: as early as the 6th century visitors had the custom of leaving their mark in written symbols to indicate their visit to the Sigiriya rock: “I was here” read some inscriptions on the wall. Before this, it was such a highly polished wall that it gave a mirror-like reflection.
An ascent that lasts almost two hours, surrounded by fine art, architecture and a landscape full of colour will take you to the lion’s claws, the final stretch before arriving at the summit to admire the views.
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