Our girl on the ground bringing us all things Sri Lanka, straight from the elephant's mouth, is travel blogger and all-round island girl Demi Perera. Demi is the creator and editor of her own popular e-zine Girl Travels World. In her spare time she loves to recline on her hammock under a coconut tree. What we have here is a match made in heaven... 👏👏👏
Head to the central plains of Sri Lanka and find Sigiriya rising unmistakably out of the earth. This giant fortress and palace complex was built in 480AD by King Kashyapa who was unpopular with the citizens of his previous capital Anuradhapura. The king left Anuradhapura and built Sigiriya as a riotous place inspired by the mythical kingdom of Alakamanda, a beautiful city in the clouds, found in Buddhist scriptures. It's thought that the rock was painted white to appear like a cloud. Today, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's been excavated extensively and yet refuses to reveal its mysteries easily.
To know Sigiriya you must climb to the top along a series of near-vertical staircases attached to the rockface. There are several terraces to discover. The lower palaces were once home to gardens, moats and barricades which protected the fortress. On the mid-level a pair of gigantic lion's paws are carved in to the rock. The upper palace is on the flat top. Once you reach this height you will be mesmerised by the views of the surrounding landscape; lush forests, caves and shrines, as far as the eye can see, span the horizon.
Sigiriya is most famous for its paintings or frescoes found on the middle terrace. During the king's reign the western face of the rock was covered in a picture gallery, of 500 women, in an area of 5600 square meters. Out of 500 only 19 remain today. They represented mythical goddesses showering flowers on human beings below. The common belief is that the paintings were inspired by the king's harem; a three-circled tattoo on the necks identify the women as belonging to the king.
Sigiriya was abandoned by the king after just 10 years. It lay in the jungle until 150 years later when it was converted in to a monastery. During this time visitors were invited to view the awe-inspiring paintings. Many left graffiti on a shiny mirror wall of the rock. Over 1800 pieces of poetry, prose and commentary scribbled on the wall, by 6th century tourists, still remain today. They speak of love, curses, statements of awe or simply comments of, "I was here" and show the high level of literacy and appreciation for art that existed.
When visiting Sigiriya, although you cannot leave graffiti of your own you'll gain a fascinating glimpse in to the extraordinary life of a philandering king. Until you get there treat yourself to our very own Sri Lankan feast fit for a king (or queen); egg hoppers, black pork and clay pot fish.