Robin's Adventures

Sri Lanka
The Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya, which means Lion Rock, is a 650 foot tall rock that was, from 485 to 495 BC, the fortified palace of King Kasyapa. The palace was heavily fortified and surrounded with two crocodile infested moats.

Kasyapa had assassinated his father and taken the throne from his brother who was the rightful heir. He feared retribution from his brother and lived for eleven years in this palace fortress.

In order to get up to the top, we had to climb about 1,200 steep and uneven steps in 95% humidity. There were lots and lots and lots of steps.

Mirror Wall

About half way up the rock fortress, there is a 460 foot long area that is sheltered by a large rock overhang. In the rock face that is protected by the overhang, is a series of 5th century frescoes that are called Sigiriya's Damsels. Now only 21 of the damsels remain, but it was believed that there were once about 500 of them.

Just past the frescoes is a section of wall that was, during the time of King Kasyapa, highly polished enough that the king could see himself in the wall as he walked by. This wall, called mirror wall, is now covered with ancient graffiti that dates back to the 8th century.

The view from this level clearly shows the layout of the king's gardens.

Lion's Gate

Just below the summit is the Lion Platform. All that remains of what was believed to be a larger structure is the lion's paws at the base of a stairway leading to the summit.

In 495, after Kasyapa's brother returned and took power, he moved the capitol back to its original location and Sigiriya became a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

Cobra Hood Cave

The overhanging rock at Cobra Hood Cave looks like the open hood of a cobra. There are the remains of some paintings inside this cave and some interesting rock formations just outside the cave.

Wildlife at the Fortress

We saw a beautiful family of Toque Macaque monkeys (Macaca sinica) that were holding and protecting a very young infant.

In addition, there was a Grizzled Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura), which lives most of its life in trees, rarely coming to the ground.

We also saw a Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus). The Ibis is a wading bird that uses its long pointed bill to probe in mud and shallow water when it hunts for food.

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Dambulla Cave Complex, which is built into the side of a large rock outcropping that is over 600 feet tall and about 2,000 feet long, holds 153 Buddha statues and murals on the walls and ceiling that cover more than 22,000 square feet. Although the cave temple dates back to the first century BC, a facade with arched colonnades and gables was added in 1938 in order to better protect the cave interiors.

Buddha Statues

There are five main caves or rooms that make up the temple. The statues in the caves vary in size, but the largest is about 49 feet long. The statues and artwork have been added in stages so that there is an interesting progression to artistic styles represented in the different murals and statues.

More Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla cave is still in use as a Buddhist monastery today.

Sri Lankan Vegetables

We made a stop at a local vegetable stand to check out the different types of vegetables that are grown in Sri Lanka. In addition, we were going to a cooking demonstration and needed to bring some sweet pumpkin for the chef to cook for us.

Some of the unique vegetables we saw were winged beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), blue water lily buds (Nymphaea caerulea), purple striped eggplant (Solanum melongena), ridge gourd (Luffa acutangula), and Snake Gourd (Pathola).

Cooking Demonstration

Our next stop involved a cooking demonstration and then lunch. Pottery bowls are the preferred cooking vessel in Sri Lanka. It is also interesting to note that almost everything is cooked with coconut milk and curry powder. The chef cooked the sweet pumpkin and then offered a variety of other Sri Lankan specialties at the buffet.

On a tree near the dining pavilion, I spotted an Oriental garden lizard (Calotes versicolor). The males of this species have the ability to change their head and neck to a bright red color during breeding season in order to attract a mate.