Sigiriya, designated as a world heritage site in 1982. is famous for it's palace ruins on top of a massive 200 meter high rock surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures.
The rock itself is a lava plug left over from an ancient long extinct volcano. It is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescoes), which are similar to those found at Ajanta Caves in India. It is generally agreed, however, that the Sigiriya Frescoes exhibit a unique Sri Lankan style.
It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees of the Buddhist Sangha. Sigiriya Museum shows photos of the excavation of Sigiriya, reproductions of the frescoes, examples and translations of some of the graffiti on the Mirror Wall, and artifacts excavated from the site.
The unforgettable rock-fortress of Sigiriya towers high over the surrounding plains. A set of near-vertical staircases climb past some remarkable frescoes to a flat-topped summit that contains the ruins of an ancient civilisation. The spellbinding vistas over the surrounding landscape only add to Sigiriya's extraordinary appeal. Beyond the Sigiriya frescoes, the path clings to the sheer side of the rock and is protected on the outside by a 3m-high wall. This wall (not the actual rock face) was coated with a smooth glaze upon which visitors felt compelled to note their impressions of the women in the gallery above – or so says local legend. The graffiti was inscribed between the 6th and 14th centuries.The graffiti is of great interest to scholars because they show the development of the Sinhala language and script, and because they demonstrate an age-old appreciation of art and beauty.
New Sigiriya Museum
This is not at all a traditional kind of a museum, therefore a visit to this amazing place will be quite a refreshing experience. Built with Japanese aid, this is not a typical museum you would see in any major city of Sri Lanka. It exhibits beautiful architecture, showing green sections among the trees as large trees on site were not cut down but the museum was built around them giving the building a lush ambience.
The offices, museum, open air theatre and atrium covering 50,000 sq ft are built on stilts, making allowance for any flooding from Sigiri Oya.
A visit to the new Sigiriya museum is interesting, inspiring and intellectual. While each gallery makes sure that the visitor has a glimpse of different aspects of the past, the excavated gardens will give you an exquisite feeling quite different from the Lion Rock.