December 24, 2011

Day 6: Kandy – Dambulla - Sigiriya

We checked out after breakfast and started the 2hr drive to Dambulla.  Our first stop was the Dambulla Rock Temple, the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site houses a magnificent gallery of Buddha images and wall and ceiling paintings.  Guarding the entrance to the Rock Temple is the Golden Temple, with its massive 30m-high gold plated image of Buddha, and a long row of statues representing monks queueing to pay homage to the Buddha (to the right of the picture).  It now houses the Dambulla museum.

The ascent to the caves, which are on a terrace of a gigantic granite outcrop, consists of about 200 steps on 18 terraces.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site signage (top left), the tiring climb (top centre), view along the climb (bottom left), Yiu Yiu helping mah-mah who has bad knees (right)

Luckily the little one is happy to be carried by our guide, Shakeer on the ascent and descent, otherwise it would be an even more tiring climb for me.

At the highest terrace are five cave temples built into the rock, with its origin going back to the Anuradhapura period (1st century BC).  However due to additions and restorations done by various rulers over the past two thousand years what now remains are mostly the works of the Kandyan period (18th century).

Most impressive is the second and the largest cave, which contains 16 standing & 40 seated statues of Buddha.  Throughout the entire span of rock ceiling & entire width of the rock walls are the finest Buddhist murals in Sri Lanka.  There is also a mini dagoba & a spring which drips its water from a crack in the ceiling, into a huge metal pot which never overflows.

Inside the second cave 

The rock ceilings and walls are painted with intricate patterns of Buddhist images following the natural contours of the rock.

We checked into our hotel, Pelwehara Village Resort, after lunch and spent some time at the pool.

Later in the evening, we headed to the Sigiriya Lion Rock citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Also called Simha-giri (Sinhala: Lion Mountain), it was built by King Kasyapa (Kassapa) (479-497 A.D).  Sigiriya was a well planned royal city meant for the flamboyant king and his court with a palace complex centered around a solitary rock, rising 200m out of the surrounding plains adorned with pleasant and vibrant green tropical vegetation.  The various components of the complex – outer moat, inner moat, water garden, fountain garden, boulder gardens and terrace gardens - were built into the natural landscape.

Clockwise from top left: Outer moat, water garden, terrace garden, the path along the water garden

Boulder garden 

More than 100 meters above the ground level in a natural pocket of the rock, which has been protected for 14 centuries from rain by an overhang, are the celebrated paintings of 5th century AD of bare-breasted court ladies.  It is believed that there were about 500 of such drawings, but only 22 exist due to ravages of time, weather & vandalism.

The Mirror Wall (so called because it had such a sheen), close by on the opposite side of the frescoes, preserves hundreds of oldest known graffiti in the planet.  The graffiti provides linguists with vital insight into the evolution of the written & oral Sinhalese language.

About two-thirds of the way up sits the Lion's Paws, all that is left of a giant brick lion which once sat here.  Mum and I commenced our ascent to the top with a stairway leading between the paws into its mouth, thus deriving its name ("Lion Rock").

On the summit of the Sigiriya rock are the remains of a large palace sprawled over 1.5 hectares with several chambers, a bathing pond and a rock-cut throne.

Mum and I on the last of the 1236 steps of the Sigiriya Rock

We descended the summit at about 6pm, to be greeted by this wonderful orange ball of fire.

 It was a short drive back to the hotel and we ended our day with a buffet dinner.


WK Liew said...

Wah Yiu Yiu is so powerful, can even eat the sun :). Yan Yan being carried by the tour guide is quite cute

ZMM said...

OMG! Yiu Yiu has her own porter!

Love the shots of the cave temple.

ZMM said...

*Yan Yan

A Mom's Diary said...

WK - another one coming up in the next post :-)

Zara's Mama - haha, yeah! And I'm thankful for that, else I would have been the one portering her :-)