Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sri Lanka - Sigiriya - watch for bees!

We left Colombo and drove in land. We stopped to sample some of the local fare on route. We first passed through lychee territory. The biggest, reddest, juiciest I had ever seen, let alone tastesd!
We also passed through cashew land - had to stop again. The road side vendors just made it too easy and stop and indulge!

We stayed at the Kassapa Lions Rock Hotel which was convenient for both Sigiriya and Dambulla - our two major sightseeing venues in the region. Sigiriya is a UNESCO world heritage site which means it is very well looked after but expensive to get access to.
Sigiriya was originally a monastery back in 3rd century BC but subsequently was taken over by King Kasyapa who had to hide from his enemies. His father was planning to leave his kingdom to another brother after spending a lot of the family fortune on the good of the country. Kasyapa saw red and killed his father, ran his bother out of Sri Lanka and took the kingship. However, he lived in fear of his brother returning to reclaim what was rightfully his, so he needed a castle he could protect. What better than one on a giant rock? Anyway Kasyapa ruled for 18 years before his brother returned. Kasyapa rode into battle on an elephant not realizing the grounds were muddy. The elephant started to sink and Kasyapa tried to turn to drier ground. His army thought he was retreating and ran off. Kasyapa stranded all by himself on a elephant stuck in the muck in the face of an oncoming army led by his brother impaled himself on his sword, or so the story goes.

Anyway the ruins of his castle and gardens are now a historical monument.
It was quite a climb to the top. The King had a sort of lift installed to get up the last part of the rock but we had to climb! The rock is a favorite hang out for bees, by the swarm. If the weather is windy or it is noisy they can get disturbed. Even in that morning's newspaper there had been reports of 8 people hospitalized with 150 stings between them so when protection was offered we took it!
Eventually we got to the top and saw the ruins of the castle and the views:
At the end of the gardens down below was a Buddha, which Ads held in the palm of his hand!
After Kasyapa's demise this castle reverted to monastery as the new king settled elsewhere. The beautiful rock paintings of Kasyapa's rule were in the most part painted over incase they led the monks off the straight and narrow but some remain:

We then head for the Dambulla caves which also involved some step climbing. No wonder our original itinerary had these on different days!
At the bottom of the climb was another Buddhist temple with a huge Budha surrounded by lotus flowers. 
The caves are shrines built into the rock and have beautifully painted walls dating back to the first century. The cave was originally a small monastery that sheltered a king in hiding for many years. As part of his thanks to the monk that sheltered him the king had numerous statues of Budha made for the monastry.
The caves were in his huge rock.
 The history was quite magnificent, by European standards, let alone American!

1 comment:

  1. They are Rambutans and not lychees . Both of them belong to the same family.