The good thing about carrying one suitcase with your whole life strapped in, is that you had everything you needed at the lock of a zip. And we made it a point to try and keep our things always packed, which meant we were always ready to just load the bags into our mini-van and rush off without leaving things behind. We lost nothing on this trip. TIP #8- keep everything always packed!
The over sleeping did not hamper our schedule a lot, but the rain sure did. We drove off to Sigiriya Rock, also known as the Lion Rock but it was pouring cats and dogs. We were ill-prepared for torrential downpour. We had umbrellas and converse on but climbing the paved rock is no easy task. The centuries of withstanding rain and other natural calamities had made the rock polished and paved which made climbing tricky on a sunny day, let alone a rainy one. I’ve been to the top before and it is much harder to climb than the Dambulla Cave Temples. As far as memory serves, it takes around 4 hours to reach the summit but the view from the top is magnificent.
Sigiriya or “Lion Rock” as it is popularly known, is another one of the eight UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka that is an ancient rock fortress in the Matale District. On the way to the top, one needs to pass through caves similar to the Ajanta Caves in India which have frescos (prehistoric mural paintings). Sigiriya has been inhabited since prehistoric times but during the early 5th century, the caves were prepared by Buddhist Sangha devotees to provide a mountain monastery. As history states, the cave complex and city fortress was built by King Kashyapa with intelligent architecture and strong security for protection and was later donated as a Buddhist monastery in the 14th century, following his death.
The chronicles state that Prince Kashyapa usurped the throne from the rightful heir, Mogollana who was the son of the true Queen of King Dhatusena. Mogollana fled to South India in the fear of loosing his life to his brother. Kashyapa feared that Mogollana would return to take the revenge of his father’s murder and so built a complex city and fortess with the most elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, which included defensive structures, palaces, and gardens which date back to this period. The bottom of the Rock has an entrance that is carved through the Rock and resembles the open mouth of a Lion.
Visitors are not allowed to take this route to the summit, it is said to have been a secret passageway that was an escape route. The steep route to the top is now a rickety bridge that spirals around the rock. When Mogollana returned, he took his rightful place back on the throne and dedicated the city and fortress to Buddhist monks for a mountain monastery in the 14th century.
From the summit, the entire city can be seen and you may be lucky to spot some of the tallest or largest Lord Buddha Statues in the Northern Central Province of Polonnaruwa from there. There are ruins of the fortress as well. During the climb on my previous visit, I had taken pictures with a python around my neck (which was petrifying for a 13 year old) but the rains prevented us from embarking on the climb this time, therefore we took pictures of the surrounding city and rock and sped off to look for a store that sold raincoats. Polonnaruwa: our next destination was said to be rainy too.
Polonnaruwa is the medieval capital of Sri Lanka and marks the Northern Central Province of the country. It has gone through several civilizations like the Cholas, Brahmins and the Sinhalese sovereign during the 12th and 13th centuries. The capital was created and is credited to the then King Parakramabahu and the majestic lake Parakarama Samudra is named after him. Polonnaruwa is also shrine of Sinhalese history and Buddhist origins. The tooth of Lord Buddha (which is now at the Kandy Temple), the relic was place in the Atadage under Kind Vijayabahu and was considered a talisman to the Sinhalese monarchy. The decline of Polonnaruwa is said to have been the removal of the relic to another spot. A confirmed bad omen.
The final decline of this remarkable city was marked by the invasion of Tamils and Maghas, however King Parakramabahu left no stone unturned to make a remarkable city out of Polonnaruwa. The Ruins are fascinating, even till date, to know what kind of construction and architecture must have been used to withstand all those centuries. It exhibits a glorious time that Polonnaruwa must have once been in.
The entire city is filled with ruins and archaeological sites which are The Lankatilaka (a brick structure that preserved the image of Lord Buddha), Gal Vihara (an array of gigantic rock sculptures of Lord Buddha in many postures), Tivanka Pilimage (which illustrate the lives of Lord Buddha through wall paintings), the Rankot Vihara (a colossal stupa, which is one of the most impressive in the country. Others are at Anuradhapura- where we were headed to next), temples, shrines of Lord Shiva, bronze statues and other monuments sprayed the ancient city.
Shiva shrines were brought to Sri Lanka by the wives of the Kings of Polonnaruwa. They seemed to bring back wives from their visits to India and these Shiva Lord shrines were built in separate parts of the kingdom to allow them to worship. We saw a couple of these on our tour too. When we got to Polonnaruwa, after stopping by for some raincoats, the rain, that was horrendous while our tour of the Polonnaruwa museum (a must visit, we spent over an hour there) had decently paused and made our 3000Rs. go to waste. It was cloudy and we couldn’t track the sunset but we went through with all the monuments and ancient sites according to plan. There was no rush because of the rain and we gulped in the ethnicity of the place at our own pace.
Our lodging had been arranged by a new friend (or so to say) by one of the peeps we befriended during our stay in Nuwara Eliya. He owned a hotel in Polonnaruwa and insisted we stayed there. Me and Dee were sure glad to have accepted humbly. Our lodging got considerably better since the time we headed North and we stayed at the Sudu Araliya in Polonnaruwa which was indeed a treat. Mr. D (the friend- the prefix is to avoid confusion with my Dee) joined us later for dinner and drinks over which he invited himself to join us for our jeep safari in Habarana the next day. It was good getting to know people on a random holiday, we quite enjoyed it.
We retired late into our suite (as that was arranged) and I couldn’t wait to see the morning view of the Parakrama Samudra Lake the next day! We had a balcony and two glass walls to our suite/room. It was fabulous!
The next day follows..