On a clear, sunny day, the striking 200-meter-high monolith forms an imposing profile against the rural landscape of Northern Sri Lanka. The views of the lush green jungle melding with the bright blue sky seem endless from the peak. Sigiriya, one of island's most well-known and visited sites, attracts millions of visitors each year.
It is one of South Asia's most important and best preserved archaeological sites, dating back to 477 AD. The elaborate former mountaintop palace and its risque art have earned it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but the ingenious gardens and irrigation systems are what make it a national treasure. The water systems are considered an engineering marvel due to the use of advanced technology for the time that creates a visually spectacular system of pools and fountains still functioning almost 1500 years later.
The gardens at Sigiriya consist of distinct but interconnected sections: the geometric and symmetric water gardens, the organic and asymmetric boulder garden, the miniature gardens, the stepped gardens, and the palace gardens on the summit of the rock. The site masterfully displays the play of symmetry and asymmetry on organic and inorganic forms. Within the gardens were wonderfully designed pools, fountains, streams, and platforms that once held pavilions and performers. These miniature water gardens would have been best experienced at night, under the moonlight's reflection on the shallow pools. The low level of water in the pools surrounding the pavilions, suggests that they may have been used for musical performances.
Sigiriya is believed to have been built by the usurper Kasyapa in the 5th century AD when he moved the capital from Anuradhapura to Simhagiri (Lion Mountain). The Sigiriya palace still stands atop the mountain, constructed in the form of a squatting lion.The gardens had a particular purpose beyond their beauty and practicality; Kasyapa wanted to present water in a specific way that would send a clear message about his power and creativity to anyone who was opposed to his rule.
Source: BBC Travel