Starting at the water gardens in front of the Sigiriya Rock, a stairway of 1200 steps altogether leads to the upper palace on the very top. Halfway to the top, you will reach a mid-level terrace that includes the so-called “Lion Gate”. During King Kassapa’s reign in the 5th century, an 18 metres high lion was partly chiseled out of the Sigiriya rock and partly built of brick at its northern slope. This giant lion sculpture gave access to the plateau on the summit, where Kassapa built his palace. It is because of this immense statue that Sigiriy is called “Lion Rock”. Today, only the paws of this lion can still be seen intact, giving an impression of the colossal size of the original sculpture.
Over the course of the centuries, the original royal palace on the summit has been reduced to mere foundation walls of brick, but the remnants give an idea of the scale of this once vast complex of buildings, covering an area of about one and a half hectares. Probably, most of the original buildings were built mainly of wood. The whole plateau was surrounded by a wall, which looks like a natural extension of the monadnock.
This upper palace on the top of the Sigiriya monandnock includes a deep cistern cut into the rock, which still retains water, and a wide rectangular pond (Pokuna) of 27 metres by 21 metres, which looks more like a part of a pleasure garden on this plateau.
Slightly to the north of this Pokuna, at the slope of the uppermost terrace, is a huge monolithic seat, a so-called Asana. It is called “Kassapa’s throne”. It's surrounded by four tetragonal holes, which obviously served as brackets for wooden pillars, once supporting a canopy.
Three lower terraces facing the south are the lowest parts of the summit plateau. A set of caves, originally used as protective cells for soldiers on the look-out, is still a protected place to enjoy the view to the northern mountains of Knuckles Range.
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