Sigiriya Rock Fortress Tops List of “Hanging Monasteries”

sili.jpgLast year, I spent my 33rd birthday climbing Sigiriya, an ancient rock-top fortress in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. Yesterday, Sigiriya popped up on this fascinating post called “Hanging Monasteries of the World” with a few other remarkable cliff-top sites.

My birthday began with a trailhead call to my mobile phone from Sabah, our host, cook, and housemate in Nuwara Eliya. A cheer rang in his voice: “Many happy returns, sir!” sent me upward with a smile. The soaring, flat-topped mesa upon which Prince Kasyapa built this acclaimed fifth-century compound, has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World for its engineering and utter audacity. Evidence suggests he used it more as a pleasure palace than military post, though — the royal swimming pool, wide thrones, and saucy cave frescoes are cited as proof.

A thick heat accompanied my climb. I pushed into it, traversing the sheer side of Kasyapa’s palace on narrow iron rails, dodging hornet swarms and French tour groups; I looked at the mountain’s shadow on the jungle canopy below, catching my breath before mounting the remains of a huge, carved lion for the final ascent.

I summited in endorphine-soaked rapture — 360 degrees, windswept, and drenched with effort. Only the square foundation remained of the fortress, allowing me to look through grand, imaginary walls at the terraced grounds. A few young trees provided scant shade in the midday sun, and a handful of tourists (the French turned back at the lion’s paws) crowded in the shade, quietly squinting at our collective good fortune.

More from Joshua Berman
Putting the trip back together again
Gaining some interim understanding of everything we have just seen and experienced...
Read More