SIGIRIYA - THE LION MOUNTAIN
Gardens in the western precints
The gateway to the western precinct lies across the inner moat. It had an elaborate gate-house made of timber and brick with a tiled roof. The moat is perfectly aligned with a mountain peak in the distance
Only the southern side of the garden has been excavated, leaving the identical northern half for the archaeologist of the future. In the entire Sigiri-Bim, over 200 village tanks and rural sites have been investigated.
The water gardens of the western precinct are symmetrically planned, while the boulder garden at a higher level is asymmetrically planned. The water garden displays one of the worlds most sophisticated hydraulic technologies, dating from the Early Historic Period.
This shows an interconnection of macro- and micro-hydraulics to provide for domestic horticultural and agricultural needs, surface drainage and erosion control, ornamental and recreational water courses and retaining structures and also cooling systems.
The Macro system consisted of the Sigiri Maha weva, the man-made lake with a 12 km dam, running south from the base of the rock, a series of moats, two on the west and one on the east fed from the lake. At micro level are, the water control and the water retaining systems at the summit of the rock and at various levels with horizontal and vertical drains cut in to the rock and underground conduits made of cylindrical terracotta pipes.
The miniature water garden just inside the inner wall of the western precinct, consists of water pavilions, pools, cisterns, courtyards, conduits and water courses. The pebbled or marbled water-surrounds covered by shallow slowly moving water would have served as cooling devices with an aesthetic appeal with visual and sound effects, which could be visualised by a visitor who could spend a little time.
The largest water garden has a central island surrounded by water and linked to the main precinct by cardinally-oriented causways. This was created 5 centuries before those at Angkor in Cambodia or Mughal gardens in India. The central island would have been occupied by a large pavilion.
The water is in four L-shaped pools, connected by underground water conduits at varying depths, to provide different water levels. The pool on the south-west, is divided into a large bathing pool, with a corbelled tunnel and steps leading down into it. The other pool is smaller with a central boulder on which was a brick-built pavilion.
The fountain garden is a narrow precinct on two levels. Western half has two long and deep pools, with shallow serpentine streams draining into the pools. These had been paved with marble slabs. These streams display the fountains, which have been made from circular limestone plates with symmetrical perforations, which are fed by underground water conduits and operate by gravity and pressure. There are two shallow limestone cisterns which would have served as storage and pressure chambers for the fountains. These fountains are still active during the rainy season from November to January.
On either side of the fountains are four large moated islands , oriented north-south, cutting across the central axis of the water garden. This too shows the symmetrical repetition. The flattened surfaces of the islands were meant for the Summer Palaces or 'water pavilions'. Access to the pavilions were across bridges cut into the surface rock.
The Octagonal pond is at a point where the water garden and the boulder garden meet, a still higher level from the rest of the water garden. It is at the base of a towering boulder. There is a raised podium and a drip ledge, which would have formed the bathing pavilion . The pond is surrounded by a wide terrace also octagonal.
The boulder garden at a higher level from the symmetrical water garden is a totally different organic or asymmetrical concept, with winding pathways, natural boulders. Almost every rock and boulder in this garden must have had a building of brick and timber. It also has the Cistern Rock which has a large cistern made of huge slabs of granite. There is also the Audience Hall rock, with a 5 metre long throne carved out of the rockThe entrance to the inner citadel (15 hectares) is made of a massive brick and stone wall, which forms a dramatic backdrop to the water garden and to the rock and the palace on the summit towards the east of it. The wall runs from the Octagonal pond to the bastion on the south-east, which is formed of wide brick walls linking a series of boulders surrounding a cave pavilion with a rock-cut throne.
The Terrace Garden at the base of the rock is fashioned out of the natural hill, made with rubbled retaining walls, each terrace running in a concentric circle around the rock, each rising above the other.
The Palace garden on the summit was the domestic garden with its terraces and rock cut pools
also see : Kat Bitha, the controversial book on Sigiriya.