Sri Lanka, located off of the south east coast of India, has a lush history that dates back over 3,000 years. Similar to many of the Asian countries visited during the Spring 2015 voyage, the island has a substantial Buddhist heritage and is also known for being a biodiversity hotspot. In years past, Semester at Sea included Sri Lanka on the voyage itineraries and even had Arthur C. Clark, renowned author of 2001: A space Odyssey and longtime resident of Sri Lanka, serve as an interport lecturer.
Though not on the Spring 2015 itinerary, while the MV Explorer was docked in Cochin, a number of students, lifelong learners, faculty and staff had the opportunity to register for a field program and journeyed to Sri Lanka to learn about the rich island‚Äôs history.
While exploring the central area of the island, the group went to Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock. Located near Dambulla, Sigiriya was an ancient Sri Lankan palace that dates back to the 5th century. The fortress was built upon a colossal rock and is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Astonished by the beauty of the rock column, the SAS participants chose to climb the nearly 660 ft. high rock to see the ancient ruins for themselves. The tour started at the base of the rock, where visitors walked through the water, boulder, and terraced gardens. Surrounding the ancient palace were lush landscapes and a moat, built to help protect King Kasyapa and his empire.
The tropical sun beat down as the SAS participants climbed the stairs towards the top. Along the trek voyagers stopped to marvel at the frescoes that spanned the western face of the rock. It is said that most of the artwork has faded over time, but the preserved gallery of painted ladies gives evidence to the island‚Äôs vibrant history.
As the group continued towards the summit they passed what is known as ‚Äúthe mirror wall,‚Äù brick masonry so polished that it is said the king could see his reflection as he passed by.
The final climb starts at the paws of the lion. After 1,200 steps they reached the Citadel of Sigiriya. The astonishing ancient ruins at the peak and sweeping views of the lush island dispelled all exhaustion from the climb. Participants looked out across the land, imagining the rock fortress that once was. This breathtaking moment was a reminder to all, to embrace the excursion in Sri Lanka during a voyage of discovery.