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Monday, August 4, 2008


Sigiriya is the famous rock-fortress built by King Kasayapa I who gained the throne of Sri Lanka in 477 AD. It is situated in the Central Province of Sri Lanka 183 kilometer (113 miles) from Colombo. Sigiriya also has the distinction of being a World Heritage Site named by UNESCO. It derives it's name 'Lion Rock' from the huge archway shaped like a lion's head, which is the entrance to the fortress.

The history of Sigiriya is as interesting as the fortress itself. Kasyapa was the eldest of the two sons of King dhatusena, who ascended into the throne in 459 AD. However Kasyapa was born of a consort of lesser degree while his younger brother Muggalan was the sone of the chief consort or queen, which made Muggallan the rightful heir to the throne. Kasyapa on the other hand had different plans. With the help of a renegade chief of the army, he assassinated his father and gained the throne. Muggallan, in fear of his, life escaped to southern India. After gaining the throne King Kasyapa went on to to built his fortress and a magnificent palace on top of it, which is said to have taken seven years to complete.

The whole place complex consists of several sites. The rock fortress itself, two rectangular precincts, one in the east spreading over 90 hectares and one in the west spreading over 40 hectares. All of this was surrounded by two moats and three ramparts. The long rising gallery which led up to the rock face was shaped like a lion and the stairways that led to the palace on the summit rose from inside this colossal lion.

Once you start ascending the stairway, you come across many wonderful and interesting artifacts, highlighting the skills of our ancient artisans. About halfway to the summit of the rock you come across the 'Ketapath Pawura' - the mirrored wall. It gets it's name from the smooth glistening surface. It is believed that this was achieved by a glazing created with a mixture of lime, egg whites and wild honey. It is an ancient recipe that withstood the elements for centuries. The smooth surface of the wall was an irresistible invitation for visitors to etch their thoughts and feeling for posterity. Visitors who came to Sigiriya for nearly six centuries recorded their thoughts in form of verse and poetry on this wall and can be still seen today. Out of them over 700 hundred of the verses have been deciphered and published by archeologists, who agree that they are of great value in studying the development of sinhala script and language from the 8th to 10th centuries.

A little further up the rock face you come across the enchanting maidens of Sigiriya. These beautiful frescoes are painted on plastered rock face and are similar in style to the contemporary frescoes at the Ajanta caves in India.

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