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Ruins

Sigiriya Complex

  Province Central
  District Matale
  Nearest Town Sigiriya
  Period 477 – 495 AD
  Ruler King Kassapa I

Introduction

Sigiriya (Lion's rock) is an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin situated in the Matle District in central province of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. Sigiriya is a popular tourist destination; Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings (Frescos), which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves of India. The Sigiriya was built during the reign of King Kassapa I (AD 477 – 495), and it is one of the seven World heriyage Sites of Sri Lanka..

Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees to the Buddhist Sangha. According to the chronicles as Mahavamsa the entire complex was built by King Kashyapa, and after the king's death, it was used as a Buddhist monastery until 14th century.

The Sigiri inscriptions were deciphered by the archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana in his renowned two-volume work, published by Oxford, Sigiri Graffiti and also Story of Sigiriya

History

In 477 CE, prince Kasyapa seized the throne from King Dhatusena, following a coup assisted by migara, the king’s nephew and army commander. Kasyapa, the king’s son by a non-royal consort, usurped the rightful heir, Moggallana, who fled to South India. Fearing an attack from Moggallana, Kasyapa moved the capital and his residence from the traditional capital of Anuradhapura to the more secure Sigiriya. During King Kasyapa’s reign (477 to 495), Sigiriya was developed into a complex city and fortress. Most of the elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces and gardens, date back to this period.

Kashyapa was defeated in 495 by Moggallana, who moved the capital again to Anuradhapura. Sigiriya was then turned back into a Buddhist monastery, which lasted until the thirteenth or fourteenth century. After this period, no records are found on Sigirya until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when it was used as an outpost of the Kingdom of Kandy. When the kingdom ended, it was abandoned again.

The Mahavamsa, the ancient historical record of Sri Lanka, describes King Kasyapa as the son of King Dhatusena. Kasyapa murdered his father by walling him alive and then usurping the throne which rightfully belonged to his brother Mogallana, Dhatusena's son by the true queen. Mogallana fled to India to escape being assassinated by Kasyapa but vowed revenge. In India he raised an army with the intention of returning and retaking the throne of Sri Lanka which he considered was rightfully his. Knowing the inevitable return of Mogallana, Kasyapa is said to have built his palace on the summit of Sigiriya as a fortress and pleasure palace. Mogallana finally arrived and declared war. During the battle Kasyapa's armies abandoned him and he committed suicide by falling on his sword.

Chronicles and lore say that the battle-elephant on which Kasyapa was mounted changed course to take a strategic advantage, but the army misinterpreted the movement as the King having opted to retreat, prompting the army to abandon the king altogether. It is said that being too proud to be surrendered he took his dagger from the waist band, cut his throat, raised the dagger proudly, sheathed it and fell dead.] Moggallana returned the capital to Anuradapura, converting Sigiriya into a monastery complex.

Alternative stories have the primary builder of Sigiriya as King Dhatusena, with Kasyapa finishing the work in honour of his father. Still other stories have Kasyapa as a playboy king, with Sigiriya a pleasure palace. Even Kasyapa's eventual fate is mutable. In some versions he is assassinated by poison administered by a concubine. In others he cuts his own throat when isolated in his final battle. Still further interpretations have the site as the work of a Buddhist community, with no military function at all. This site may have been important in the competition between the Mahayana and Theravada two Buddhist traditions in ancient Sri Lanka.

The earliest evidence of human habitation at Sigiriya was found from the Aligala rock shelter to the east of Sigiriya rock, indicating that the area was occupied nearly five thousand years ago during the Mesolithic period.

Buddhist monastic settlements were established in the western and northern slopes of the boulder-strewn hills surrounding the Sigiriya rock, during the third century B.C. Several rock shelters or caves had been created during this period. These shelters were made under large boulders, with carved drip ledges around the cave mouths. Rock inscriptions are carved near the drip ledges on many of the shelters, recording the donation of the shelters to the Buddhist monastic order as residences. These have been made within the period between the third century B.C and the first century CE.

Man made features

Sigiriya is considered one of the most important urban planning sites of the first millennium, and the site plan is considered very elaborate and imaginative. The plan combined concepts of symmetry and asymmetry to intentionally interlock the man-made geometrical and natural forms of the surroundings. On the west side of the rock lies a park for the royals, laid out on a symmetrical plan; the park contains water retaining structures, including sophisticated surface/subsurface hydraulic systems, some of which are working even today. The south contains a man made reservoir; these were extensively used from previous capital of the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Five gates were placed at entrances. The more elaborate western gate is thought to be reserved for the royals.

Sigiriya consists of an ancient castle built by King Kasyapa during the 5th century AD. The Sigiriya site has the remains of an upper palace sited on the flat top of the rock, a mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls and gardens that extend for some hundreds of meters out from the base of the rock.Sigriya Located in the north-central province of Sri Lanka, Sigriya-a city, palace and garden complex centering a 200 meter high rock-is unofficially known as the 8th wonder of the world. Literally, the word Sigriya means the Lion Rock. Sigriya is Sri Lanka's most recognizable landmark and has been declared as a World Heritage Site.

Built in the 5 century AD, this magnificent complex of geometrically laid gardens, pools, fountains as well as oldest surviving murals of maidens was palace of the King Kasyapa. The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts.

The 650 ft monolith was once a rock fortress and a royal citadel from 477 to 495 AD. The most significant feature of the Rock would have been the Lion staircase leading to the palace garden on the summit. All that remains now are the two colossal paws and a mass of brick masonry that surround the ancient limestone steps and the cuts and groves on the rock face give an idea of the size and shape of the lion figure. There are also remains of paintings in some of the caves at the foot of the rock. Of special significance is the painting on the roof of the Cobra Hood Cave. The cave with its unique shape dates back to the pre-Christian era

The pleasure gardens on the western side of the rock are studded with ponds, fountains and promenades showing a glorious past. The miniature water garden just inside the inner wall of the western precinct consists of water pavilions, pools, cisterns, courtyards, conduits and watercourses. The largest water garden has a central island surrounded by water and linked to the main precinct by cardinally oriented causeways. 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 fountains are still active during the rainy season from November to January.

Climbing up the rock you will see the Mirror Wall, a highly polished rock surface that has weathered the times to shine and reflect even today. In a sheltered pocket are the famous frescoes of beautiful maidens, which appear to rise out of the clouds. A climb to the top is rewarded by a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

Moat

Gardens

Water garden

Boulder -gardens

Sigiriya Frescos

Mirror Wall with Graffiti

Lion's mouth

Palace at the summit