Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya, in fact, should have been classed as   one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, long ago, there is however, a proposal   now to name it as the Eight Wonder of the world. perhaps, its better late than   never. Sri Lanka’s ancient architectural tradition is well portrayed at   Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with   its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water   gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying   levels and of axial and radial planning. Sophisticated city planning was at the   heart of Sigiriya, this royal citadel of ancient fame from the days of Sri   Lanka’s memorable past.
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 plan   of the city is based on a precise square module. The layout extends outwards   from co-ordinates at the centre of the palace complex at the summit, with the   eastern and western axis directly aligned to it. The water garden, moats and   ramparts are based on an ‘echo plan’ duplicating the layout and design on either   side.                     This city still displays its skeletal layout and its significant   features. 3 km from east to west and 1 km from north to south it displays the   grandeur and complexity of urban-planning in the 5th century in Sri Lanka.

The Rock                     The most significant feature of the Rock would   have been the Lion staircase leading to the palace garden on the summit. Based   on the ideas described in some of the graffiti, this Lion staircase could be   visualized as a gigantic figure towering majestically against the granite cliff,   facing north, brilliantly coloured and awe-inspiring. What’s visible today 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.Though traces of plaster and pigments occur   all over this area, there are only two pockets of paintings surviving in the   depressions of the rock face, about a 100 meters above the ground level. These   paintings represent the earliest surviving examples of a Sri Lankan school of   classical realism, which was already fully evolved by the 5th Century, when   these paintings had been made. Earlier the Sigiri style had been considered as   belonging to the Central Indian school of Ajanta, but later considered as   specifically different from the Ajanta paintings. The ladies depicted in the   paintings have been identified as Apsaras (heavenly maidens), as ladies of   Kasyapa’s court and as Lightening Princesses and Cloud Damsels.                     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 from the pre-christian era.

The Sigiri gardens                     The Sigiri Gardens blend together to   make the perfect setting for the Lion Mountain.

                    The Story of Sigiriya                     Sigiriya was not a mere   fortress, gloomy and forbidding. During it’s brief height of glory- it was a   royal citadel for more than 18 years( 477 to 495 A.D). It was one of the   loveliest that have graced this land.                     There are many interpretations during   this period, history combined with legend, love and betrayal. But one story   remains, the story of King Kaspaya (477-495 A.D.) its creator, the King who had   an artist’s soul. Books have been written about him and plays and films have   tried to depict his personality.                     Kasyapa left Anuradhapura and built for   himself Sigiriya, a palace and city modelled on the mythical abode of “Kuvera”   God of Wealth. . Eighteen years later, his brother Moggallan challenged him with   an army and during one of those momentary mistakes of judgment that changes the   course of history, Kasyapa thought he was alone in battle and therefore, raised   his dagger and slew himself.                     In a sheltered pocket on the western face of   the Sigiriya rock, approached by a spiral stairway, are the famous frescoes.   Epigrapical evidence refers to the existence of 500 such portraits, but only 19   remain today. On the western and nothern sides of the steep rock face runs a   gallery or pathway which provides access to the seemingly inaccessible   summit.Shielding this pathway is a 9 1/2 ft plaster wall, so highly polished,   that even today, after 15 Centuries of exposure to sun, wind and rain, one can   see one’s reflection in it. Hence, the name “Mirror Wall”.On the polished   surface are the Sigiri Graffiti recorded by processions of visitors to the rock   in the past.The summit of the rock is nearly three acres. The outer wall of the   palace which is the main building was constructed on the very brink of the   precipice. There were gardens, cisterns and ponds laid out attractively.                     The   western side of the rock is filled with ponds, islets, promenades and pavilions.   Some underground and surface drainage systems have been discovered during   excavations. The wall abutting the moat encircling the fortress is one of the   most arresting features.

The History of Sigiriya                     Sigiriya dates back from over   7000 years ago, through Pre-historic to Early Historic times, then as a   rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 3rd Century BC, with caves   prepared and donated by devotees to the sangha.                     The garden city and the   palace was built by King Kasyapa 477 – 495 AD. Then after King Kasyapa’s death   it was a Buddhist monastery complex upto about the 14th century.                     The   Mahavansa, the ancient historical record of Sri Lanka, describes King Kasyapa as   being responsible for the murder of his father King Dhatusena by walling him up   alive and then usurping the throne which rightfully belonged to his brother   Mogallana. To escape from the army of Mogallana, Kasyapa is said to have built   his palace on the summit of Sigiriya, but Mogallana finally managed to get to   Kasyapa and he committed suicide. However, there is also another version of the   Kasyapa story, related by one of the most eminent historians of Sri Lanka, Prof.   Senerath Paranavitana. He claims to have deciphered the story of Sigiriya,   written by a monk named Ananda in the 15 century AD.                     This has been inscribed   on stone slabs, over which later inscriptions have been written. Todate, no   other epigraphist has made a serious attempt to read the interlinear   inscriptions.                     The two conflicting versions have been the basis for the   historical novel ‘Kat Bitha’ by Daya Dissanayake, published in 1998. Sigiriya   also happens to be the location for Arthur C Clarke’s ‘Mountains of   Paradise’.