Sigiriya is an absolute MUST, if you do decide to visit Sri Lanka. Regardless of whether you’re travelling with a group, family, travelling with small children, or on business, Sigiriya will mesmerize any visitor. You truly have to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site to understand why most people consider it the 8th wonder of the world.
Scientists now believe that there is more to Sigiriya than what meets the eye. Pre-historic findings around the region along with proto-historic evidence shed some light on the initial settlements around Sigiriya. The Sigiriya era commenced with the official introduction of Buddhism to the island in the 3rd century BC. The cave inscriptions at Sigiriya and its suburbs testify to the existence of dwellings of Buddhist monks as well as a settlement of suburban population who sustained them during the early historic era.
For starters, the construction of Sigiriya by King Kasyapa within a short period of time is an amazing feat. Its intricate and meticulously designed layout poses the question whether it was built solely as a fortress city with the intensions of security and defense. It was the capital of Kasyapa, but it was not certain whether he was at Sigiriya for the full eighteen years of his region.
Sigiriya is one of the best preserved examples of urban planning in a single phase construction of South Asia. Its royal complex or the citadel extended for three kilometers in length and one kilometer in breadth. The citadel had three ramparts and two moats on the west and a single rampart and a moat in the east. There is much speculation as to if Kasyapa was unable to complete the other two ramparts and one more moat in the east. The height of one of the ramparts was 29 feet. The axis of the royal complex and the urban centre was the Sigiriya rock rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain. The royal palace was located on the 1.5 hectare plateau on its summit the remains of which are still visible.
The palace on the summit, the gigantic lion on the way to the summit, the fortress walls; all symbolized the splendor and grandeur of royal authority. They differentiated the royalty and nobility within the fortress city and the ordinary people living outside the city walls. Those symbols invariably compelled the ruled to obediently accept the domination of the rulers with fear and veneration.
After King Kasyapa’s rule from the year 477 to 495 AD, Sigiriya was abandoned by the Sinhala Kings and they relocated the capital to Anuradhapura. The Sigiriya complex was donated to the Buddhist Monks for their habitation. But apparently the monks also did not have any love for the place as a residential centre and abandoned it soon thereafter. Nevertheless people of all walks of life from all over the country visited Sigiriya from the Seventh to Twelfth century to view its marvels and its beautiful paintings. Some visited even went on to writing verses on the Mirror Wall on the western side of the rock.
This poetry not only suggests that the literacy rate in the country at the time was advanced but also points to a well organized administration to supervise Sigiriya and its visitors who went there, and their literacy compositions and the manner in which they were inscribed in the Mirror Wall.
Sigiriya had its aesthetic excellence but not functional merits. Almost all the capital cities which sustained for a long time in Sri Lanka as well as in the world developed by the side of Primary rivers which ensured the function of water supply to an increasing population. But Sigiriya was an exception. Perhaps scarcity of water was one of the main reasons for its abandonment soon after it was established as the capital.
If you were to visit Sigiriya more than once with different tour guides, you will be pleasantly exposed to many other myths and perceptions to the site. All of them having their own opinions and assumptions to details of the legend that have yet not been answered. Either way, it’s a fascinating place and a captivating story that will draw any and all visitor to its doorstep.
If you have visited it, please do share with us other aspects, myths and stories you may think will interest other reads.