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Ancient City of Sigiriya and Fortification

Sigiriya Sri Lanka

  • Sigiriya is 10 kilometres away from Inamaluwa which is on the main Kandy to Anuradhapura road.
  • Sigiriya is a huge flat topped rock rising 200 metres directly above the jungle-covered plain enclosed with ruins and is one of the most amazing Buddhist complexes ever constructed. Around the main rock there are many caves with twenty four engravings dating back between the third century BCE and the second century CE showing that it was populated by ascetical monks during that period.
  • Sigiriya is a witness to the evolution of Sri Lanka during the reign of Kassapa I. Passionate admirers visit the location of the 'Lion Mountain' since 6th century AD. The frescoes of Sigiriya initiated a pictorial style which lasted several centuries. The poems engraved on the rock by these admirers, and called the 'Sigiri graffiti,' are the most ancient texts in the Sinhalese, and therefore demonstrate the significant impact exerted by the uninhibited city of Kassapa I on both thought as well as literature.
  • The amazing site of Sigiriya is in the heart of Sri Lanka. As confirmed by the drawings which are in the shelters of the Buddhist monks and the caves, the neighbouring plateau has been populated since the 3rd century BC. The prominence of the 'Lion Mountain' is, because of one factor. In 459 AD Dhatusena, crushed his Tamil enemies and set up a new capital at Anuradhapura. His eldest son, Kassapa, was born to a minor queen. The chief queen bore him another son, Mogallana, who was legitimized to the throne by virtue of superior rank of his mother. Kassapa seized the throne by force and assassinated his father and briefly dispossessed his brother. Fearing for his life, Mogallana, fled into exile in south India.
  • After that, due to fear of his brother's return, Kassapa started strengthening the huge outcrop at Sigiriya, constructing a wonderful palace on the top of the great megalith. He ruled here for 11 years. It is not difficult even today to see him, resting on the smooth stone called the king's throne, appreciating the elegant gardens built on the plain below.
  • During the eleven years, Kassapa created a residence of unique magnificence and set up his capital there, exciting relics of which still exist. The reinforced palace with its damaged buildings, its water tanks and its rock statues is at the peak of the rock. There are the 2 quarters of the lower city at the bottom of the rock that are protected by a huge wall. The eastern quarter hasn’t been adequately dug, and the upper-class quarter of the capital of Kassapa I, is remarkable for its attached gardens elaborated by fountains, canals and for several monumental remains.
  • Within an unreachable rocky accommodation in the vertical wall of the western face, halfway up the rock, are rock pictures which have brought worldwide fame to the site of Sigiriya.
  • Mogallana, supported by Tamil forces, returned in 495 in search of settling of scores. There was a battle between Kassapa and Mogallana which was won by Mogallana who became king and shifted the capital back to Anuradhapura. Mogallana returned the site of Sigiriya to the monks. Kassapa committed suicide.
  • Rival Tamil and Sinhalese dynasties fought for control over the interior for nearly a millennium and a half, whereas the coast fell under European domination.
  • In Buddhism, the most respected and internationally admired figure after the Buddha himself is Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of sympathy. Followers of all schools of Buddhism have been worshipping this beloved bodhisattva with nearly unmatched fervor since his emergence in around the 1st century BCE.
  • According to tradition, Natha is among 108 names of Avalokitesvara. In Sri Lanka bodhisattva is still worshipped under the name of Natha. Although reachable through supplication and prayer to anybody at anyplace, Avalokitesvara was considered to stand on a mountain, known as Potala in a faraway region of India.
  • In the 7th century, Hiuen Tsiang visited south India. Even though he was not able to visit Potala himself, he described it on the basis of what other people told him. ‘Mount Potala is to the east of the Malaya Mountains. The passages on the mountain are extremely risky; its valleys are rocky and its sides steep. There is a lake on the summit of the mountain; its waters are clear like a mirror. From a grotto precedes an amazing river which surrounds the mountain 20 times when it streams down to the southern sea. There is a rock palace of the gods by the side of the lake. In coming and going Avalokitesvara takes his abode. People, who intensely wish to see the bodhisattva disregard their lives, but negotiate the streams, ascend the mountain oblivious of its dangers and difficulties. Out of those who try there are only a few who get to the peak. However even those people who remain under the mountain peak, if they solemnly beg to see the god and pray, he appears sometimes as Isvara, sometimes in the shape of a yogi, and addresses them with kind words and after that they achieve their wishes as per their desires’. Clearly this description is a fusion of fiction and fact, a tendency about Potala which increased as time passed. Slowly but surely the holy mountain was seen as a sort of supernatural fairy land, a heaven where exquisite flowers and rare medical herbs grew, where mythical animals played and where folks blessed to be reborn in Avalokitesvara's company resided in heaven. The desire to visit Mount Potala was so strong and at the same time so difficult that copies of the sacred mountain appeared. One such copy was to the north of Rajagaha in north India and another is in Chinese Zhejiang Province. At Sigiriya, the Sri Lankans have their own copy of Avalokitesvara mountain residence.

Walls and Moat

  • A series of remarkable moats and walls about 2 kilometres long surround the gardens, temples and mountain. The outer wall now hardly visible in parts was made from rammed earth and followed by a moat. Past this is a wall made out of brick and a 2nd moat. The inner moat is14 feet deep, 80 feet wide and coated with stone blocks. The inner wall is 30 feet high and made from stone, rubble, and earth dug from the moat. The main gate is on the west. Other gates are in the southern and the northern walls.

The Water Garden

  • A number of amazing gardens duplicating those on Mount Potala are inside the inner wall. Sunken garden is on the right. The entire complex is sunken and difficult to make out. Second part of the water garden is 78 feet wide and 525 feet long. Water put in storage on the lower slopes. The pressurised water was supplied through underground pipes into little ponds and pools, over small waterfalls and twisting streams. The circular limestone blocks having holes are the fountains which still work after heavy rainfall. There are 2 islands on both sides of this garden which originally had buildings on them. There are many big rectangular brick lined pools further along on the left.

  The Rock Garden

  • The track through the Water Gardens rises in a number of balconies to the Rock Garden. To the south there is a huge stone which had split in half. The upper side of broken half has been reduced into a level floor and has a big low throne etched from it. Another throne etched from a rock is on the west. A narrow paved gallery is on the east.
  • There is a cave at the end of the gallery with a throne in it. On the roof of this cave, pieces of paintings can still be seen. Another cave is right opposite this cave. From here a flight of stairs lead down to the Cobra’s Hood Cave. The small picture on the roof of this cave provides idea of how luxuriously the temples as well as monasteries of Sigiriya were embellished. The monks of old have boosted natural atmosphere to make it conducive to meditation.

Sigiriya Sri Lanka