Sigiriya (Lion’s rock in Sinhalese) is a large stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. A popular tourist destination, Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescos), which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves of India. It is one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka
Sigiriya is a unique witness to the civilization of Ceylon during the years of the reign of Kassapa I. The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95 CE) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 370 metres high, which dominates the jungle from all sides. A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site.
Halfway up the rock, within an inaccessible rocky shelter in the vertical wall of the western face are rock paintings which have brought universal acclaim to the site of Sigiriya – ‘The Maidens of the Clouds’, 21 non-identified female figures, comparable to the most beautiful creations of Ajanta. The frescoes of Sigiriya inaugurated a pictorial style which endured over many centuries. The poems inscribed on the rock are known as the ‘Sigiri graffiti’. They are among the most ancient texts in the Sinhalese language, and thus show the considerable influence exerted by the abandoned city of Kassapa I on both literature and thought.
It’s quite a tough walk up to the top, although there’s stairs most of the way, however, if you are in Sri Lanka it’s definitely a must-do. Take your time, a bottle of water and once you have reached the top you will be suitably rewarded. Photograph taken 17th April 1999