Sigiriya is one of the famous historical sites located in Sri Lanka. It serves as archaeological evidence of the existence of an ancient kingdom in Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is now recognized as the best tourist destination in the country due to its extraordinary history and natural beauty. The name ‘Sigiriya’ translates to ‘Lion Rock,’ signifying its identity as both an ancient palace and fortress towering over a colossal rock that stands about 200 meters tall. This site, located in the Matale District of Sri Lanka, attracts thousands of tourists every day and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.
There are many unsolved mysteries surrounding Sigiriya, particularly related to how the fortress on top of it was constructed. Local legends even suggest that this ancient site was built thousands of years ago by a Hindu god named Ravana, a member of the advanced beings known as the Asuras. These gods and goddesses were believed to have descended from the heavens and ruled over a portion of humanity. They are said to have constructed this magnificent palace, complete with a monastery complex, cave palaces, the Water Gardens, as well as terraced gardens. There was also an intricate hydraulic system consisting of sluice gates, canals, reservoirs, bridges, dams, and subterranean hydraulic systems.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the area around Sigiriya has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with rock shelters dating back nearly 5,000 years. Many rock shelters and caves in the vicinity have been used by monks and ascetics since the 3rd century BCE. Some of these sites even feature paintings on their ceilings and cave walls.
Sigiriya is considered one of the most important urban planning sites from ancient times and its layout is regarded as one of the most complex and imaginative. It incorporates both symmetrical and asymmetrical concepts. To the west, there is a well-laid-out garden meant for nobility, featuring water retention structures, including a sophisticated underground hydraulic system, some of which still function today. Given how ancient and complex Sigiriya is, archaeologists still cannot fully explain the reasons or the methods used by the people of that era to transport materials to this 200-meter-high location. Many argue that the palace was built for protection around the 470s. The giant rock became the center of the kingdom ruled by King Kasyapa. He constructed this heavily fortified palace out of fear of retribution from his brother. Prior to becoming king, Kasyapa was not the rightful heir and seized the throne from his father, King Dhatusena. Meanwhile, Mogallana, the rightful crown prince, was unable to accept this and sought vengeance. Thus, King Kasyapa constructed the grand fortress with high walls and a wide moat that separated the palace from the surrounding world, and he also maintained a number of crocodiles in the moat to guard and protect the palace. Additionally, the king created a pair of lion’s paws as the entrance to his palace.
However, after successfully building and living in Sigiriya for 11 years, Kasyapa eventually met with Prince Mogallana. Mogallana laid siege to the fortress and managed to press and defeat Kasyapa. Mogallana, who then became the king, relocated the capital of his kingdom to Anuradhapura. Sigiriya was later transformed into a monastery or dwelling for Buddhist monks. Nevertheless, this explanation is still debated by many because they believe it was nearly impossible to transport building materials to a height of 200 meters.
According to another perspective, in ancient traditions, constructing atop mountains or high rocks was seen as a way to reach the heavens, serving as a gateway between the human world and the realm of the gods. This could be the reason why people of that time chose to build the Sigiriya palace. Nevertheless, whatever the reason, the beauty of Sigiriya remains an enigma to this day, and it continues to draw thousands of tourists who visit this remarkable place.
That’s a glimpse of Sigiriya, the fortress atop a colossal rock whose existence remains a question mark.”