Sigiriya is a popular tourist destination that is also considered as one of the oldest tourist site in Sri Lanka, being visited by travellers for past 1000 years. The ancient rock fortress and palace of Sigiriya, currently standing in ruin, still has magnificent opulence that is surrounded by beautiful gardens, reservoirs and other structures and attracts large influx of tourists visiting Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya is an amazing geological formation in Sri Lanka that encompasses an important archaeological site. Sigiriya lies 22 km north-east of Dambulla in the North central province of Sri Lanka. The tourist site of Sigiriya has been declared as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1982 and is part of the seven world heritage sites of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is located in the middle of the tourism cultural triangle formed by connecting the world heritage sites of Anuradhapura, Kandy and Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka.
The Sigiriya rock also known as “Lion’s rock,” is a hardened magma plug from an extinct volcano with a steep mound that rises abruptly from the plain surrounding it. The Sigiriya complex consist the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts. The water gardens, moats and ramparts are based on an ‘echo plan’ duplicating the layout and design on either side.
History of Sigiriya
Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock) is believed to be inhabited through prehistoric times, which is evident from the Aligala rock shelter to the east of Sigiriya rock in Sri Lanka. The rock shelters of Sigiriya were used as a monastery in the historical times from the 5th century BC in Sri Lanka. These caves in Sigiriya were prepared and donated by devotees to the Buddhist Sangha.
The caves later came under the rule of King Kasyapa who shifted his kingdom from Anuradhahpura to Sigiirya in fear of attack from Moggallana. King Kasyapa built the gardens and palaces at Sigiriya, developing the city as a fortress in Sri Lanka. Most of the construction in Sigiriya on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces and gardens, were built in period. King Kasyapa was defeated by Moggallana, and Moggallana moved the capital back to Anuradhapura.
After king Kasyapa’s death, the Sigiriya caves were again a monastery complex up to 14th century, after which they were abandoned. Sigiriya was further occupied and made an outpost of kingdom of Kandy for a brief period before again being deserted completely.