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Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Ancient City of Sigiriya

Majestic Citadel On The Lion Rock

Sigiriya (pronounced see-gi-ri-yə), also known as Sinha-Giri (Lion Rock) is a rock fortress located in the city of Dambulla, Central Province, 179 km away from the capital city Colombo. This monumental fortress is of 660 feet in height and was once the palace of King Kashyapa (477-495 AD) who built it into a beautiful palace complex. The impressive architecture that was used to create such a marvelous palace upon a rock high as Sigiriya, is still a mystery to all. Halfway upon the rock, is a gateway in the shape of an enormous lion. Sigiriya boasts an underground hyrolic system still works, which is a mystery yet to be solved. 

This magnificent rock fortress was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1982, and is also named as one of the best preserved urban planning locations. It is believed that Sigiriya was built in the inspiration of Kuvera's Alakamanda, said to be a city of gods built in the clouds. Decorated with frescoes and water gardens on its terrace, Sigiriya gives a picturesque view of its surrounding forests and the blue sky, making it truly a heavenly paradise on earth.  

Sigiriya is defnitely a heritage site that leaves its climbers breathless for its beauty, royalty and ancient urban planning, but the legends around the rock fortress are even mesmerizing. It is said that King Kashyapa who was rejected by his people abandoned his former capital Anuradapura, in search of a new city for his kingdom. Sigiriya rock fortress in its location and setup was an ideal venue, for it was naturally protected in all ways to serve as a royal citadel.

World Famous Sigiri Frescoes

Sigiriya FrescosThe king not only built the fortress but also beautified it with frescoes and water features. The world famous Sigiriya paintings display detailed illustrations of ladies carrying flowers which were later given various identities by researchers and archaeologists. Most of the paintings are lost today, leaving just a few behind. These are said to have close resemblance to the frescoes at Ajanta Cave Temples in India.

"The world famous Sigiriya frescoes display detailed illustrations of ladies carrying flowers which were later given various identities by researchers and archaeologists."

Mirror Wall with Kurutu Gee

Another attraction loved by hickers of Sigiriya, is its mirror wall. It is a highly polished brick masonry covered in white plaster. It carries scribbled poems (known as kurutu gee) written on it by the visitors dating back to 8thcentury. Dr. Paranavitana examined each poetry using his magnifying glass for years and came up with two enormous volumes of earliest Sinhalese poetry extant.

Citadel of Sigiriya

The gardens on the rock fortress add more glamour to the ancient citadel. Divided into three categories, namely water gardens, cave and boulder gardens and terrace gardens, these take the pride of being amongst the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. The technology used to run the sophisticated water fountains and pools, out of which some are still functioning, is an impressive creation that dates back to 1600 years. Following the death of King Kashyapa, Sigiriya was turned into a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

  • The technology used to run the sophisticated water fountains and pools, out of which some are still functioning, is an impressive creation that dates back to 1600 years.

This marvelous transformation of a plain rock into a glorifying palace is believed to be the most visited tourist destination in Sri Lanka. Photography of the frescoes is prohibited for the protection of the illustrations and writing on the mirror wall is also banned today in order to preserve the historical verses on it. Sigiriya is also recognized as the 8th World Wonder by UNESCO.

The rock fortress stands today as a silent, gigantic fascination admired by both local and foreign travelers and undoubtedly a significant heritage site of Sri Lanka. 

History of the Rock

Even thoug Sigiriya came to life in 500 A.D, pre-historic human settlements were found in the Aliyagala rock shelters to the East of Sigiriya rock. According to historians it has become a buddhist settlement by 300 B.C. 

King Dhatusena was the king in late 5th century. He had two sons, Kasyapa I and Moggallana I(Mugalan). Mogallana was the rightful heir to the throne, while Kasyapa was born to a non-royal queen. Kashyapa overthrew Khatusena and crowned as king in 473, with the help of comannder Migara. Afraid of an attack from Moggallana, King Kashyapa fled to Dambulla and built the rock fortress in Sigiriya.

After 22 years, Mugalan who fled to India after the incident returned with a South Indian army and laid siege to Sigiriya rock fortress. According to some legends King Kashyapa chose to meet his brother Mugalan outside the the rock fortress with a lesser advantage to safe guard his beloved art work from war. Eventually, King Kashyapa I who build this astounding monument laid to rest and Moggallana I was became the King. 

Access

If you are taking public transport, first go to Dambulla via one of the following bus routes from petta.

  • No. 15 bus to Anuradhapura
  • No. 48 bus to Kaduruwela (Polonnaruwa)
  • No. 49 bus to Trinco and get off in Dambulla

From Dambulla, there is a bus every 30 minutes starting from 7AM. It will take about 40 minutes to reach Sigiriya.

Things To Do

  • Examine the Ruins of the Fortress
  • Unravel mistery of the water fountains
  • Hike the rock
  • Enjoy beauty of the Sigiry Frescos
  • Read Kurutu Gee on the Mirror Wall
  • Take a photo at the Lion's Gate
  • Enjoy the citadel from top of the rock