Idea #368 – Visiting Sigiriya Citadel in Sri Lanka
Sigiriya, the “lion rock” is a major archaeological site in Sri Lanka. Former royal capital, the site has been occupied at least since the 2nd century BC According to a chronicle written in the 13th century: “at the end of the 5th century, Kassyapa, the youngest son of the king of Anuradhapura Dhatusena, comes into conflict with his elder brother Mogallana. The throne must go to the eldest son by right but Kassyapa does not understand it so. He plots a plot and kills his father by walling him up alive, before taking control of the regency and expelling his brother Mogallana, who takes refuge in a forced exile in India. Mogallana on leaving his brother warns him that he will return to avenge their late father. In his paranoia, Kassapa raises an army, leaves the royal capital of Anuradhapura, and settles in his new fortress of Sigiriya, on the huge rock with steep walls, culminating at 370 meters. The site is surrounded by a system of moats and two rows of walls. Kassapa settles in his palace where he remains for 18 years , fearful most of his time , surrounded by his court composed of servants, valets, henchmen, confidants and his courtesans. The legend says that King Kassapa was surrounded by a thousand courtesans, the damsels of Sigirîya. He had painted, in a style close to that of Ajantâ, in a large crevice of the rock on the south face of the rock, halfway up, the portraits, of foot or of bust of all these young ladies – or more probably of apsarâs, twenty-one in number – all different. But his brother, having raised an army with the help of a râja in India, ended up laying siege to the citadel, starving the garrison, leaving Kassyapa only the choice to surrender. The latter will then be executed, and Sigiriya will be forever abandoned”.
Access to the rock is only possible from the south face. After passing under a natural rock arch, a flight of steps, straight and well cut, allows access to the south face of the rock from this point, the steps are much more irregular and the climb more difficult. When you arrive at mid-height, it is essential to take a wooden staircase which allows access to a large crevice in the rock where the paintings representing the young ladies of Sigîriya are located. A long shiny wall encloses this crevice, called the “mirror wall”, covered with a unique coating made from eggs and lime. Arrived at the last terrace, it is necessary to pass between the legs of a gigantic lion carved in the rock, which imposes its majesty on the whole valley below. At the top, the visitor discovers the king’s palace, the swimming pool and the gardens, and the cisterns. The site is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Where is it ?
Sigiriya, Province du Centre, Sri Lanka