FORTRESS IN THE SKY
19kms North East of Dambulla is Sigiriya – the lion rock, which is a major tourist attraction of the island. Some say that it was really the palace of Emperor Ravana but later occupied by King Kashyapa. But Sri Lankan chronicles tell a totally different story. The Mahavansa says King Kashyapa murdered his father Dathusena, and the younger brother Muggallana swearing revenge fled to India. This was a reason for Kashyapa to find a safe place and he chose this isolated rock for his palace and fortress. Finally when Muggallana returned with an army, Kashyapa left his stronghold and came down to lead the battle. Kashyapa advancing on an elephant suddenly turned the animal to avoid a swamp and his troops deserted him assuming that the King was retreating in fear. To avoid becoming a prisoner of his brother he took the only option at hand and committed suicide. He left behind an amazing masterpiece of art and architecture that the whole island is proud of. If one presumes that Sigiriya was just another fortress, that would not do justice to this historic place. He had built a magnificent palace on top of a rock 200mtrs high, 380mtrs above sea level. The complex is as beautiful as the ancient castles one observes along the river Rhine in Europe atop massive cliffs. The approach is across the palace water garden passing the royal bathing pools. Steps cut mostly into the rocks take you in between massive boulders. Half-way up are the famous 1500 year old painted frescos that could be seen by going up a spiral staircase. The 5th century paintings are on par with those of Ajantha and Allora in India. Next to the frescos is the mirror wall, a sort of an autograph album where the viewers make their comments. It would take volumes to write about the wonders of Sigiriya. Just step through the lion’s jaws and enter this wonderland. The atmosphere takes you back to the days when topless maidens strode in the moonlight at night, where a king supervised frescoes being painted, where decisions to do battle, to kill, to love abound in history, merged in folklore of an ancient age. Still, ironically, it is Kasyapa, the God-King, who stands tall through it all and has the sentiments of the masses.
Mapagala fortress was an ancient fortified complex of the Anuradhapura Kingdom long before Kasyapa-I built his city, Sigiriya. It is located to the South of Sigiriya and closer to Sigiriya tank.
It was built by using unshaped boulders to about 20 ft high. Each stone is broad and thick and some of them are about 10 ft high and about 4 ft long. It is believed that it was built before the time of usage of metal tools. Arthur Maurice Hocart note says that cyclopean style stone walls were used for the fortress, and square hammered stones were used for the ramparts of the citadel. However, his note suggest metal (iron) tool were used for construction. Excavations work in this areas found out a few stone forges, which proved Hocart’s claim on the usage of metal tool.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Sigiriya Rock Fortress