Sigiriya

සීගිරිය

( Sigiriya )

Sigiriya or Sinhagiri (Lion Rock Sinhala: සීගිරිය, Tamil: சிகிரியா/சிங்ககிரி, pronounced see-gi-ri-yə) is an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. It is a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock approximately 180 m (590 ft) high.

According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Cūḷavaṃsa, this area was a large forest, then after storms and landslides it became a hill and was selected by King Kashyapa (AD 477–495) for his new capital. He built his palace on top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure; Sīnhāgiri, the Lion Rock (an etymology sim...Read more

Sigiriya or Sinhagiri (Lion Rock Sinhala: සීගිරිය, Tamil: சிகிரியா/சிங்ககிரி, pronounced see-gi-ri-yə) is an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. It is a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock approximately 180 m (590 ft) high.

According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Cūḷavaṃsa, this area was a large forest, then after storms and landslides it became a hill and was selected by King Kashyapa (AD 477–495) for his new capital. He built his palace on top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure; Sīnhāgiri, the Lion Rock (an etymology similar to Sinhapura, the Sanskrit name of Singapore, the Lion City).

The capital and the royal palace were abandoned after the king's death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning.

Historical past

It is likely that the area around Sigiriya may have been inhabited since prehistoric times. There is clear evidence that the many rock shelters and caves in the vicinity were occupied by Buddhist monks and ascetics from as early as the 3rd century BC. The earliest evidence of human habitation at Sigiriya is the Aligala rock shelter to the east of Sigiriya rock, indicating that the area was occupied nearly five thousand years ago during the Mesolithic Period.

Buddhist monastic settlements were established during the 3rd century BC in the western and northern slopes of the boulder-strewn hills surrounding the Sigiriya rock. Several rock shelters or caves were created during this period. These shelters were made under large boulders, with carved drip ledges around the cave mouths. Rock inscriptions are carved near the drip ledges on many of the shelters, recording the donation of the shelters to the Buddhist monastic order as residences. These were made in the period between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century AD.

In 477 AD, Kashyapa I, the king’s son by a non-royal consort, seized the throne from King Dhatusena, following a coup assisted by Migara, the King’s nephew and army commander. The rightful heir, Moggallana, fearing for his life, fled to South India. Afraid of an attack by Moggallana, Kashyapa moved the capital and his residence from the traditional capital of Anuradhapura to the more secure Sigiriya. During King Kashyapa’s reign (477 to 495 AD), Sigiriya was developed into a complex city and fortress.[1][2] Most of the elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces, and gardens, date from this period.

The Cūḷavaṃsa describes King Kashyapa as the son of King Dhatusena. Kashyapa murdered his father by walling him up alive and then usurping the throne which rightfully belonged to his half-brother Moggallana, Dhatusena's son by the true queen. Moggallana fled to India to escape being assassinated by Kashyapa, but vowed revenge. In India he raised an army with the intention of returning and retaking the throne of Sri Lanka, which he considered to be rightfully his. Expecting the inevitable return of Moggallana, Kashyapa is said to have built his palace on the summit of Sigiriya as a fortress as well as a pleasure palace. Moggallana finally arrived, declared war, and defeated Kashyapa in 495 CE. During the battle Kashyapa's armies abandoned him and he committed suicide by falling on his sword.

The Cūḷavaṃsa and folklore inform us that the battle-elephant on which Kashyapa was mounted changed course to take a strategic advantage, but the army misinterpreted the movement as the king's having opted to retreat, prompting the army to abandon him altogether. It is said that being too proud to surrender he took his dagger from his waistband, cut his throat, raised the dagger proudly, sheathed it, and fell dead. Moggallana returned the capital to Anuradhapura, converting Sigiriya into a Buddhist monastery complex,[3] which survived until the 13th or 14th century. After this period, no records are found on Sigiriya until the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was used briefly as an outpost of the Kingdom of Kandy.

 
Sigiriya Rock from above

Alternative stories have the primary builder of Sigiriya as King Dhatusena, with Kashyapa finishing the work in honour of his father. Still other stories describe Kashyapa as a playboy king, with Sigiriya his pleasure palace. Even Kashyapa's eventual fate is uncertain. In some versions he is assassinated by poison administered by a concubine; in others he cuts his own throat when deserted in his final battle.[4] Still further interpretations regard the site as the work of a Buddhist community, without a military function. This site may have been important in the competition between the Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist traditions in ancient Sri Lanka.

In Professor Senarath Paranavithana's book The Story of Sigiriya, King Dathusena is said to have taken the advice of the Persian Nestorian Priest Maga Brahmana on building his palace on Sigirya. According to Paranavithana, during this period over seventy-five ships carrying Murundi soldiers from Mangalore arrived in Sri Lanka and landed in Chilaw to protect King Dathusena, most of them Christians. King Dathusena's daughter was married to Migara, a Christian and the commander of the Singhalese army.[5] [6]

^ Cite error: The named reference Ponnamperuma 2013 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference Bandaranayake 2005 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Geiger, Wilhelm. Culavamsa Being The More Recent Part Of Mahavamsa 2 Vols, Ch 39. 1929 ^ "The Sigiriya Story". Asian Tribune. Retrieved 24 November 2006. ^ Pinto, Leonard (14 July 2015). Being a Christian in Sri Lanka: Historical, Political, Social, and Religious Considerations. Balboa Publishers. pp. 55–57. ISBN 978-1452528632. ^ Weerakoon, Rajitha (26 June 2011). "Did Christianity exist in ancient Sri Lanka?". Sunday Times. Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
Photographies by:
Azharkhanam - CC BY-SA 4.0
Daniel Liabeuf - CC BY-SA 3.0
Venkasub - CC BY-SA 3.0
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