All year daily 6:30-17:30.
Adults USD 30, Children (6-12) USD 15, Children (0-5) free.
SAARC: Adults USD 15, Children (6-12) USD 15, Children (0-5) free.
Locals: Adults LKR 100, Children (6-12) LKR 50, Children (0-5) free.
|Classification:||Erosional Cave Tectonic Cave|
|Guided tours:||self guided, VR=200 m, St=1,200.|
Jude Nilan Cooray (2012):
The Sigiriya Royal Gardens. Analysis of the Landscape Architectonic Composition,
Dissertation, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, Department of Urbanism, November 2012.
|Address:||Sigiriya, Tel: +94-.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|477-495||reign of King Kasyapa.|
|14th century||Buddhist monastery abandoned.|
|1831||discovered by British Army Major Jonathan Forbes.|
|1982||inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.|
Sigiriya Fortress or simply සීගිරිය (Sigiriya) is located on top of Sigiriya Rock, a monolith overlooking the fertile plains around. It is 200 m high with a plateau on top, and consists of massive granite, the surrounding softer rocks were eroded by the tropical rains. It was built in the 5th century by King Kasyapa who reigned from 477 to 495. To the west at the foot of the rock are the ruins of Sigiriya Ancient City, the capital of his kingdom. He lived in this fortress because he was worried of an attack by his brother Moggallana, who was the rightful heir to the throne. He was born to a non-royal concubine and thus had no right to the throne, but he rebelled against his father, king Dhatusena. He imprisoned him and finally killed him by entombing him in a wall. His life and rule was full of controversy, and finally he was killed in a battle against his brother. After his death the palace was used as a Buddhist monastery, until it was abandoned in the 14th century. Archaeologists believe that it had been a Buddhist monastery before it was transformed into a palace.
The entrance to Sigiriya was once a lions head sculpture halfway up, the only possible access through the mouth of the lion. Hence, it was also called Sigiriya Lion Rock. Only the huge paws remain today. A series of galleries and staircases leads up to the plateau. On top is a magnificent complex of geometrically laid gardens, pools, and fountains. The fountains are an important remains of a high culture which is sometimes called the hydraulic era, as most remains have a connection to water. The fountains at Sigiriya are still working today. As it is an outstanding example of ancient urban planning, the site was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
At the foot of the monolith lies the mirror wall, a rock face which was polished until it reflected like a mirror. So King Kasyapa could see his reflection as he walked by. Nearby is the Cobra Hood Cave, which is actually a huge rock resembling a standing cobra in its aggressive pose, hence the name. The cave is a shelter formed by the rock, below the head of the cobra. It is a result of erosion, which formed the huge overhang.
This is one of the three caves which are the reason why we listed this site. The second is located halfway up the rock, it's actually a shallow overhang in the middle of the cliff and there is no trail leading there. The back wall, which once was 140 m long and 40 m high, was covered with paintings of mostly naked women. Much of it was destroyed, but several painting are still in a very good condition. The visitors of the site later left comments about the paintings at the foot of the wall, an important source of information for historians and linguists, who get an insight in the development of the Sinhala language and script.
These pictures are still a mystery, not the naked breasts though, they are quite obvious. The miracle is how they were created and how they were visited. The wall was covered with plaster and the paintings were created as frescoes, but in the middle of an almost vertical wall. There must have been some kind of construction which allowed the painters to work, and later allowed visitors to see the paintings. This structure was destroyed during the centuries the place was abandoned. Most likely it was constructed of wood. Today there is a metal cage hanging like a birds nest in front of the paintings, both protecting them and allowing access. A long spiral staircase leads up to this balcony.
And there is a third cave, a spectacular tectonic cave which was formed by two huge boulders. They fell down from the rock and came to rest leaned against each other. The result is a triangular cave between them. The trail to the rock actually crosses this cave, a long staircase was built through the cave.
Beneath these three larger caves there are numerous small caves, most of them tectonic caves between and below boulders, some formed by erosion. This place is called Boulder Gardens. Some cave walls and ceilings were plastered and frescoes painted on the plaster. Some contain walls or other structures, were widened, or reliefs were chiseled into the walls.
Of course, the rock never left its location, and the locals always knew about it, but somehow it was forgotten by the rest of the world. It was re-discovered by British Army Major Jonathan Forbes in 1831 while he was horseback riding through Sri Lanka. Several decades later the first archaeologists excavated the ruins of the old city at the foot of the rock.