King Kassapa (477-495 A.D) who shifted the Capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya made a fortress to surround his palace, which was constructed on the summit of a 500ft high rock, with necessary facilities. The Palace was surrounded by an outer-moat and wall and Inner moat and wall pleasure garden, Mirror-wall, light coloured and dark coloured damsel’s frescoes, to cover the western wall and a beautiful staircase through the body of a Crouching Lion are some of the attractions here.
The boulder garden consists of caves where Buddhist Bhikkus lived and meditated. After Kassapa Sigiriya was given back once again to the Bhikkus.
Sigiriya-5 phases of development.
The stages of the use of Sigiriya from the 3rd C. B.C. to about the 13th C.A.D. could be divided into 5 phases.
- The earliest records of the use of Sigiriya are found in the numerous Brahmi inscriptions found in the caves under the drip-ledges, donated by various people to Buddhist Bhikkhus. These inscriptions dates from the 3rd C.B.C., in several caves including the Naipena Galge at Sigiriya.
This phase continued till the 5th C.A.D.
- The 2nd phase starts from the period of King Kassayapa (475-491 A.D.).
He would have requested the meditating Bhikkhus to leave Sigiriya for him to build his
Palace or may have provided suitable place for them to shift. He got the work of the Palace completed while staying at Anuradhapura. There is evidence to say that he would have used both Sigiriya and Anuradhapura as capitals. For 18 years until 491.A.D. Sigiriya remained under Kassayapa.
- The 3rd phase starts from 491 A.D. when Moggallana (491-508 A.D.) became King, handed over Sigiriya to Buddhist Bhikkhus and shifted the capital to Anuradhapura.
The Bhikkhus who came in the 5th Century brought with them the Buddha Statue, Sacred Bo Tree and planted at Sigiriya and constructed a small dagoba for worshipping, which were not available earlier at the time the Meditating Bhikkhus were there. They would have used the large number of buildings that existed at Sigiriya.
- The 4th phase started with the coming of Mahayana Buddhism in the 8th – 9th Century. The statues of Goddess Tara (Consort of Natha Bodhisattava), Mahayana style of ruins at Rama Kele near Sigiriya Rest House and “Pancha Avasa” style of buildings at Kalu Diya Pokuna close to Kandalama are evidence available to us.
These evidence ends around the 13th Century, and even the visitors to Sigiriya had stopped around this time. The capital was shifted to Dambadeniya in the 13th Century from Polonnaruwa and the visitor’s records at the Sigiriya Graffiti ends during this period as well.
- The last phase is the 19th Century when Sigiriya was discovered and Archaeologists started the excavations and conservation of monuments here with the recognition of Sigiriya as a “World Heritage Site”.
The fortifications at Sigiriya consist of an outer moat, outer wall, and a wall in between the outer and inner wall area, inner moat & inner wall. These fortifications cover the western side of the rock. The southern side of the rock is covered by the Sigiriya Lake, the East with the fortifications of the Eastern pleasure gardens (which has not been excavated as yet) and the North with the inaccessible part of the Sigiriya Rock.
There are 3 entrances to Sigiriya Fortress – one on the Southern side, the 2nd on the Northern side and the 3rd on the Western side with a drawbridge.
The Sigiriya Pleasure Gardens (West) consists of the miniature water garden, the main bathing ponds with pavilions, the summerhouses, the fountain garden, and the boulder gardens including the caves.
The large number of boulders on both sides of the staircase was utilized for buildings and guardhouses on top and the walls stopped any enemy trying to go up evading the steps.
Sigiriya Frescos are the most beautiful paintings in Sri Lanka and still after 15 centuries the
colours are bright and shining like the recently drawn paintings.
The 20 paintings available to us today are the figures of beautiful ladies carrying flowers in their hands or in flower baskets, bedecked with jewelry and with transparent clothing for the upper part of the body.
The Graffiti mentions about 500 figures of ladies seen by the visitors and recently the Cultural Triangle Archaeologists have found more than 11 figures of ladies drawn on the outer mirror wall, one of them a full figure of a lady.
Prof. Paranavithana identify the dark coloured ladies as Cloud Damsels (Megha Latha) and the light coloured ladies as Lightning Damsels (Vijju Latha) taking Sigiriya as a second Alakamanda, the abode of God Kuvera.
Graffiti on the Mirror Wall.
More tan 700 verses written by the visitors to Sigiriya from the 5th – 13th Century have recorded their inspirations by seeing the beautiful ladies of the Sigiriya Frescos.
The earliest graffiti dates to 5th Century, indicating that the Palace was opened to visitors to
see and had continued till about the 13th C.
No records are available after the 13th C.
Few verses from the Graffiti are given below: –
Bathie mi. Leemi.
Kelum belum muth sanaa mana neththen hai
La tadgala kala bawa jatim no.
(I am Bati. I wrote this. As there is no loving heart of yours, beyond your glamour and your looks, did I know, O faithless ones, that your hearts are made of hard stone).
Novie vaha vetlee,
Yemin sitimin gajlee,
Giri me sitiyan ke asveslee
(Being unable to bear up, he cried going about and standing still. What consolation is there from the fact that this faithless damsel remained smiling on the rock)
Ladie mana bandnaa,
Pahabara sina rusnaa,
Mini akusu hisini lai gannaa.
(I am Menon. To have one’s mind ensnared, being attached to her, by a damsel who is winsome on account of her radiant smile, and who is pleasing, is like unto taking a jeweled hook of an elephant driver and placing it on one’s head).
The remains of the front paws of a crouching Lion are found in the landing area after the Mirror Wall. The entrance to the Palace area was through the mouth of the lion (Sinha Giri) and after climbing a staircase in the body of the lion people had gone to the top of the rock after climbing the steps cut into the rock.
Royal Palace on the summit.
The remains of the Royal Palace, with two water tanks to collect water and the remains of the foundation of a small dagoba are found on the summit.