Main Tourist Attractions of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

  • Royal Gardens
  • Remarkable Frescoes
  • Lion’s Paws
  • Mirror Wall
  • The Summit

Sigiriya is a giant flat-topped rock rising 600 feet (182 meters) from the plains. For 18 years (478 A.D. – 496 A.D.) during the Anuradhapura period, the rock and many square miles around it served as the capital of Sri Lanka.

The ancient chronicle of the island says that Kasyapa, a son of King Datusena, murdered his father and usurped the throne. His half-brother Moggallana, the rightful heir, was exiled to India. Fearing retaliation, Kasyapa took his capital to Sigiriya. Moggallana returned 18 years later, defeated Kasyapa and moved the capital back to Anuradhapura.

There are diverse views among students of Sigiriya as to the accuracy of this legend. However, there are no dissenters to the opinion that this must have been one of the loveliest royal cities ever to grace the face of this earth.

It has been archaeologically established that most of the stupendous artistic, architectural and engineering achievements at Sigiriya are from Kasyapan era. Additions were made later when it became a monastery and then a military outpost.

At the western approach to the rock are the Water Gardens, a series of beautifully landscaped ponds and terraced walls. Also here are the Fountains, which are gravity fed from the two moats on the either sides. All that its modern discoverers had to do was to clean the conduits leading to the limestone openings, and the Fountains came to life after almost 1,500 years.

Halfway up the Sigiriya rock is the pocket containing the world famous frescoes of seductive, bare-breasted Sigiriya Maidens. Continuing up the Gallery walkway is the Mirror Wall, its lime plaster polished like glass and on its Sri Lanka’s oldest graffiti, most of which are in praise of the maidens.

The Gallery ends at the Lion Terrace, which features the gigantic paws of a lion. The giant head with the open jaws, which gave Sigiriya its name (sinha = lion; giriya = throat) has long since collapsed, but the foundation up the face of the rock is clearly defined. Climb between the clawed paws to reach the steep stairway and the wind-blown railing that leads to the top.

The entire three acres at the summit was occupied by Kasyapa’s Summer Palace, the remnants of which are clearly visible. Three beautiful pools are still extant, as is a magnificent divan, carved from naked rock. On the way down, look at the fine rock-cut Council Chamber and Cistern Rock and admire the roofline of the Cobra Hood Cave, where there are second-century inscriptions and fragments of ancient paintings.