The spectacular citadel of Sigiriya rises sheer and impregnable out of the denuded plains of the dry zone, sitting atop a huge out crop of gneiss rock towering 200m above the surrounding countryside.
The shortest-lived but the most extraordinary of all Sri Lanka’s medieval capitals Sigiriya was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982 and is now the country’s most memorable single attraction — a remarkable archeological site made unforgettable by its dramatic setting.
It is also proposed that the site should be named the eighth wonder of the world, indicating it is in the same league as other international wonders such as the Grand Canyon and Ancient Pyramids. Translated as ‘Lion Rock’ into English, the name of the monument indicates the way in which visitors used to begin their final ascent to the top – through the open jaws and throat (‘giriya’) of a lion (‘sinha’). Unfortunately, the only remains of this lion figure are the gigantic paws, sculpted into the side of the rock.
Ancient history and settlement.
Sigiriya (Lion’s rock) is an ancient rock fortress and ruins of a castle situated in central Matale District of Sri Lanka. The topography of the area is flat except for the massive rock outcrop of the fortress itself (which rises an incredible 600 ft up from the green scrub jungle). The unusual rock is particularly interesting due to its flat top (nearly an acre in size), that was used in its entirety to build King Kasyapa’s fortress complex, still evident by the presence of the extensive ruins.
It is a popular tourist destination and also popular for the ancient paintings (frescos) very similar to the paintings in Ajanta Caves of India. It was built during the reign of King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD) are believed to have been painted in the fifth century AD. It is believed that there were paintings all over the rock which were later destroyed, only 22 still remaining. These paintings were later restored by a reputed Italian artist named Luciano Maransi. The frescoes are the only non-religious
old paintings in SriLanka.