Sigiriya – The Lion Rock
The saga of Sigiriya – of warring brothers and foreign intervention – is as melodramatic as it is spectacular. Prince Kasyapa led a palace coup and seized the throne walling up his father, King Dhatusena, in the bund of the nearby Kala Oya reservoir. The rightful heir to the throne – Kasyapa’s half-brother Mogallana – fled to India. Kasyapa moved to Sigiriya and built for himself a rock fortress, ringed by a moat and ramparts and surrounded by dense forests.
He gave the Rock its current name, meaning Lion Mountain. It rises to a sheer 200m and its summit extends over 1.6 hectares. The complex that Kasyapa built is truly a marvel; with a meticulous and elaborate urban plan (one of the earliest royal cities of Asia, where the entire plan of the palace if still clearly visible); extensive gardens, including water gardens driven by a complicated hydraulic system believed to have been wind powered; study ramparts; frescoes of celestial ladies; and the oldest known wall graffiti.
Kasyapa reigned for 18 years, but his halcyon days ended when his brother returned to Sri Lanka, gathered an army and challenged Kasyapa to battle. When Kasyapa’s army fled without engaging in battle Kasyapa committed suicide. Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.