Sigiriya. Lion Rock

At an altitude of 370 meters above sea level in the plain of central Sri Lanka, there is a rocky plateau known as Sigiriya. At the top of the rock are the ruins of the palace of King Kassapa I, who lived in the 5th century, and surrounded by gardens and fountains.
As reported by the Lankan ancient chronicles, well preserved to this day, before and after the reign of King Kassapa, Buddhist monks settled on a rock.

But before the rock was inhabited by monks-hermits, the rock had a rather rich history. In the last quarter of the 5th century AD e. in Lanka, a king was ruled by the name of Dhatusena. The ruler was concerned that the crops were generous, and the food was enough for all subjects. Thus, the ruler improved the existing irrigation system. At his command on the island built a lot of reservoirs and canals.

Dhatusena had several wives. But it was the younger wife who first gave the king to the heir of the male. He was called Kassapa (in Sanskrit and Pali: Kashyapa). The elder wife also gave birth to Dhatusena's son Moggallan. And according to the then tradition of inheritance of the throne, it was Mogallana who was to inherit the father's kingdom. The king also had a daughter, whom he married for the royal commander. But her mother-in-law hated her daughter-in-law in such a way that she even allowed herself to be beaten. Upon learning about this, Dhatusen became enraged. He ordered the burning of his mother-in-law alive. But the son-in-law took revenge for his mother. He inclined Kassapa to conspiracy against his father. Kassapa, being greedy and greedy, from a young age plotted the murder of his father, seized power and decided to find out the secret of the rich royal treasury. Kassapa brutally tortured his father Dhatusena. Then Dhatusena brought his son Kassapa to one of the giant reservoirs. «My only wealth is water,» said the king. Furious with such an answer, Kassapa ordered to live to death Dhatusena, his father, in one of the walls of a water dam. Moggallana, seeing the cruelty of his half-brother, turned in fear to flight. The legitimate heir to the throne, fearing the same fate that befell his father, fled to southern India.

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Although the track of half-brother Mogallana disappeared, one way or another, but all his life Kassapa lived in fear that his brother would return and avenge his dead father. So Kassapa decides to flee to a safe haven, choosing for his new residence the summit of the rock of Sigiriya. Kassapa erected here an impregnable fortress, around which high walls were erected, and the ditches, carved into the rock, were filled with water. All these facilities served as protection against a possible assault.

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The ladder leading to the top, and cut from the rock, first passed through the jaws of a giant lion made of bricks, but now only two huge paws survived from the giant and impressive sculpture. By the name of this impressive sculpture-ladder, the rock was named «Sinhagiri» or in the common parlance «Sigiriya», that is, «Lion's Rock» (in Sanskrit and Pali: «sinha» — lion, «giri» — mountain, rock). At the foot of the rock Kassapa ordered to break the fabulous beauty gardens. Some fountains still beat in these gardens. And, the water rises up in trickles, creating a lotus shape.

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In Sigiriya preserved a huge royal throne, alleys and caves. One of the caves has preserved to this day the traces of ancient ceiling painting. This cave is called the «Cobra's Hood». Approximately half of the climb route along the rock stretches the «Mirror Hall». It is a stone niche about 140 meters long and about 40 meters high. The hall is decorated with frescoes. According to one version, almost apsaras are depicted on them, that is, half-naked heavenly dancers, hovering in the clouds and throwing flowers of water lilies from the sky to Earth. According to another version, these are not apsars at all, but quite real girls — court dancers of King Kasapa. The magnificent hair of the Sigiryai maidens is decorated with ribbons and ornaments, they have massive earrings in their ears, necklaces on their necks, and bracelets with precious stones on their wrists. Tourists look like virgins truly impressive impression, because the colors are almost not faded, and the unearthly beauty of the maidens look really descended from heaven beauties.

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In the same room, the inscription, dated to the 5th century, reports: «500 young beauties in their splendor are like a crown of glory of royal treasures.» To date, of the many frescoes survived only 18. «Mirror Wall» plastered with a mixture of gypsum with lime on egg white and honey of wild bees. The surface is perfectly polished and is dotted with ancient verses of the VIII century. These ancient short works glorify the beauty of «virgins of Sigiriya». A narrow staircase running from lions' paws was expanded by the British and rebuilt from corrosion-resistant steel. The spiral staircase was brought by metro builders from England. The design of the staircase is so reliable that it can withstand the weight of several hundreds of people climbing a cliff and descending tourists.

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Kassapa, living in a luxurious palace on top of the world, was the embodiment of the God of Wealth Kubera. But 18 years have passed, and in 495, one night Kassapa saw from the top of his fabulous palace on a rock, as from the north on Sigiriya there comes a huge army under the leadership of his returned half-brother Moggallana. Kassapa sent the hordes of his army against his brother. The bloody battle lasted a long time. But it so happened that the battle elephant Kassapa got into the swamp, roared and turned aside. The army of Kassapa saw in this movement of the elephant a signal for retreat, leaving the battlefield. But Kassapa, could not surrender. He drew his dagger from the scabbard and cut himself a throat. So the mighty kingdom of Kassapa Sigiriya fell.

The story of the king who killed his father and died years later in battle with his brother is just one of the stories of Sigiriya. There are other stories. For example, the already mentioned inscriptions on the «Mirror Wall», left by the visitors of the rock in the VIII-X centuries, mention this place as, The Rock of Commemoration. And the chronicles of the XIII century «Mahavamsa» call this place the Lion Rock. Pilgrims, going up to the gallery of Sigirian beauties, then to the platform with the sculpture of a giant lion and, finally, to the top of the rock, everywhere saw the image of the goddess Tara, who was identified with a snarling lion. According to one version, the goddess Tara was depicted on numerous frescoes of the Lion's Rock. But these images subsequently withered the time.

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In this case, there is speculation that Sigiriya was neither the capital of Kassapa's kingdom nor the fortress. Some historians and architects believe that this was just an aesthetically planned monastery complex of the Buddhist sect of Mahayana for more than 20 centuries. Powerful boulders with moats diverted excess rainwater beyond the territory of the monastery. Otherwise, it would be flooded. All of the same version of alternative historians, the so-called Kassapa's Palace was nothing more than an open meditation hall, and blooming gardens and water bodies created an ideal setting for this. Tanks with water served for ritual ablutions and for decorative purposes. And this phenomenon is very frequent in Buddhist temples and monasteries.
However, if you exclude the version of the ancient chronicles about the history of King Kassapa and take into account only the version about the monastery, still there remain many artefacts — the same huge throne, which in ancient times was built only for royal people of Lanka, or Sigirian virgins. Their image in the ancient Buddhist kingdom was hardly possible in this artistic form, for the nudity of the human body in early Buddhism, however, like many other Asian religions, was strictly tabooed.

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However, the explanation of the existing monastery can still be found. After the battle of the armies of Moghallana and Kassapa and the death of the bloodthirsty king, this area was emptied for many decades. Around the rock, which is a plateau, which arose as a result of the eruption of an ancient volcano, and then was over millions of years destroyed by time and nature, there were impenetrable jungles. They absorbed a few passages to the rock of Sigiriya. So it was unattainable for several more centuries. And it is likely that the wandering Buddhists of the Mahayana movement, who fled from Buddhism, the followers of the orthodox school of Buddhism, Theravada, discovered it later. They then founded the same monastery on the rock of Sigiriya, which is mentioned in rock carvings. But also the monks for some reason, after a while, nevertheless left this area. Again, Sigiriya remained hidden for years in the middle of the thick jungle.

However, the ruins of Sigiriya still were discovered in the middle of the XIX century by an English hunter. And the existence of the fortress of the Britsh colonialists became known only in 1907, when the British explorer John Steele described a «huge picture gallery» of Sigiriya, according to him «perhaps the largest picture in the world.» Speech in the description was just about the «Mirror Hall», which was previously lined with porcelain, had numerous frescoes that stretch for 140 m in length and 40 m in height. So Sigiriya was again open to the world. But the puzzles are still there.

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During the historical and archaeological research around the rock of Sigiriya and at its very top, the British discovered numerous traces of the most highly developed civilization. It became clear that in ancient times trade flourished in these places, because there were found vessels with coins, remains of ancient luxurious fabrics, jewelry, shards and remains of the city walls. But the main evidence of the greatness of Sigiriya was the very chronicles, which are well preserved on palm leaves and scrolls. Now these silent witnesses of the heyday of Sigiriya are gathered in the museum of archeology not far from the main hiking trail to the rock. To complete the dizzying excursion to the lion's rock, strengthening the bright impression, be sure to visit this museum, because the entrance fee includes visiting the museum, which is not known to all visitors to one of the main attractions of Sri Lanka.

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Your excursion to the Sigiriya Lion Rock and the museum is an excellent occasion to get acquainted with the ancient history, the religion of central Sri Lanka, when you stay at Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa hotels with Lankarus. Departure for the excursion early in the morning in the coolest hours. The trip and sightseeing take almost half a day. Return to the hotel in the afternoon.

Permit to rise to the rock from 07.00 am. After 05.00 pm, climbing for security reasons is not allowed.


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