Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Province: Central

Altitude to the fort: 1190ft above sea level


The mighty rock of Sigiriya rises up 984ft from the plain surrounded by forests and lake. As if the sight of it alone is not fascinating enough the rock also has a fort on its summit plateau as well as the most famous paintings in Sri Lanka. The entire complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Lions Mouth

The name Sigiriya developed in the 5th century during the reign of King Kashyapa.

“Giri” means mouth or rock “Sinha” means lion and refers to the fromt of a lion that has been carved from the rock and through whose moth is the base of the stairs leading up to the peak. In the past there was nothing but small steps carved into the rock.



The Culavamsa chronicle contains a legend concerning King Kashyapa, who moved his seat of government her in the 5th century. It takes place around the rock of Sigiriya, but particularly around the fort on its summit plateau. He was the elderst of the 2 sons of King Daathusena (459-477); his mother was one of the king’s concubines who came from a lower class background. While Mugalan the younger brother was born to king Kashyapa’s main wife and queen. Upon the instigation of Migara, the army general  and Daathusena’s son-in-law, Kashyapa imprisoned his father in the year 477 seizing the throne while Mugalan fled to India. Meanwhile Migara was skilled at convincing Kashyapa that his father possessed great treasures that were not intended for him but for his brotherMugalan. As a result Kashyapa has his father tortured to find out the treasure’s location. Daathusena finally led his son and Migara to the Kala reservoir, jumped in bathed and said “This, my friends is all the treasure I have !” Kashyapa who was so angry decided to kill his father. He had him shackled naked and walled up alive.

Kashyapa now began to fear the revenge of his brother  who had fled to India and so he moved from Anuradhapura to the rock of Sigiriya. Mugalan returned from India with a powerful army to fight his brother and upon realising Kashyapa was closer to defeat he decided to take his own life with a knife.

Mugalan became King in Anuradhapura and handed over the rock fort Sigiriya to his priests. It soon fell into oblivion and was rediscovered by the British Major, H. Forbes in 1811 and restoration works got underway in 1894.


The Sigiriya rock contains caves that were already inhabited very much earlier in around 2nd century BC, probably by reclusive monks.



Mirror Gallery

The main access to the peak is 145m gallery that runs along the west side of the rock at a height of 50ft.The first 19m form what is known as the Mirror Gallery, because the paintings that were once in the rock wall used to be reflected on the smooth surface of the orchre wall opposite. This wall is covered with many still well preserved inscriptions that were carved by visitors between the 7th and the 12th centuries with metal styli.



Wall paintings


The gallery with Sri Lanka’s most famous wall paintings was once not just protected by a projecting rock wall but additionally by a wooden roof. That’s how these pictures have survived for centuries long. The paintings here depict 19 women of the utmost grace and perfection.  At first glance they appear to be bear breasted however upon closer inspection a thin top can be made out. It is interesting that these maidens can only be seen waist up while their lower bodies disappear in clouds, which has earned them the name “Cloud Maidens of Sigiriya”. The drawing lines are masterful however their names are unknown.




The Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Visiting time 8am to 5pm

A bizarre rock made up of gneiss rises up in the middle of the jungle. Together with associated luxurious gardens, it was once a royal paradise. There is nothing comparable architecturally speaking. It conjures up thoughts of the wonders of the world. The magnificent artistic feat can still be recognized in the remains.



Water Garden

It is possible to imagine the splendour and exquisite beauty when looking at the many remains of the ponds, pavilions, fountains and pools. They were all supplied by an ingenious system of canals. The 4 L-shaped pools once surrounded a pavilion. The pools themselves were probably used for bathing because they had smooth walls and steps.

Stone Garden

This area is ornamented by pretty stones. Winding paths also lead to the Cobra Hood Cave, the preaching rock and to an old monastic complex with a dagoba and a Bodhi tree.


Terraced Garden

The stone garden leads to the terraced garden. There are several terraces one above another here, all connected by brick staircases. They lead to the rock’s entrance area, the Lion Gate.


Lion Gate

Today it is merely the huge paws that are testament to the colossal lion that once covered the rock’s entire façade.


Royal palace on the summit plateau

The complex and layout of the 1.2acre palace are still clearly visible. The inner palace can be found in the west, the outer one in the east. The palace gardens were located in the south. They were located in the south. They were arranged around a rock pool that was used to store water. Up on the summit you can now reach the citadel that was once surrounded by  a wall that in turn appeared to be a continuation of the Sigiriya Wewa (reservoir) is magnificent, there are some impressive boulders in the northern that contains further caves. The significance of the buildings that once stood here has not yet been solved with absolute certainty. However their masterful achievement of those who built the fort is quite evident and bear in mind all the construction material had to be carried up to the summit plateau.


Sigiriya Wewa reservoir

Old inscriptions have revealed that this lake used to possess clear water covered in colourful water lilies. It fed the features in the water garden via an ingenious underwater pipe system which had control flaps, circular pipeline and dirt traps. The water was collected via channels carved into the rock, which took up the water as it ran off.


Getting here

Continuing your trip from Dambulla the journey is 19km long and from Kandy is 98km which may require a slightly early start if you plan to visit Sigiriya for just one day and these are the most popular choices of travelling to Sigiriya.


Where to stay

Cinnamon Lodge Habarana ($$$-$$$$) is a five star hotel, located in the middle of the Cultural Triangle. That makes it the perfect base for cultural tours. The hotel has 137 rooms 2 restaurants a pool and a bar.


Sigiriya Village ($$-$$$) is situated with a view of the Sigiriya rock fortress. The property has 120 rooms in the cottage style, restaurant and pool.


Hotel Eden Garden ($$-$$$) is a centrally located hotel popular with tourist groups. The property has 40 rooms and is an ideal starting point for day trips to Dambulla, Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala and Polonnaruwa.  The building is surrounded by a lovely garden and boasts a large child friendly pool.


Plenty of tourists visit the majestic Sigiriya rock fortress year round. If you wish to visit the Sigiriya and would like to arrange you the hassle free, excellent tour email me at

Experience it differently like no other has!

Image Credits: Sri Lankan Holidays, Walkers Tours



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