The legendary sky citadel of Sigiriya, the “Lion Rock” famous for its frescoes of ‘Celestial Maidens’ is possibly the most impressive site in Sri Lanka. Built by King Kasyapa in the 5th century on top of a vast 200m granite rock it took seven years to build and was abandoned after ten years of occupation when the King, defeated by his brother, committed suicide. Although it is a steep climb, the views and frescoes are definitely worth the effort. Sigiriya is best visited first thing in the morning or just before sunset when it is cooler and less crowded.
The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kasyapa (477–95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 370 m high (the ‘Lion’s Rock’, which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site.
Sigiriya is a unique witness to the civilization of Ceylon during the years of the reign of Kasyapa. The site of the ‘Lion Mountain’ was visited from the 6th century AD, by passionate admirers. The frescoes of Sigiriya inaugurated a pictorial style which endured over many centuries. The poems inscribed on the rock by certain of these admirers, and known as the ‘Sigiri graffiti,’ are among the most ancient texts in the Sinhalese language, and thus show the considerable influence exerted by the abandoned city of Kasyapa on both literature and thought.