Sigiriya Rock is a spectacular hill nearly 200 meters high, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in Sigiriya, Matale District. Sigiriya is one of the most notable urban planning sites revived from the first millennium. This area was inhabited nearly five thousand years ago, the Aligala rock shelter to the east of Sigiriya rock is one of the first human settlements.
According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, King Kashyapa, a son of King Dhatusena, murdered his father and seized the throne from his brother Mogallana, who fled to India. The Sigiriya rock was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD) for his new capital. He built his palace on the flattened surface atop the hill, terraced gardens with limestone staircase between them, an upper Lion staircase and hydraulic systems, some of which can retain water today.
Beautiful palaces with gardens, pools and moats were constructed around the rock and its sides were decorated with colourful frescoes. The rightful heir Mogallana thought of taking revenge, he attacked Kasyapa in 495. King Kasyapa committed a suicide to escape captivity; another version of his death is that he was poisoned by a concubine. The capital was moved back to Anuradapura. Sigiriya was a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.
Archaeological works started in Sigiriya in the 1890s. In 1907 the British explorer John Still wrote, "The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery... the largest picture in the world perhaps". The striking frescoes cover an area 140 metres long and 40 metres high in the western side of the rock. The Cultural Triangle Project, launched in 1982 was concentrated on Sigiriya in particular; archaeological works were carried out in the whole ancient city. Despite its age, the splendour of the palace complex remains attracts the visitors; Sigiriya with the rock fortress and ruins of palaces is one of the most popular tourist destinations.
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