Sigiriya

Sigiriya

Sigiriya rock fortress or Sinhagiri (Lion Rock), considered to be the 8th wonder of the world and Sigiriya is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. It lies in the northern Matale District near Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya rock fortress is one of the fascinators destinations on the map of the tourist of the world.

BY Palitha Weerawansa
PUBLISHED ON March 30, 2021 | LAST MODIFIED ON May 21, 2021

Who wants to witness old tech that new engineers around the world are now unable to solve? On top of this magnificent rock, the architecture, water science, and engineering techniques are astounding.

The ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya lies in Sri Lanka. The name refers to a historically and archaeologically significant site that is occupied by a large rock column nearly 200 m (656 ft) tall. Today, Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the best-preserved ancient urban planning examples.

Wonderful Sigiriya Murals

Just nude figures above the waist of Sukumala Lalanawa, who is significantly smaller than a human, is shown in the Sigiriya murals. The use of materials typically used in the dry zone is a distinguishing characteristic of the paintings. The four primary colors used to paint Sigiriya are red, yellow, green, and black. The color blue is not included, which is a unique thing.

Sigiriya Mural
Sigiriya Mural

Excavation at Sigiriya started in 1895, according to tradition. Archaeological excavations were carried out under the supervision of H.C.P. Bell, the then-Commissioner of Archaeology. William Gregory, the former Governor of Ceylon, described the paintings at Sigiriya several years earlier. It is said that he saw these drawings when gazing at the rock from a distance with a telescope. The renowned engineer Murray began copying the Sigiriya paintings in 1899. Following that, a man called Muhandiram Perera copied the paintings. Copies of those paintings can still be seen today at the Colombo National Museum. The graffiti on the mirror wall was discovered by the Commissioner during the excavations at Sigiriya. Several hymns were composed in response to the 500 paintings on the walls of Sigiriya at the time.

The cave is approximately 60 feet deep, with the paintings rising 44 feet above the Mirror Wall. The rugged wall is smoothed with a special painting plaster. According to Archaeologist Ananda Kumaraswami, the mortar was made of Divul Latu, Spider Clay, Bee Honey, Lime, and other ingredients. Herbal juices such as Gokatu Kiri and Ranawara were used to make dyes. Watakeiya Fibers are also used to make drawing brushes. The murals in Sigiriya were painted using both wet and dry plaster technology.

It is not yet clear what the murals in Sigiriya depict. Many notable people have shared diverse views about the Sigiriya murals since then.

Destroyed Sigiriya murals
Raja de Silva and Luciano Maranzi cleaning the destroyed paintings by soaking a cotton swab.
Left: Destroyed Sigiriya murals And Right: Raja de Silva and Luciano Maranzi cleaning the destroyed paintings by soaking a cotton swab.

On October 14, 1967, a party of unidentified people entered the cave where the Sigiriya paintings were stored and destroyed, and they had painted some of the paintings green. In some drawings, nails were even seen to be destroyed by thorns. The then-Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake, and the then-Minister of Culture, Rafael Eriyagolla, acted quickly to bring back the Italian Luciano Maranzi, the world's most prominent mural artist at the time. Maranzi arrived in Ceylon on October 22, 1967, and worked with Raja de Silva, who was then in charge of the Chemistry Division of the Department of Archeology, to restore the paintings. The paint was cleaned by soaking a cotton swab in decapex, which Maranzi had brought with him. The excellent work done at the time by Luciano Maranzi and Raja de Silva was able to repair the Sigiriya murals.

Sigiriya

The remaining 21 paintings on Sigiriya are being demolished today. Various methods have been used in the past to conserve the Sigiriya sculptures, which are decaying due to natural causes. The archaeological significance of the Sigiriya murals is incalculable. We hope that future generations will be able to appreciate the wonders of these priceless paintings as well.

History of Sigiriya

There is clear evidence that Buddhist monks and ascetics occupied the many rock shelters and caves in the area as early as the third century BCE. The Aligala Rock Shelter is the earliest evidence of human habitation at Sigiriya. The Aligala Cave is located to the east of the Sigiriya rock and was inhabited nearly 5,000 years ago during the Mesolithic Period.

Legends

The Greate King Sri Lankeshwara Maha Ravana is closely linking to the iconic Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Sigiriya symbolically represents the Alakamanda of King Sri Ravana. Sigiriya used to be one of his palaces. According to the records in the Palm Leaf Book of Ravana Watha.

Location Map to Sigiriya

How to get to Sigiriya

If you are a foreign visitor, you can take a bus, train, taxi, or a flight from Colombo International Airport to Sigiriya.

If you prefer to fly, a one-way ticket would cost you between Rs 16,000 and Rs 40,000. Cinnamon Air, a well-known domestic airline in Sri Lanka, provides regular taxi service from the Bandaranaike International Airport Domestic Terminal to Sigiriya Airport. While flying is the quickest way to get to Sigiriya (30 minutes), it is also the most expensive!

However, there is no direct train to Sigiriya. The 181.6 km (4 hr 16 min) train ride from Colombo Fort to Habarana is the best choice. It takes approximately 25 minutes (17.8 km) to travel from Habarana railway station to Sigiriya. The most affordable daily train from Colombo to Habarana costs between LKR 800 and 1,200. A third-class ticket costs LKR 480, and a second-class permanent seat costs LKR 600. Every day at 6.10 a.m., the train will depart from Colombo Fort and arrive in Habrana in 4 hours and 50 minutes.

Traveling to Sigiriya can be exhausting, but there are many ways to get there. It would take longer to fly by bus than it will to drive a cab or taxi. The best choice is to take bus No. 15 from Colombo to Anuradhapura or No. 48 freight Kaduruwela; instead, take bus No. 49 Trincomalee and get off at Dambulla or Habrana. You will take a three-wheeler from Habrana to Sigiriya for 300 LKR, but the ride will be exhausting for you.

Sigiriya Opening Times

The ancient site is open every day from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM (last entrance at 5:00 PM).

Sigiriya Entrance Fee

Locals can enter the site after paying an entrance fee of 50 LKR. Foreigners will be charged USD 30, which includes admission to the Sigiriya Museum.