Sigiriya (Lion Rock), Sri Lanka

Sigiriya (Lion Rock) is an ancient palace located in the central Matale District near the town of Dambulla, Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archeaological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa the site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The capital and the royal palace were abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

In 477 AD, Kashyapa, the king’s son by a non-royal consort, seized the throne from King Dhatusena, following a coup assisted by Migara, the king’s nephew and army commander. The rightful heir, Moggallana, fearing for his life fled to South India. Fearing an attack from Moggallana, Kashyapa moved the capital and his residence from the traditional capital of Anuradhapura to the more secure Sigiriya. During King Kashyapa’s reign (477 to 495 AD), Sigiriya was developed into a complex city and fortress. Most of the elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces, and gardens, date from this period.

Kashyapa was defeated in 495 AD by Moggallana, who moved the capital back to Anuradhapura. Sigiriya was then turned into a Buddhist monastery, which lasted until the 13th or 14th century. After this period, no records are found on Sigiriya until the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was used briefly as an outpost of the Kingdom of Kandy.

Below is a selection of photos taken during a visit to the Lion Rock. Click on a miniature-photo to enlarge it, then navigate using the arrows left/right of the photo or use the cursor keys on your keyboard.