Sigiriya history and the story behind the Sigiriya Rock Fortress play an integral role in the island’s heritage. If you have time during your travels, browse through the following collection of fun facts before you visit. They serve as a mini Sigiriya guide of Sri Lanka’s famous Fortress in the Sky.
Who Commissioned the Fortress?
That would be King Kashyapa who reigned supreme in the 5th century CE for about 18 years. There’s actually a rather juicy if somewhat, brutal, story of royal intrigue behind the fortress’ construction. Good King Kashyapa was actually a prince born of a non-royal consort and not first in line for the throne. This leads on to the question of why he needed to build such a fortress in the first place.
Why was the Fortress Built?
King Kashyapa had to take the throne by force since the kingdom had a more legitimate heir; namely, Prince Mogallana. So he usurped the throne by means of a brutal coup and executed his father by immurement. That is to say, he imprisoned him inside a wall and left him there to die.
His half-brother and rightful heir to the throne, Prince Mogalla, however, managed to escape to neighbouring India. So weary of future retribution, King Kashyapa commissioned the creation of the rock fortress. It was meant to serve as an impregnable fortress as well as a pleasure palace. To that end, you’ll see many stone bathing pools there. They were meant for the use of the King and his concubines.
How High Up in the Air is it?
It’s known as the Fortress in the Sky for a reason. The Sigiriya Rock Fortress was carved out of a massive natural boulder. When you reach the top, you’ll be at an elevation of around 370 metres from the sea level. This puts you roughly at about 200 metres above the nearby treetops.
Why’s it Called Lion Rock?
As you enter the fortress, keep an eye out for the paws of a gigantic stone lion. It’s thanks to these that the fortress got this moniker.
Centuries ago, when the palace and fortress were in better shape, the paws were accompanied by lion’s face as well. Visitors would have experienced a grand entrance through the jaws of a ferocious stone lion. However, today, all that’s left are the paws.
What was the Fate of the Fortress?
Eventually, King Kashyapa paid for his wicked ways with his life. His half-brother, the exiled Prince Mogallana, won back the throne almost two decades later. Defeated, the former king slit his own throat before the prince could get his hands on him.
As an aside, consider making Sigiriya your base from which to explore Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. Being a popular tourist destination, the town’s got plenty of wallet-friendly accommodation options. Budget hotels in Sigiriya such as Yoho Lion Road and Yoho Egodawewa make for a convenient and comfortable stay. The rooms are air-conditioned in order to keep you sane in the tropical heat. And there’s also free WiFi which is always a plus.