Sigiriya (pronounced see-gee-REE-yah) is located in the Matale district in central Sri Lanka. The area gets its name from the massive column of rock nearly 200 meters high which was once the center of the royal capital built by King Kasyapa (ruled 477 — 495 AD). Few historic sites in the world have such a fascinating story to tell as the story of Sigiriya.
Kasyapa acquired his throne by murdering his father, who he had plastered up alive into a wall. Unable to redeem himself with his people for this crime he fled his capital and constructed a new one deep into the inhospitable jungles of central Sri Lanka in an area is dominated by a huge column of rock 200 meters high (as tall as a 60 story building).
Here Kasyapa built himself a brand new capital resplendent with lush tropical gardens, ponds, palaces and pavilions. He transformed the once sinister-looking black rock by painting its circumference with an exquisite multi-colored frescoes depicting celestial nymphs. We know these today as the Sigiriya Frescoes. On an escarpment halfway up the rock he then constructed a giant gatehouse and staircase in the form of a sphinx-like lion giving his lair its name, Sigiriya–Lion Mountain. Millions of bricks and hundreds of thousands tons of other material were transported two hundred meters up a sheer rock face to the summit to build a massive gleaming white palace of unparalleled beauty.
Then, as quickly as it appeared, Sigiriya was largely abandoned and forgotten. There it lay hidden until rediscovered nearly thousand three hundred years later by a British army officer on an elephant hunt.
It is difficult for a visitor touring the site today to comprehend the absolute splendor of the Sigiriya rock fortress fifteen hundred years ago. Few ancient cities surpassed it for its ecologically-sensitive, grand vision and aesthetic elegance. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning and art in the world. It was the creation of a genius, the ultimate embodiment of royal power, microcosmic paradise on earth—Alakamanda, the city of the gods.
Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.