THE SIGIRIYA SAGA - THE AFTERMATH
A poet, writing in the glory days of the Moghul empire in India referred to the Taj Mahal as "..a teardrop on the face of India..." I would go a step further and say that Sigiriya is more than a teardrop. Long after the tears have been shed, it remains a lingering heartache in the psyche and spirit of Sri Lanka and an archaeological treasure where the full gamut of human emotions - anger, hatred, revenge, greed, murder, and lust for power, have been played out to the maximum. The events that unfolded on that fateful day over 1500 years ago still resonate today, which is why Sigiriya is perhaps the most visited site in the island. The protaginists in this drama, King Dhatusena, Prince Kasyappa, Prince Moggallana, and the commander of the army Migara ,who was King Dhatusena's son-in-law are names that will live down the ages, long after we are no more. Future generations will be drawn to Sigiriya just as we have been, today, and will have more to learn and gaze in wonder because there is more for the archaeologists spade to reveal. One of my prized books is a publication by Senake Bandaranayake titled SIGIRIYA. Apart from the information contained therein, this book has the best pictures of Sigiriya that I have ever seen. The photographs shot from various angles are so graphic and realistic, that it gives one the impression of actually being in the palace complex ! If photography was around in King Kasyappa's day, then the photographer who took these pictures would have been the kings favourite ! Senake Bandaranayake describes in detail the area known in ancient times as the "Sinhagiri Bim". Today it is referred to as the Sigiri Territory or the Sigiri Hinterland. This area is virtually a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, with the promise of greater discoveries in store in future.
Archaeological digs have shown the "Sinhagiri Bim" to consist of many ancient village settlements, tanks, cemeteries, and even an iron producing centre, and some Buddhist monasteries. What a treasure trove awaits archaeologists and students of history in future ! I wish to conclude this saga with some footnotes which lend more interest to the Sigiriya story :
* In the "Sigiri Vitara" there are two names connected with Sigiriya which are never mentioned in the
Culavamsa. It states that the architect whom King Kasyappa employed to execute his plans for the
royal city and palace complex was SENA LAL - this is the first instance in the islands history where a
Sinhalese architects name in ancient times has been recorded for posterity.
* It also records the name of the commander of the garrison at Sigiriya. He was GENERAL SULAKSMANA.
* The "Sigiri Vitara" further records that Prince Moggallana married King Kasyappa's widow, and King
Kasyappa's only son, in total opposition to the palace coup engineered by his father, fled to India where
he died in exile. (The Culavamsa mentions King Kasyappa's two daughters, but there is no record of a son)
* The palace complex on the summit of Sigiriya is described as a mansion with landscaped gardens and a
beautiful pool. Landscaped gardens on the summit of a rock ! This has surely got to be the first of its
kind anywhere in the world.
* There was a theatre where many plays were performed during King Kasyappa's reign.
* The "Sigiri Vitara" also states that the entire Sigiriya project took only seven years to complete. If this is
correct, there are some who hold the opinion that this architectural and engineering miracle of the time was
a feat beyond human accomplishment !
* The rock face above the image of the crouching lion had a painted image of King Kasyappa
It is sad to relate that the green eyed monster of jealously raised its ugly head when Ananda Sthavira lived in Ceylon. He made many enemies in court due to the royal patronage showered on him by King Parakramabahu the V1. Although he wrote 64 "Kalas" on Sigiriya, most of which were indited on stone, his enemies had their revenge. After his death many of these stone inscriptions were vandalised and defaced, with the result that priceless information of immense historical value has been lost forever.
If one talks about "heights of lofty grandeur", then I can think of only two other archaeological sites in the world which rank with Sigiriya. One is the fortresss of Masada in the wilderness of the Judean desert by the Dead Sea in Israel, built by King Herod the Great, (74 - 4 BC.) King of the Roman province of Judea. The other is the ruined city of Macchu Pichu in Peru, built by the Incas in 1500 AD on 1000 ft. high cliffs.
I have tried to pierce the impenetrable veil of time to search for this King, (Kasyappa) who now lives in the
imagination of the world - this dynamic enigmatic King of vision spirit and energy who unleashed an army of engineers, architects, artists, sculptors and master craftsmen against a barren rock in dense jungle and left us a monument and masterpiece which will remain a joy and inspiration forever. It is practically an impossible task to highlight any section of Sigiriya for special mention because not only did this King defy gravity, but the entire complex defies imagination ! In my humble opinion, I would choose the Mirror Wall and the Frescoes. The Frescoes ...... a work of art charged with sensuality and feeling ! These beautiful women not only delight the eye but bring to vivid life centuries later, the long vanished world of Sigiriya - a grand and glorious city. And the Mirror Wall tells a story all its own. It is a priceless record of human emotion, when visitors to Sigiriya in ancient times poured out their hearts in verse as a tribute to the damsels on the rock who enticingly, still gaze at us today.
I have been meticulously careful in writing 'The Sigiriya Sagas" to ensure authenticity. Many facts were available, although nowhere near the quantity found in the usual research of a historical event. If I have erred, it is not for want of trying. I commend the publications SIGIRIYA by Senaka Bandaranaike, ALIEN MYSTERIES IN SRI LANKA AND EGYPT by Susantha Fernando, and of course the classic work by the late Dr.Senerath Paranavitane THE STORY OF SIGIRIYA to lovers of history, particularly Sigiriya. Their books have been
my inspiration in a search which I fear will never end.
And to ring the curtain down........I once wondered in the precincts of Sigiriya when twilight surrendered to the shades of night bathed by moonlight. Gazing at the dark rock in its solitary setting, I felt that an aura of mystery still clings to this place. Mingling with the gentle wind of the night I thought I heard the plaintive voices of people from a different time as they appeared in a ghostly re-enactment of those tragic events of over 1500 years ago.....There are certain things in life that one sees with ones heart and soul, and not only with the eyes.
Sigiriya..........life never really ended here.
Written by : Bernard VanCuylenburg