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Sigiriya (Lion's rock) is an ancient rock fortress and castle/palace ruin situated in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. It is a popular tourist destination, also known for its ancient paintings (frescos), very similar to those in the Ajanta Caves of India. The Sigiraya was built during the reign of King Kassapa I (AD 477 – 495), and it is one of the seven World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.[1][2]

Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees to the Buddhist Sangha. The garden and palace were built by King Kasyapa. Following King Kasyapa's death, it was again a monastery complex up to about the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. The ruins were discovered in 1907 by British explorer John Still. The Sigiri inscriptions were deciphered by the archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana who published a renowned two volume work, published by Oxford, known as "Sigiri Graffiti". He also wrote the popular book "Story of Sigiriya".[3] The Mahavamsa, the ancient historical record of Sri Lanka, describes King Kasyapa as the son of King Dhatusena. Kasyapa murdered his father by walling him alive and then usurping the throne which rightfully belonged to his brother Mogallana, Dhatusena's son by the true queen. Mogallana fled to India to escape being assassinated by Kasyapa but vowed revenge. In India he raised an army with the intention of returning and retaking the throne of Sri Lanka which was rightfully his. Knowing the inevitable return of Mogallana, Kasyapa is said to have built his palace on the summit of Sigiriya as a fortress and pleasure palace. Mogallana finally arrived and declared war. During the battle Kasyapa's armies abandoned him and he committed suicide by falling on his sword. Chronicles and lore say that the battle-elephant on which Kasyapa was mounted changed the course just to get to a better fighting position/place but the army misinterpreted it as the King fleeing. Thereafter the army abandoned the king altogether. Moggallana returned the capital to Anuradapura and turned Sigiriya into a monastery complex.

Alternative stories have the primary builder of Sigiriya as King Dhatusena, with Kasyapa finishing the work in honour of his father. Still other stories have Kasyapa as a playboy king, with Sigiriya a pleasure palace. Even Kasyapa's eventual fate is mutable. In some versions he is assassinated by poison administered by a concubine. In others he cuts his own throat when isolated in his final battle.

From Wikipédia.

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