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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 24, 2021
Headline for 10 Interesting Facts about Sigiriya - Top 10 Facts Regarding the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Sri Lanka
Joanna James Joanna James
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10 Interesting Facts about Sigiriya - Top 10 Facts Regarding the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Sri Lanka

As one of the most visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the island, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is an enigma to both archaeologists and tourists to this day. Here are some lesser-known facts about the old rock palace.


A Steep Climb

Towering above the surrounding landscapes, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is a whopping 200m tall and tourists must climb up 1200 steps to reach the summit of this cloud-piercing palace that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980s.


Dangerous Waters

Although this water feature is less apparent nowadays, the entire fortress was once surrounded by a deep moat in which crocodiles were known to have dwelled to discourage trespassers from entering the palace grounds.


Palatial Hideout

The citadel atop the Sigiriya rock was constructed by King Kashyapa who ruled the surrounding provinces from 477 CE to his death in 495 CE. This unusual location was selected for his palace complex due to the constant threat to his life posed by his half-brother Prince Moggallana who was the rightful heir to the Sri Lankan throne.


Rebel Roots

Although Prince Kashyapa crowned himself king, his rule was mired in controversy due to the fact that his mother was a concubine to his father Dhatusena and not a woman of noble birth. King Kashyapa is also accused of killing his father and imprisoning him due to conflicts regarding his succession.


Ingenious Hydraulic System

Modern visitors may wonder how water was supplied to the bathing ponds and other water sources atop the massive rock fortress as the hydraulic system used in Sigiriya remains a mystery to most scholars. Using a series of fountains, canals, lakes, and dams, water was pumped to various quarters of the palace successfully during its heyday.


Pop Video Shooting Location

British pop group Duran Duran famously shot the music video for their single "Save a Prayer" from the summit of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.


Roaring Entrance

The plateau at the halfway point up to the summit now boasts a step entrance with two lion paws on either side. It is said that a massive lion's mouth covered the steps when the building was used by King Kashyapa and his court.


Forgotten and Rediscovered

Although visitors based at Hotel Sudu Araliya and countless other Polonnaruwa hotels now flock to climb up Sigiriya, the site was reclaimed by nature and was rediscovered by British Major Jonathan Forbes in 1831. It took more than a few decades for archaeologists to unearth the rock fortress and discover its many treasures.


Pre-Kashyapa Era

Before King Kashyapa selected the Sigiriya Rock for his palatial residence, it is believed that a Buddhist monastery occupied this area.


The Mirror Wall

Polished to a sheen, the Mirror Wall was created by the monarch so that he may gaze upon his reflection when ascending the steps of Sigiriya. Forty metres high and 140 metres long, the wall was later used by visitors to etch poetic reflections on the beauty of Sigiriya.