1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sīgiri

SĪGIRI, the Lion’s Rock, the ruin of a remarkable stronghold 7° 59′ N., and 8° E., 14 m. N.E. of Dambulla, and about 17 m. nearly due W. of Pulasti-pura, the now ruined ancient capital of Ceylon. There a solitary pillar of granite rock rises to a great height out of the plain, and the top actually overhangs the sides. On the summit of this pencil of rock there are five or six acres of ground; and on them, in A.D. 477, Kasyapa the Parricide built his palace, and thought to find an inaccessible refuge from his enemies. His father Dhātu Sena, a country priest, had, after many years of foreign oppression, roused his countrymen, in 459, to rebellion, led them to victory, driven out the Tamil oppressors, and entered on his reign as a national hero. He was as successful in the arts of peace as he had been in those of war; and carried to completion, among other good works, an ambitious irrigation scheme—probably the greatest feat of engineering that had then been accomplished anywhere in the world. This was the celebrated Kalā Wewa, or Black Reservoir, more than 50 m. in circumference, which gave wealth to the whole country for two days’ journey north of the capital, Anurādha-pura, and provided that city also with a constant supply of water. Popular with the people, the king could not control his own family; and as the outcome of a palace intrigue in 477 his son Kasyapa had declared himself king, and taken his father prisoner. Threatened with death on his refusing to say where his treasure lay hid, the old king told them to take him to the tank. They took him there, and while bathing in the water he let some of it drop through his fingers, and said, “This is my treasure; this, and the love of my people.” Then Kasyapa had his father built up alive into a wall. Meanwhile Kasyapa’s brother had escaped to India and was plotting a counter revolution. It was then that the parricide prepared his defence. He utilized his father’s engineers in the construction of a path or gallery winding up round the Sīgiri rock. Most of it was made, by bursting the rock by means of wooden wedges, through the solid granite, and its outside parapet was supported by walls of brick resting on ledges far below. It is a marvellous piece of work. Abandoned since 495—for Kasyapa was eventually slain during a battle fought in the plain beneath—it has, on the whole, well withstood the fury of tropical storms, and is now used again to gain access to the top. When rediscovered by Major Forbes in 1835 the portions of the gallery where it had been exposed for so many centuries to the south-west monsoon, had been carried away. These gaps have lately been repaired, or made passable with the help of iron stanchions; the remains of the buildings at the top and at the foot of the mountain have been excavated; and the entrance to the gallery, between the outstretched paws of a gigantic lion, has been laid bare. The fresco paintings in the galleries are perhaps the most interesting of the extant remains. They are older than any others found in India, and have been carefully copied, and, as far as possible, preserved.

See Major Forbes, Eleven Years in Ceylon (London, 1841); H. C. P. Bell. Archaeological Reports (Colombo, 1892–1906); Rhys Davids, “Sīgiri, the Lion Rock,” in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1875), pp. 191-220; H. W. Cave, Ruined Cities of Ceylon (London, 1906).  (T. W. R. D.)