The Fortress and the Paintings at Sigiriya, done by King Kashyapa
The Fortress and the Paintings at Sigiriya, done by King Kashyapa

Sri Lanka is a country that boasts about its rich and proud history. In fact, the country’s ancient grandeur runs back thousands of years. To prove it, there are many remains of historical relics that can be seen throughout the country. One of those is, Sigiriya, the ‘Lion Rock’ that you find in the Northern part of the Matale District close to Dambulla Town in the Central Province. And yes, King Kashyapa is the man behind this astounding creation. So, we thought of focusing this read on this wonderful king!

Ancestry and Family of King Kashyapa

King Kashyapa, who was also famous as King Kassapa I, was the second king of the Sri Lankan Maurya dynasty. He ruled Sri Lanka from 473 to 495 CE. He was the firstborn son of King Dhatusena. Yet, he had no luck on his side because he was a son of the king’s concubines who had no royal blood. Thus, King Dhatusena declared his younger brother Moggallana, who was a son of a royal consort as the rightful heir to the throne despite Kashyapa. As to history, this incident made Kashyapa feel a sense of ignorance. And yes, this is what urged King Kashyapa to get the throne!

How King Kashyapa Ascended the Throne

Migara, a commander from the Dhatusena’s army, further nurtured the feeling of resentment that grew within Kashyapa’s mind about his father and his family. Migara had some issues with King Dhatusena. Thus, he cunningly planned to take revenge on the King by using his own son against him.

Accordingly, King Kashyapa staged a coup and overthrow his father. Thus, he was able to usurp the throne in 473 AD and become the second king of the Sri Lankan Mauryan Dynasty. Afterward, King Kashyapa imprisoned his father causing his brother to flee away from the country to save his life from his own brother. 

The Reign of King Kashyapa

King Kashyapa’s reign must have been normal and peaceful; if not for Migara who had a burning rage towards King Dhatusena due to the gruesome murder of his mother. Migara convinced Kashyapa to believe that King Dhatusena had hidden a huge treasure of wealth. This made King Kashyapa demand the treasure from his imprisoned father.

So, King Dhatusena with the promise of giving his treasure to his son led his way to the Kala Wewa. It was a large tank that he built some time ago. History reveals that after reaching there, the King said that it was the only treasure he had. King Kashyapa, who was blinded by the words of Migara was enraged by his father’s response. Therefore, he ordered to bury his father alive by entombing him within the bund walls of Kala Wewa. However, there is another version of this story that says that King Dhatusena was buried alive in the walls of his cell. 

The End of King Kashyapa’s Reign

Though King Kashyapa was able to win the throne, he was not able to win the hearts of his people. His people were disgraced by his act of patricide. Hence, people called him ‘Pithru Ghathaka Kashyapa’ which gives out the meaning ‘Kashyapa the Patricide’.

With all these rejections the King feared rebellions of the people who suspected retaliation from his brother Moggallana who was the rightful heir to the throne. Thus, he moved his capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya, which was in a more secure location in order to ensure his security. And there, on the top of the Sigiriya rock, he built this new and elaborative citadel.

Building Up Sigiriya

To know the story of the king who built and ruled this citadel, go on with reading!

King Kashyapa was able to discover a large rock that was rising out of the plains in Anuradhapura. It offered a clear view of every direction. Thus, King Kashyapa considered this as a strategic advantage during attacks and decided to build a fortress on this rock. History reveals that ‘Alakamandawa’, a Buddhist mythological city inspired him to build this.

Significance of Sigiriya

However, the king used his wealth to create this extravagant citadel which is rich with water fountains, gardens, pools, and other structures in it. It is now an iconic architectural monument of Sri Lanka. The most mesmerizing structure in this plan is the underground irrigation system that supplies water to the fountains and pools. All these things prove that this rock fortress was a well-planned city that portrays the technology of ancient urban planning. 

UNESCO has declared this rock fortress the eighth wonder of the world due to its magnificence, planning, and architecture. And the ruins of this palace hide the story of its monarch, King Kashyapa who built this palace in order to safeguard himself from his enemies. After all, he became an iconic character in relation to the ancient architecture of Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya stands in its glory 200 meters higher amidst the thick jungles in the area. The most attraction goes to the structures like the huge lion at the entrance, the mirror wall, and the Sigiriya frescoes. Apart from that, there are vast gardens, ponds, and fountains in the palace complex of Sigiriya. Besides, in the Sigiriya walls, there are 18 frescoes that remain up to date and they bear a striking resemblance to the paintings of the Ajanta caves in India. And yes, they indeed magnify the grandeur of this marvelous creation.

Sigiriya is open for visitors, yet under the supervision of the authorities. However, there is a climb of around 45 minutes to reach the top of this rocj fortress. So, Sigiriya is definitely a must-visit destination if you are visiting Sri Lanka. The time period from January to April is the best time to explore this wonderful location, considering the climate in that area.

Defeat and Death 

According to historical records, King Kashyapa loved peace and harmony. Also, he had been a huge fan of arts and poetry. Unfortunately, King Kashyapa was not able to reign for a long time as he was able to reign only for 14 years. He had to face several attacks from his royal brother during the years of his kingship.

Moggallana’s target was to claim his right to the throne. Therefore, he went to South India and organized an army there. Afterward, he returned to Sri Lanka with his army in order to fight for the throne. King Kashyapa used his war elephant to pull a tactical move where his troops showed retreat but eventually they abandoned him. King Kashyapa didn’t receive that much support from his own people. So, he was not strong in the face of foreign forces.

After a fierce and violent battle on the plains of Anuradhapura, King Kashyapa lost to his brother. He did not want his brother to catch him, as he was a man with much pride. Therefore, he decided to kill himself by slitting his own throat with his own sword. After the defeat of King Kashyapa, his royal brother, Moggallana attained the throne and became king Moggallana the first.

The Bottom Line

However, King Kashyapa’s great creation of Sigiriya could immortalize his name in Sri Lankan history forever. He will always be renowned as a king who immensely contributed to the ancient Sri Lankan arts and architecture. As a whole, King Kashyapa is a Sri Lankan ruler with an interesting backstory who built one of the best monuments of the country which took the Sri Lankan grandeur to the world.