Kassyapa son of king Dhatusena (459 – 477 AD) had his father arrested and walled alive within his tomb. His brother Moggallana, who was the legitimate successor to the throne, was sent into exile abroad, and Kassyapa was named king. As he had the power, he was in constant fear of his life. For this reason, he left the capital city of Anuradhapura and went into the wilderness where he built on top of a huge monolith which, rises 200 m from the jungle into the sky, his palace. Around this rock he constructed impressive fortifications. From Sigiriya he ruled the kingdom for 18 years (479 – 497 AD) until such time his brother Moggallana returned from India with an army. Beaten in battle he committed suicide in his rock fortress.

At the base of the monolith was the capital city and on top the citadel and attraction for the visitors are the famous frescoes which date back to the time of king Kassyapa. The Heavenly Maidens remnants of an enormous gallery which contained once five hundred frescoes. No one really knows whom the seductive beauties represent, but it is easy to believe that they are heaven dwelling nymphs from a realm of radiant light. The inscriptions (graffiti) on the so called mirror wall are the testimony of visitors from the 5th to the 13th Century AC, who were impressed by the beautiful heavenly beings. The graffiti are an important document of the development of the Sinhalese language.

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