The Citadel City
of the Playboy King
Think Devil's Tower with a health spa on top. Rising 650 feet out of the ground, this Eight Wonder of the World, long believed to be the fortress of a mad king, has been revealed for what it really was: a temple of Tantric sex initiation. King Kasyapa had 500 wives. He was a 5th Century Hugh Hefner. Sigiriya was his Playboy Mansion. Yet the Sri Lanka government still portray him as a great villain, a tyrant and a swine, a man who walled his father alive to usurp the throne, when in fact his half brother was guilty of the crime. Why? That's a question for historians...
Construction on top the monolith at Sigiriya was started by Kasyapa's father, who was a master designer of canals and dams. But the project was abandoned proving too difficult. After his father's death and his half brother's exile, Kasyapa took it upon himself to finish the work, and succeeded. He made Sigiriya the capital city of Ceylon so he could live there year round. It wasn't a fortress, it was his pleasure palace.
The truth about this rather eccentric character, a contemporary of another mythical figure King Arthur, is that he fancied himself more of a lover than a fighter. He was a far cry from the cruel monster text books portray him to be. The revised version was finally revealed in 1946 inside a great big book of photographs called "Island Ceylon" from Viking Press. There author John Lindsay Opie describes how the German theorist Gauribala, after studying the monument for many years, unraveled the official version for what it really was; a smear job cover story written as propaganda to squelch potential popular resentment.
Gauribala discovered Kasyapa was himself poisoned by his half brother's sister, who, get this, was one of his many wives. She later threw herself, or was pushed, from the rock and fell to her death. Kasyapa did not commit suicide, as the story goes, after his elephant bucked in battle.
You can read the whole story right here: http://members.tripod.com/~hettiarachchi/sigiri3.html
But despite the evidence, the old "historical" account remains. Go figure! Especially when you consider the Playboy King version would probably sell a lot more tickets to the site and convince more tourists to make the long trek to the top. Think about it...
I only recently learned about the existence of this amazing ancient sky city by browsing the image above in HarperCollins's Past Worlds Atlas of Archeology. I spent hours researching it for a story in David Childress's World Explorer magazine which never ran. Why I don't know, you'll have to ask David. I've never been to Sigiriya in the flesh, but now I want to really badly, just to "feel" it. David went in 1980 and mentions it briefly in his book Lost Cities of Ancient Lemuria.
(As some of you already know I pitched the Devil's Tower UFO landing story to Spielberg's location director while he was working on Jaws. I had stumbled on Devil's Tower driving cross-country in the summer of '74. Marc Metcalf, now a famous actor, took that trip with me. He went on to play Neidermeyer in Animal House and starred in the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on TV. My next door neighbor in Connecticut at the time was Bill Treusch, a powerful Hollywood manager, who had gone to college with Spielberg. Jenny Agutter, the lead in Logan's Run, another sci-fi cult favorite, is also my witness. I got royally screwed on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They never gave me credit. They never gave me a dime!)
My big rock fetish has been reawakened by Sigiriya. If Spielberg decides to do a CE3K sequel, Sigiriya would be the ideal logical place. It could be called CE4K, the acronym for sex with aliens! Face it, a sexual abduction scenario inspired by the real history of Sigiriya would sell a lot of popcorn. You read it here first folks.
Sigiriya means 'Lion Rock' because it looks like a crouching lion from a distance. After a climb through the forest, you reached the gate, a 60 foot tall lion statue. Walking through its mouth accessed the staircase leading all the way to the top. Only the paws are left today. There were no guard rails back then. Think of all the lovely maidens who risked life and limb just to experience the King's favor and good graces... Ouch! The perilous path was decorated with a virtual bevy of big breasted topless women painted on the rock face. But only a dozen murals remain today, weathered by the elements.
The hanging garden at Sigiriya is what legends are made of. Imagine watching the sunset while bathing in its reflecting pool perched high above the valley below. Wow! And yet Sigiriya has been somewhat forgotten, overshadowed by Sri Lanka's incessant political turmoil. We all know Sri Lanka because Arthur C. Clarke chose to make it his home, for "personal" reasons. Sri Lanka is said to lend a blind eye to man/boy love relationships. A few of his books use the island in their plots.
In 1992 William McGowan wrote the definitive book on Sri Lanka. "Only Man Is Vile" is a gripping first hand account of the absurd civil war still raging there today. It reads like Gulliver's Travels! In it McGowan traces back the roots of the conflict to how in 1880 Theosophy's Henry Steel Olcott whipped the Sinhalese into an Aryan frenzy against the Tamils, and how Hitler later capitalized on that hatred in his eternal quest for racial purity.
Sigiriya was deserted after the death of its sex-obsessed king. For a few years Buddhist monks used it as a monastery. It quickly fell into disrepair as no resources were made available to maintain it. Centuries of vandalism took their toll. UNESCO is now funding the preservation of the site. The fountains have been restored to working order. But tourism doesn't appear to be very well organized. Perhaps the Ceylon Tourist Board feels the climb is too much for the average person to make. I read it's not easy, and you can't be afraid of heights. But kids today bungee jump off bridges for a thrill. National Geographic did a story about Sigiriya in their November 1946 issue, but nothing else since. Check it out at your public library. These old black & white photographs are still the most wonderful I've seen. It used to be illegal for tourists to take pictures in Sri Lanka without a special permit. So really good pictures are hard to come by. What I've seen on the Net doesn't do Sigiriya justice. But new travel books from Lonely Planet & Insight Guide are making up for lost time.
A fun site to visit is
Patrick Wullaert's writes about his climb. His Travel Chat site is good-humored. It has been copyrighted and cannot be duplicated on other sites. But here is a little quote:
"A metal spiral staircase leads up to the Sigiriya Damsels, beautiful - both in subject, execution and colour - paintings of half-naked women. Nobody really knows who these ladies are. They may be women in waiting, or apsaras, heavenly nymphs. To me they definitely are the latter ! :) Certain is that the paintings are not religious, the only ones of their kind in Sri Lanka."
© Patrick Wullaert 1997-2001
Here are a few more good Sigiriya links for you to surf:
http://www.holymtn.com/SriLanka/pilgrimage.htm (Beautiful site. It's where I got the idea for this Footlight MT Light type font.)
http://www.saadhu.com/sigiriya (They sell a novel called Kat Bitha that takes place at Sigiriya. Grab the movie rights while you still can before Balliwood beats you to it.)
Restoration of Sri Lanka’s international image:
Permits to take snap shots:
To photograph and film all Cultural Triangle archaeological sites, monuments and museums permits should be obtained from the Cultural Triangle Office, 212, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7. If you take photographs of Buddha statues never pose alongside them. This would be considered a sign of disrespect. And if you encounter a Buddhist bhikku (monk) distinguished by his yellow robe - please give him the respect all Sri Lankans give him. Do not expect him to pose for pictures, or attempt to shake hands with him.
Sri Lanka World Heritage Library Links Page:
Sigiriya in the New York Times October 6th 2002 Travel Section:
Ceylon Tourist Board:
Tamil Nation Library
New Links of interest:
Stay tuned to this page as I paste the story together... Contact me if you want to comment about anything. Remy C.
One of the few remaining magical murals. The artist is still unknown.
The Maijishan grottoes in China is another amazing example of a giant standing rock carved into a temple by human hands. Others exist in South America still hidden by rainforest.
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