By Dr. Mirando Obeysekere
Was Sigiriya the abode of King Rawana? This was the question of Dr. Lal Sirinivas of Bangalore who accompanied me to observe the historical and geographical facts as well as the background of world famous Sigiriya the rock fortress of Sri-Lanka. It is one of the unique monuments of antiquity as well as pre-historic culture in our country. According to the Ramayana this giant fortress had been the Alakamanda Palace of King Kuvera about 50 centuries ago.
King Kuvera was the grandson of Maha Rishi Pulasthi who was in Polonnaruwa. Kuvera’s father Visravasmuni was the elder son of Maha Rishi Pulasthi. Kuvera was the elder son of Visravasmuni’s first marriage with Princess Illavila, the beautiful daughter of Brahmin – hermit called Bharadwaja Magina. Later King Visravasmuni married Kaikashi, the beautiful daughter of Sumalin King of Asura so; King Visravasmuni had a group of children by his second marriage with Kaikashi. They were Rawana, Vibishana, Kumbhakarna, Lakshmana, Hema, and Suparnika. Kuvera, the first son of King Visravasmuni ascended the throne of Sri-Lanka after the death of his father and ruled the country in a just and a righteous manner. So, with the passage of time, Rawana the stepbrother of Kuvera, advanced in power, and got interested in the reign of Sri-Lanka and then asked for the transfer of Alakamanda, which was the abode of Kuvera, along with the throne and aeroplane called ‘Pushpika’. Kuvera was furious because of the unjust request of Rawana and chased him away. But Rawana was not a coward to be easily bullied by any one and he gathered his Yaksha relatives to wage war against Kuvera. Within a very short time Rawana the warrior came to power and got all Kuvera’s wealth, including the palace, throne and the airplane.
Some original historical records relate that the Sinhala race formed by the combination of four Sri-Lankan tribes as Naga, Yaksha, Deva and Gandhabba all related to Maha Rishi Pulasthi’s family. So the Sivuhelas [four tribes] who worshipped the sun God united under the flag of King Rawana and developed this resplendent Island to be the treasure house of the Orient. The Rawana flag depicting the sun and moon with Rawana’s portrait is the oldest flag of Sri-Lanka.
As soon as Rawana came to power he built a temple for his beloved parents King Visravasmuni and Kaikashi. It is said that worshipping dead leaders was an ancient ritual by the Yaksha nobles in Sri-Lanka. “Visravasmuni Temple” at Anuradhapura had been changed to a Buddhist shrine after the days of King Pandukabhaya, who had a special regard for Yakshas. This identical temple is called “Isurumuniya” the world famous stone carving of the lovers – at “Isurumuniya Vihara” depict none other than the parents of Rawana.
According to the ancient Ola manuscript – Rawana Katha, the foremost designer of the Sigiriya was the talented architect called Maya Dannawa. He built Sigiriya for the order of King Visravas the father of King Rawana. Sigiriya was known as Alakamanda during the days of Kuvera and later it was known as Chithrakûta.
“Rawana Katha” an ancient Ola book says that, after Rawana’ s death Vibishana came to power and transferred the royal palace – fortress and capital from hill country to Kelaniya. Then, Chithrakûta the palace fortress of Rawana became the residence of Yaksha noble called Chithraraja, a relative of Vibishana. Chithraraja the hero who helped King Pandukabhaya [his parent] was a descendent of Chithraraja senior. Since the days of King Pandukabhaya, Chithraraja palace had been a Yaksha Temple and later King Dhatusena’s son Kasyapa [459-447 AD] arranged a coup d’état against the father and chose Chithrakûta Temple for his palace fortress as he had a belief that his mother was a descendent of Yaksha line. King Kasyapa is the only King who had renovated Chithrakûta [Sigiriya] and maintained it as Rawana did.
“Rawana Katha” the ancient Ola book relates that the world famous frescoes of Sigiriya depict the beautiful damsels of Rawana's harem and later those who maintain the treasure house had redrawn those murals. Most of the blue figures depict the Yaksha damsels and others depict Naga, Deva, and Gandhabba damsels. The beautiful flowers in their hands show the national unity.
Chithrakûta is the only Sri-Lankan fortress, which had a wooden lift, operated from top to bottom. If anyone enters this great fortress through the lion’s head, he will be able to see a huge hole on the rock. Stone structures and stands both on the top and bottom of this ‘route-hole’ are believed to be places on which the wooden lift had been fixed. King Rawana's period was famous for woodcraft and they used a ‘lift’ too, for the day-to-day work in the fort.
History relates that the Rawana's airplane was also made of lightwood, which was brought from Himalayan forests. Archaeologists, historians, and some legends say that there were more than 500 paintings on the walls of Chithrakûta and most of them had been dilapidated due to natural causes. King Rawana was talented in all the fine arts as well as physician and pundit. So, we Sri-Lankans should be proud enough to have Chithrakûta or Sigiriya, the world’s oldest palace fortress.