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Was Maya Dannawa the architect of Sigiriya?

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. Sigiriya 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 Kuwera about 50 centuries ago.


King Kuwera was the grandson of Maharishi Pulasthi who was in Polonnaruwa. Kuwera's father Visravasmuni was the elder son of Maharishi Pulasthi. Kuwera was the elder son of Visravasmuni's first marriage with Princes Illavila, the beautiful daughter of a Brahmin - hermit called Bharadwaja Magina. Later King Visravasmuni married Kesini, the beautiful daughter of Sumalin King of Asura so, king Visravasmuni had a group of children by his second marriage with Kesini. They were Rawana, Vibhishana, Kumbakarana Hema and Suparikha.

Kuwera, 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 righteous manner. So, with the passage of time, Ravana the step brother of Kuwera, advanced in power, and got interested in the reign of Sri Lanka. Then he asked for the transfer of Alakamanda which was the abode of Kuwera, along with the throne and aeroplane called "Pushpika". Kuwera was furious because of the unjust request of Ravana and chased, him away. But Ravana was not a coward to be easily bullied by anyone and he gathered of his Yakkha relatives to wage war against Kuwera. Within a very short time Rawana the warrior came to power and got all of Kuwera's wealth, including the palace, throne and the air plane.

Four tribes

Some original historical records relate that the Sinhala race was formed by the combination of four Sri Lankan tribes such as Naga, Yakkha, Dewa and Gandhabba all related to Maharishi Pulasti's family. So, the Sivhelas (four tribes) who worshipped the sun god were united under the flag of king Ravana and developed this resplendent island to be the treasure house of the Orient. The Ravana flag depicting the Sun and Moon with Ravana's portrait is the oldest flag of Sri Lanka. The present lion flag was brought here by King Vijaya about 25 centuries ago.

As soon as Ravana came to power he built a temple for his beloved parents. King Visravasmuni and Kesini it is said that worshipping dead leaders was an ancient ritual of Yakkha nobles in Sri Lanka."

Visravasmuni Temple" at Anuradhapura had been changed into a Buddhist shrine after the days of King Pandukabaya, who had a special regard for Yakkhas. This identifical temple is now called "Isurumuniya" The world famous stone carving of the lovers - at Isurumuniya Vihara - depict none other than the parents of Ravana.

Chithrakuta According to ancient ola manuscript - "Ravana Katha" the foremost designer of Sigiriya was the talented architect called Maya Dannawa. He had built Sigiriya for the order of king Vistawas the father of King Ravana. Sigiriya was known as Alakamanda during the days of Kuwera and later it was known as Chitrakuta.

"Ravana Katha" an ancient ola book says that, after Ravana's death Vibhishana came to power and transferred the royal Palace - fortress and the capital from the hill country to Kelaniya. Then, Chitrakuta the Palace fortress of Ravana became the residence of a Yakkha noble called Chithraraja, a relative of Vibhisana, Chitraraja, the hero who helped King Pandukabhaya (437-367 BC) and his parent was a descendant of Chitraraja senior. Since the days of King Pandukabhaya, Chitraraja Palace had been a Yakkha temple and later king Dhatusena's son Kassapa (459-447 AD) arranged a coup d'etat against the father and chose Chitrakuta temple for his palace fortress as he had a belief that his mother too was a descendant of Yakkha dynasty. King Kassapa is the only King who had renovated Chitrakuta (Sigiriya) and maintained it as Ravana did.

"Ravana Katha" the ancient ola book relates that world famous frescoes of Sigiriya depict the beautiful damsels of Ravana's harem and later those murals had been re-drawn by those who maintained the treasure house. Most of the blue figures depict the Yakkha damsels and others depict Naga, Deva and Gandabbha damsels. The beautiful flowers in their hands show the national unity.


Chitrakuta is the only Sri Lankan fortress which had a wooden lift operated from top to bottom. If any one 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 Ravana's period was famous for woodcraft and they used a "lift" too, for the day to day work in the fort.

History relates that Ravana's air-plane was also made of light wood which was brought from Himalayan forests. Archaeologists, historians and some legends say that there were more than 500 paintings on the walls of Chitrakuta and most of them had been dilapidated due to natural causes. King Ravana was talented in all the fine arts as well as physician and pundit.

So, we Sri Lankans should be proud enough to have Chitrakuta or Sigiriya, the world's oldest palace fortress.

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