Sigiriya and Its Significance

A thought-provoking book by former Archaeological Commissioner Dr. Raja De Silva

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Pabbata-raja made the mountain or rock his centre of ritual worship. The mountain at Mihintale, known in pre-Buddhist times as Missaka pabbata, and the rock at Sigiriya (above) were two of the main centres where pabbata-raja kings held their festivals, involving both rain-making and fertility.
  • Sigiriya not Kassapa's palace and pleasure garden
  • Not a capital of ancient Lanka
  • Not a fortress
  • But a Mahayana-Theravada Buddhist Monastery
  • The paintings are not Kassapa's queens or cloud damsels or lightning princesses or apsaras
  • They depict the great Buddhist saviouress — Goddess Tara

About the Book...

"Let me congratulate you on your excellent study of Sigiriya, which I consider as a scholarly treatise of a very high order. You have adduced adequate evidence to substantiate your thesis. It is of value not only to the scholar but also to the general reader."

- Professor Emeritus N. A. Jayawickrama

Verily this work of de Silva has dispelled doubts and vague conjectures on Sigiriya, and built up a coherent and cogent interpretation of this great centre, which never was "the abode of a God King", but for a long and significant period the resting place of a great and noble protectress of humans and a Mother of all.

                                                          —Samanya Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne

Every Archaeological Commissioner since Bell (1896) has believed that Sigiriya was a palace or fortress built by Kassapa. To challenge this view needs courage of a high order. The theory that Raja de Silva propounds (that Sigiriya was never a palace or fortress built by Kassapa but a Mahayanist monastery in which he took refuge and later supported) is revolutionary, and required the type of courage that emboldened Copernicus and Kepler to challenge the view that the sun revolved round the earth.


                                                          —Desamanya C. P. de Silva

It is a remarkable example of creative scholarship - in proposing a radically new theory on the significance of Sigiriya. It appears to me that his interpretation — that Sigiriya was essentially a Mahayana monastery — accommodates, more comfortably, the ‘facts' of Sigiriya. As impressively, he has brought to bear on the derivation of theories in the arts and the humanities — in this instance, the significance of Sigiriya, the basic approaches of modern science.

-         Professor S. N. Arseculeratne

The Author

Vidyajyothi Raja de Silva, B.Sc. (Cey), B.Sc. (Lond.), D.Phil (Oxf), has been a member of the statutory Archaeological Advisory Committee since his retirement as Archaeological Commissioner in 1979. A specialist graduate in Chemistry from the Universities of Ceylon and London, he was appointed to the Archaeological Department in 1949, and became the first scientist in its cadre. After training for two years in the Archaeological Survey of India, he was in charge of the new service for the conservation of cultural property and research in material culture. In 1962, he obtained his post-graduate qualification in the University of Oxford after research­ing in the technical aspects of art-history. After eighteen years as Assistant Commissioner of Archaeology, he was appointed Archaeological Commissioner in 1967. From 1979 to 1986, he was Advisor to the Archaeological Department in the Conservation of cultural property. He is the author of many academic publications, and the official guide books to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa.


152 pages, size 11 1/2 ins. x 8 1/2 ins. Printed by Aitken Spence Printing (Pvt) Ltd., on 150 gsm art paper profusely illustrated in colour and duo-tone photographs and line drawings. Hard cover with laminated dust jacket printed in four colours.

Price: Rs. 3,000/- £ 30/- US$ 47/-

Please write all cheques in favour:

Raja De Silva
No. 7, Galpotta Road
Nawala, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 1 287-5494

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