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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2677

“The Fortress in the Sky” To be Brightened up

Raja Arambewela for Asian Tribune.

Colombo, 21 November, ( Minister of Cultural Affairs; Mr. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena speaking at the Cabinet Press Briefing revealed that Sigiriya, the famous world heritage site is to be given a face lift. Sigiriya, with its significant cultural, archaeological and architectural importance has been the highest income earner to cultural triangle fund among the archaeological sites in Sri Lanka.

Named a cultural World Heritage Site in 1982, this Rock and its surroundings are full of wonders. Topography of the area being flat it is a wonder itself that, this massive rock visible for miles from all sides, with a 3-1/2 acre flat top, rises up out of the scrub jungle to over 600ft as if by magic. The wonder of wonders is that this King not wanting to be second to the Nature’s Creation, has used up all this 3-1/2 acres on the summit in its entirety to create his palace and the fortress complexes including a “swimming pool” on this rock. Sigiriya - a world heritage siteSigiriya - a world heritage site

One explanation given to the name Sigiriya is taken out of the massive lion’s paws still visible to visitors through which they begin their final ascent to the top. This flight of stairs gives one the impression that he walks through the jaws and throat of Lion to whom the massive paws belong. The two words “sinha” (lion) and “giriya” (throat) forming the “sinhagiriya” could have become “Sigiriya”. Another explanation could be that this rock ‘sitting’ on the flat ground could have been seen as a massive lion from far away giving rise again to the same word “singhagiriya”. A sinhala word to rock is “giri”. In that case the two words Singha (lion) and Giri (rock) could have again given rise to the word Sinhagiriya which in turn could have become Sigiriya.

Whatever way the name came into being, the wonders are not over. However, this is not the time to discuss and describe this wonderful place that has been a Buddhist monastery since the 5th century BC before King Kasyapa and afterwards when king died till after 14th century. Let’s leave that to another day.Sigiriya frescoSigiriya fresco

Japanese Government, according the Minister, has undertaken to help develop the surroundings and its’ infrastructure through an aid scheme. Under this project the first phase is a much needed museum for which aid given Rs.220.5 millions. The second phase with Rs.153 million is to upgrade the museum to international level, to finish the exhibits and for exhibition arrangements and the third phase being to provide technical aid to develop tourism in relation to culture, through the JICA. While these three projects are already under way and the museum is expected to finish by March 2009, there is a fourth phase under which an interest free loan of R.380 million is granted in the infrastructure development of the surrounding area.

According to the Minister although, so many tourists visit this site, there is no programme to encourage them to spend a night or two in the area. Other World Heritage sites the world over has various plans by developing attractive displays by way of ‘sounds and lights’ to attract and to get the tourist to spend a night or two in the area. This way, the site can get free publicity through tourism related web sites, magazines and TV programmes, benefiting the people of the area too. In this regard it is proposed to illuminate the Rock from 6.30pm to 10.00pm daily and to hold ‘sounds and lights’ (is it Laser Displays?) displays initially on Fridays and Saturdays for about 30 to 40 minutes. It is proposed even to use actors and actresses for live acts. This project is to cost about US$5 million and it is expected to raise the money through a foreign donor.

Here, it is interesting to see whether this is the same programme which, was brought up several years ago and vehemently opposed by then opposition.

Another important event the Minister revealed is the “Galle Season” in the form of a festival. This Festival is to be held from 23rd to 29th December this year. The proceeds from this festival will be used to restore the Library inside the Galle Fort which is one of the oldest libraries in Sri Lanka and to develop welfare activities of the people in the entire district. The famous Dutch Fort in Galle in the southern Sri Lanka is another World Heritage Site which will play a key role in this “Galle Season”. Talking about Galle with its famous Dutch Fort: it too has a story of its’ own. Again, let’s leave it for another day.

- Asian Tribune -

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