Abstract: The Palace and Garden Complex of Kasayapa in Sigiriya (Sri Lanka)

Lecturer: Robert Lindley Vann

During the late 5th century A.D., Kasayapa, king of ancient Sri Lanka, commissioned his surveyors, architects, and gardeners to design and construct a new luxurious seat for his government in a remote part of his island kingdom.  The location was Sigiriya, or "Lion Rock."

This site was briefly excavated by the British in the late 19h century as part of the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon and was more recently excavated by the local department of antiquities in the 1950s.  Sigiriya is already famous in the history of art as the location of one of the most important series of painted figures in South Asia.  Kasayapa's palace, located 600' above the jungle canopy, is one of the earliest preserved in Asia and the enormous figure of a lion, built against a sheer cliff on the north approach to the palace, coincides with the accounts of ancient historians who described the path ascending to the summit as entering the mouth of the huge creature who gave the rock its name.

This lecture will present the results of several seasons of survey and excavation by a combined team including the University of Maryland in their attempts to uncover yet another unique aspect of Sigiriya --- the water gardens.  The organization includes landscapes of formal plan, very similar to the much later tradition of Mughul gardens of Iran and north India, as well as those of more naturalistic character, like the traditions of China and Japan.  Of particular interest are the numerous garden pavilions that stood along the central axis of the formal gardens, others that occupied special sites surrounded by moats, and the many small structures that perched on the numerous boulders in the upper gardens.  The water gardens are the largest in the world and will be traced through their many components: fountains, shallow reflection pools, deeper bathing pools, and the cisterns and moats that were necessary to supply all these facilities.

 

Short Bibliography:

Robert L. Vann,"Monasteries, Gardens, and Palaces of Ancient Sri Lanka," Asian Art (1993) 6.3: 51-71.

Robert L. Vann, "The Palace and Gardens of Kasayapa at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka," Archaeology (1987) 40.4, 34-41.

Featured Lecturer

Christopher Roosevelt is with the Department of Archaeology at Boston University, and holds his degrees from Cornell University (Ph.D.) and Colby College.  His areas of specialization are Bronze... Read More

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