Lion’s Paws


At the northern end of the rock, a narrow pathway emerges on to the large platform from which the site derives its name – Sigiriya (from sinha-giri) means 'Lion Rock'. HCP Bell, the British archaeologist responsible for an enormous amount of archaeology in Sri Lanka, found the two enormous lion paws when excavating here in 1898.

At one time a gigantic brick lion sat at this end of the rock, and the final ascent to the top commenced with a stairway that led between the lion’s paws and into its mouth. The lion symbolism serves as a reminder to devotees ascending the rock that Buddha was Sakya-Sinha (Lion of the Sakya Clan) and that the truths he spoke of were as powerful as the sound of a lion’s roar.

The 5th-century lion has since disappeared, apart from the first steps and the paws. Reaching the top means clambering up across a series of metal stairs, but you can still see the original grooves and steps cut into the rock.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Sigiriya attractions

1. Mirror Wall

0.06 MILES

Beyond the Sigiriya frescoes, the path clings to the sheer side of the rock and is protected on the outside by a 3m-high wall. This wall (not the actual…

2. Frescoes

0.08 MILES

Halfway up the Sigiriya rock an open-air spiral stairway leads to a long, sheltered gallery in the sheer rock face. The paintings of the buxom, wasp…

3. Sigiriya

0.09 MILES

Rising dramatically from the central plains, the enigmatic rocky outcrop of Sigiriya is perhaps Sri Lanka's single most dramatic sight. A set of near…

4. Summit

0.09 MILES

The spectacular terraced summit of the rock covers 1.6 hectares. This is thought to be the site chosen by King Kasyapa for his fortified capital after he…

5. Boulder Gardens

0.15 MILES

At the base of the Sgiriya rock and most easily seen after a visit to the summit, this collection of natural boulders once formed the bases of monastery…

6. Cobra Hood Cave

0.16 MILES

This rocky projection down in the Boulder Garden earned its name because the overhang resembles a fully opened cobra’s hood. The plastered interior of the…

7. Royal Gardens

0.27 MILES

The base of the Sigiriya rock is a beautifully landscaped area dotted with formal water features, terraced gardens and natural boulders that were once…

8. Water Gardens

0.36 MILES

As you walk from the Sigiriya main entrance to the rock itself you pass a series of charming symmetrical water gardens, including curved tanks, bathing…