Just in the same manner in which the Sigiriya is famous for its frescoes, there’s another very unique and fascinating thing about this rock fortress; Sigiriya Graffiti or ‘Kurutu gee’ (scribbled songs) as known in Sinhala. They are basically the verses and poems written by various locals and foreigners who came to visit Sigiriya in ancient times after the demise of King Kasyapa and are written on a specially prepared, polished wall called ‘the mirror wall’ or ‘Ketapath Pavura’ in Sinhala.

The mirror wall

“Half way along the vertical western side of the rock surface was pasted with a 2 metre wide path way connecting and climbing from South to the North. Outer edge of the path was protected with a two meter high cavity wall. In the construction bricks were laid on the steps cut on the sloping rock surface using a thick layer of clay motor. This wall is plastered with a special lime mortar and the inner surface is burnished to a reflective mirror finished in such a way that the painting on the opposite rock surface is perfectly reflected creating a special ambience to feel that the ladies (of the frescoes) are on both sides when the king walk along.

Because of that reflecting surface, this was known as the mirror wall or ‘kata path pavura.’ This wall was directly exposed to the western sun, monsoon rain and the wind for more than 1500 years but still preserving the reflecting polished surface. But the two ends, the southern end connecting the main stair case to the mirror walled path and the northern end connecting the mirror walled path to the lion platform has fallen and was destroyed with the passage of time. Presently a link connection was made with steel bridges” explains professor Nimal De Silva in his documents.

Kurutu gee

As aforementioned, Sigiriya was visited by large numbers of people following the demise of King Kasyapa, the creator of Sigiriya. These people, who came from distant towns and villages, were mesmerised by the astounding beauty and artistry of the frescoes and fascinating architecture of the fortress, especially the mirror wall which reflected the sunlight in a heavenly way. So, they scribbled their sentiments in poetry and small versus on the mirror wall. It is mentioned that these poetry has been written during the period of time from 600 CE to 1400 CE. Indeed, the mirror wall can be considered as the largest ever collection of handwritten folk poetry that represents people from almost all the categories and strata of the society. Also, it is to be noted that these poetry are of high poetic quality.

An insight into the life of the time

The poetry and verses written here vary on a range of sentiments such as love, wonder, amusement and admiration. Most of them are appreciations of the Sigiriya frescoes; the beauty of the ladies in the drawings. People have had their own interpretations and visions of the drawings. Also, there are poem which reflect the writer’s philosophy of life as well. Teachings of Buddhism can also be noticed expressed in poetry among these.

However as they have mentioned where they came from, what their social ranks were or how they were called by others, the poems provide a space to look into the socio-political aspects of the contemporary times too. “The majority of these visitors appear to have been from the elite of society: royalty, officials, professions, and clergy. There were also soldiers, archers, and even metalworkers. Over 1000 unique words have been identified.”

The poetry shows that female visitors have also enjoyed the beauty of frescoes just like the male ones, one female visitor has wrote in a poem which translates to English as follows,

“A deer-eyed maiden of the mountain side arouses anger in my mind.

In her hand she holds a string of pearls,

And in her eyes she assumes rivalry with me…”

O the other side, the poems are not just beautiful for its themes or the plots yet there have been very unique and advanced poetic techniques used by the writers of Sigiriya graffiti.

The following poem exemplifies it:

“Mula la ma saenaehi

Pul piyuman sey bamar dut”

(Like a bee which has seen full-blown lotuses, the bewildered heart of mine was consoled)

Conserving for future

These poems have been protected over many hundred years until now, thanks to the ancestors of ours, who have taken care of them, and that is why even we are still able to study and enjoy them. Hence, we should understand that it is our responsibility to conserve them for the future generations as well.

By Induwara Athapattu