Sigiriya Rock Show
Anthony David and Nalaka Nonis
Sigiriya declared as a world heritage has often been in the centre
of controversy as claims and counter claims have been traded about
the origin of this rock fortress and the findings there. The aura
of mystery itself is sufficient to draw tens of thousands of visitors.
of 'Sigiriya' has prompted the Tourism Ministry to promote Sigiriya
as one of Sri Lanka's prime attractions, like the Taj Mahal in India
or the Pyramids along the Nile. But the enthusiasm appears to be
overriding some of the concerns of the archaeologists, conservationists
and Buddhist monks.
The plan to
promote Sigiriya as a major tourist attraction has been on the cards
since the 1970's. A few years ago the well known archaeologist Prof.Senaka
Bandaranayake proposed a 'sound and light' show at Sigiriya. But
it was kept under the rocks for several years before being dugout
by the Tourism Ministry early this year.
has been modified and is now named 'Evening walk' show to be held
in the 'Jala Udyanaya' (Fountain Garden) area . According to the
proposal which is yet to be finalised the show is to take place
in the area opposite the main stairway to the rock-fortress.
One of the
key in questions raised by concerned groups is whether the plan
has been fully seen and approved by the government and the Central
Cultural Fund (CCF). The Cultural Ministry's Media Secretary W.M.B.Wanninayake
claimed the Sigiriya night show had been approved by the CCF.
But an element
of mystery arises when the CCF's Director General A.P.A. Gunasekara
says he is not aware of any approval being granted while a majority
of other CCF board members say they are opposed to the location
chosed for the Sigiriya show. The Cultural Ministry's Secretary
in a statement said the project was approved by the government and
he assured that the centuries old cultural identity of Sigiriya
would be preserved and fostered.
The key question
is the location. the Cultural Ministry claims the CCF has approved
the location, but is that correct? Adding to the confusion the CCF
quotes Tourism Secretary Dr. Ramanujan as saying that Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe has only told them to look into the proposal
and the project has not been fully approved for implementation as
suggested by the Cultural Ministry.
Ministry also however makes it clear that though it is willing to
reconsider the location it does not want to go too far away from
the Sigiriya rock. " If we go too far we might as well have
it in Colombo. They say there are abandoned tanks. Abandoned tanks
mean they are not being used. These places can be used. It is a
matter of finding the correct location," Dr. Ramanujan said.
the proposal he says no stages will be setup to enact the scenes
from history and no damage will be done to the location. But crucial
questions remain. Has the CCF been sidelined in maintaining the
historic site? Dr. Ramanujan says a letter had been sent by Tourism
Minister, Gamini Lokuge to the Cultural Minister in May informing
about the project.
But at a subsequent
meeting of the CCF the proposed location for the project and the
decision to have night cultural shows close to the Sigiriya rock
were strongly criticised. The critics ask whether it is suitable
to have a night show where some 400 tourists are to be accommodated,
whether the security could be guaranteed at nights when there is
a large crowd, the impact of the sound effects and lighting systems
on the artifacts and the proposal to use a coach top transport tourists
within the area.
The Sunday Times learns that the scenes to be enacted include the
activities of King Kasyapa, dancers, bathing women, and trades like
pottery as practiced in those ancient days.
We learn that
the Archaeological Department's Advisory Board has not been called
in to discuss the controversial proposal. Former Archaeology Chief
Raja de Silva, now a member of the Advisory Board says the present
Director General had informed the Advisory Board about the proposal
and fixed a meeting to discuss it but the meeting was cancelled.
Now members of the board are calling for an immediate meeting to
discuss the issue.
residents around are not aware of the project, but one of the project's
main critics is the chief monk of the area. Ven. Dhaniyagala Ananda,
Thera, Chief incumbent of the Pidurangala Raja Maha Viharaya which
has a close historic link with Sigiriya says if anyone wants to
dramatise Kasyapa they were free to do it in a theatre but not on
or near the famous rock.
ensure that ancient bricks are not damaged when the show is held
in the Fountain Garden in Sigiriya and can they ensure tourists
are not going to sneak through to other parts of the rock and damage
historically valuable parts of it," he asked.
is being made a source of dollars. They want to give a treat to
tourists at the expense of our culture and traditions the monk charged.
The Sunday Times learns fresh proposals are to be submitted by Norwegian
Theatre experts who are involved in the project which is funded
by the USAID and the Oslo based NORAD. The proposals are to be submitted
by September 15
warns of death fast Weird project a betrayal for dollars
By Athula Bandara in Anuradhapura
Ven. Pallegama Hemarathana, the Chief Sanganayake of Nuwara Kalawiye
and the Chief Incumbent of Ruwanweliseya Chaithayaramaya has warned
he would go on a fast if the government goes ahead with what he
sees as a weird project and a betrayal of the country's culture
who took part in the discussions on the project says he fears that
both the religious and cultural values of this world heritage site
will be damaged by the proposed project. He warns that if the authorities
are allowed to go ahead and put tourists attractions before cultural
values then a similar fate might befall the country's other heritage
He says tourists
generally come to Sri Lanka to see the treasures of culture and
archaeology and we must not commercialise or disrespect our heritage
merely to attract tourists.
says he has no objection to the project being carried out elsewhere
but not or around the historical rock fortress.
of robbery and vandalism at night, says expert
Professor Mendis Rohanadheera, a member of the Archaeology Advisory
Council says having the project on or close to the Sigiriya rock
will be a disaster to one of Sri Lanka's greatest archeologicl treassures.
by the The Sunday Times he says: "We were summoned for a meeting
to discuss this particular project and during the course of the
discussion it was revealed that the most important people who should
have been consulted had been ignored.
Ministry has initiated the project but the custodians for archaeological
monuments is the Archaeology Department and the CCF which raises
funds for the maintenance of Sigiriya. "At the first discussion
itself we decided that we could not agree to these proposals.
Tourism Ministry, Archaeology Department officials and the Central
Cultural Fund officials had a discussion on this subject. We told
them that the main parties concerned had not been consulted. "Implementing
projects to improve tourism is good but having this project within
the precincts of Sigiriya will not be accepted by the people.
a treasured archaeological site and usually after 6 p.m no body
can enter such sites. It shouldn't be allowed. This could lead to
the destruction of archaeological monuments, robbery and vandalism.
are hoping to use the western side of the Rock -the same side of
The night lights will reflect on the fescoes and even cause damage.
The sound of drums and its echo could harm the rock. 'There is also
the threat of tourists walking over the irrigation system which
has been renovated.
Garden is one of the key features in Sigiriya and its marvels are
compared to contemporary Japanese and Chinese horticulture."