Sinagiri - Rajah Kasyapu and the Frescoes at Singiriya
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The story is based on historical fact. Battles, buildings and recorded events are set out factually. There was a Raja Kasyapu, who killed his father, and then in remorse became a recluse. He was, in fact, killed several years later by his younger brother after the body of the old Raja was found encased (alive) in plaster in the wall of the old palace. But who are the faces painted on the wall? More
The story is set in 5th Century Sri Lanka – Taprobane as it was then called. A girl from Eritrea becomes the third/fourth wife of the Raja of Taprobane. The story relates her journey by land and sea, accompanied by her younger brother, from Assaba to Puttulam, and their adventures on the way, even being attacked by pirates. The story continues with her marriage, and her life in the rock fortress of Sinagiri (nowadays called Singiria).
But, nobody had told her of the mysterious death of the former Raja, or the strange recluse like life that the present Raja, his son, had taken to. From her friends she learned of the younger brothers pledge to take revenge on his brother, and raise an army in India, which he eventually did. Her marriage to the Raja is somewhat of a sham, and she starts an affair with the son of the historian, who had started to write the Mahawansa. When the Raja is killed in battle by the avenging younger brother, following the discovery of the body of the old Raja, life changes and she moves from the rock fortress to Anuradhapura, the former capital.
The story is based on historical fact. Battles, buildings and recorded events are set out factually (although the pirates are my imagination). There was a Raja Kasyapu, who killed his father, and then in remorse became a recluse. He was, in fact, killed several years later by his younger brother after the body of the old Raja was found encased (alive) in plaster in the wall of the old palace. Whilst at the rock fortress about 500 court ladies had their portraits painted in a cave on the rock face, and a few still exist today.
In about 1820 the Mahawansa was discovered in a Buddhist monastery in Ceylon by George Turnour, who was a colonial official, and who stared to translate it from the original Pali into Singhalese and then into English. At the turn of the century (about 1900) a colonial engineer found and climbed the rock fortress of Singiria and discovered the picture gallery, with about 22 of the original 500 paintings unravished by the course of time. Five portraits remain today, but nobody knows who they were; one can only surmise. I have used my imagination to give one such lady a name and an identity.
I lived and worked in Sri Lanka and discovered for myself the rock fortress of Singiria, the Mahawansa, and the confirmation of such history by the Governor of Ceylon, Sir James Emerson Tennent, who published his findings in a book published in London by Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts in 1859. I have acquired copies of all these original books.
I have read, and still am reading, the history of Vietnam but I regret it does not have the excitement that the history of Sri Lanka can generate. However, in the 18th Century the Emperor Quang Trung did a lot of work to reorganise society in Vietnam. That is not so much my interest as the wife he married, Le Ngoc Han, reputed to be one of the most beautiful and dynamic ladies in the land, but who died tragically after the sudden death of the Emperor, and will I hope be the subject of my first historical novel on Vietnam.