Sigiriya Fresco

Sigiriya Fresco

Analysis into 5th century Sigiriya Fresco

Sigiriya, a popular world heritage site in Sri Lanka is known to the world as one of the great inventions of ancient engineers and artisans of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya holds reputation being one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. Sigiriya fresco is another reason for its popularity in the world. The mystery of World renowned Sigiriya fresco (5th Century AD) as to who painted the beautiful maidens went on despite the many archaeological types of research at the site.

Sigiriya is one of the most popular world heritage sites in the island and included in most Sri Lanka road trips due to its historical and artistic value. Sigiriya lies within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and it is only 15 km from Dambulla golden cave temple.

sigiriya fortress

Explore Sigiriya fresco on our 2 days tour

Murray an Englishman was the first one to take on the arduous task of climbing the precarious rock in the late 19th century and was successful in making drawings of the frescoes. From then onward, there was no stopping the archaeologists and historians who climbed the rock to know more about the intricate designs. Even at present, the work is going on.

Sigiriya fresco is exquisitely painted in brilliant colours and these paintings resemble the Ajantha painting in India. The fresco does not show any religious influence and they represent the King Kashyapa’s court. According to the inscription found at the site, which suggests that there had been five hundred such paintings on the site. But at the time of discovery, most of them were destroyed and only twenty-one of them were re-discovered. The dark ladies were referred to as cloud maidens and the light-skinned ones as the lightning princess. These figures look very sensuous and have aroused inflicting emotions in visitors down the years.

Guide to Sigiriya rock fortress

These damsels have high foreheads shaping their faces with enticing doe eyes, a rose coloured blush on their cheeks and lips like lotus buds look down from the gallery where they reside. These lovely maidens wear blouses of the gossamer veil, the texture of which is silken cobwebs woven in the wind, seven layers of this diaphanous material is like evening dew on the grass and similar to running water. Lovely maidens have dressed their hair piled up high to show their oval face of lustrous complexions.  They have heavy breasts and their eyes express moods from vivacity to serenity. They wear elaborate jewels on their hair, ears and arms. Large hooped earrings dangle from their ears and they wear armlets as well as bangles. Numerous necklaces, some having large pendants too are worn. They are standing in a row carrying flowers, trays of flowers bestowing the most enigmatic of smiles.

sigirirya fresco

Maidens stand looking on one side as if they are going to a nearby temple Pidurangala (Sigiriya, Dambulla, Pidurangala). These maidens have been in their eyrie heights of half up the 180-meter rock face. At the time a rock face of about 150 meters in length with full of paintings, would have formed one of the largest picture galleries of the world.

Sri Lanka paintings

Greatly inspired by the Sigiriya beauties many viewers had inscribed verses to them on the walls below the mirror wall and walls of the caves below. They are known as Sigiriya graffiti and are dated from 6th Century AD to the 14th century. Nearly 700 of them have been identified and recorded.  Such revealing comments of the paintings provide an insight to the cultivated sensibilities of the time and its appreciation of art and beauty. A male admirer had scratched his verse as “the ladies who wear golden chains on their breasts beckon me, now I have seen these resplendent ladies, heaven has lost its appeal for me”.

The technique of foremost wall paintings of any period in any part of the world

Sigiriya fresco is dating back to the 5th century AD. Centuries past, these frescoes are still the same as it had been many centuries ago. A large amount of painting has disappeared on the wrath of nature, through the rain, wind and strong sun rays. But the remains of the in the Sigiriya fresco pocket are still in very good condition, largely due to the advanced techniques of the ancient artisans.


The ground of the Sigiriya fresco is in general laid in three layers, clay reinforced by paddy husks and other organic fibres, clay mixed with lime and sand, and a plaster richer in lime than the previous layer. A final overall coating of lime was applied and towelled smooth to receive the colours which are the three traditional earth colours of the ancient painter’s palette- red ochre, yellow ochre and green earth. the technique of painting has been shown to be an oil emulsion tempera with gum. This is the earliest example, adequately dated, of a painting which is known to contain a drying oil in the binding medium both in the laying of the ground as well as in the paint layer.

The extreme perilous conditions under which the western face of the enormous rock was painted, the high quality of the technique adopted as such an early period, the clear and beautiful line work, the mellowness of the shading, all contribute to placing the Sigiriya paintings the foremost wall paintings of any period in any part of the world.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

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