Sigiriya (Lion's rock) is a large stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. A popular tourist destination, Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescos), which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves of India. It is one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees of the Buddhist Sangha. According to the chronicles as Mahavamsa the entire complex was built by King Kashyapa (AD 477 â€“ 495), and after the king's death, it was used as a Buddhist monastery until 14th century.The Sigiri inscriptions were deciphered by the archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana in his renowned two-volume work, published by Cambridge, Sigiri Graffiti and also Story of Sigiriya.
John Still in 1907 suggested, "The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery.
the largest picture in the world perhaps". The paintings would have covered most of the western face
of the rock, covering an area 140 metres long and 40 metres high. There are references in the graffiti
to 500 ladies in these paintings. However, many more are lost forever, having been wiped out when the
Palace once more became a monastery - so that they would not disturb meditation.
Some more frescoes, different from the popular collection, can be seen elsewhere on the rock surface,
for example on the surface of the location called the "Cobra Hood Cave". Although the frescoes are
classified as in the Anuradhapura period, the painting style is considered unique  the
line and style of application of the paintings differing from Anuradhapura paintings.
The lines are painted in a form which enhances
the sense of volume of the figures. The paint has
been applied in sweeping
strokes, using more pressure on one side, giving
the effect of a deeper colour tone towards the edge.
Other paintings of the Anuradhapura period contain
similar approaches to painting, but do not have the
sketchy lines of the Sigiriya style, having a distinct
artists' boundary line. The true identity of the ladies
in these paintings still have not been confirmed.
There are various ideas about their identity. Some
believe that they are the wives of the king while some think that they are women taking part in
religious observances. These pictures have a close resemblance to some of the paintings seen in
the ajanta caves in IndiaThe frescoes, depicting beautiful female figures in graceful contour or colour,
point to the direction of the Kandy temple, sacred to the Sinhalese.