The ‘Maidens of the Clouds’, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Since our recent Facebook photo proved popular we thought we’d post a few more of these wonderful images – the ‘Maidens of the Clouds’ from Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. So called because these wonderful frescoes are found halfway up a sheer cliff at the ancient site, and UNESCO World Heritage listed, Sigiriya rock fortress in Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’. The rock shelters and grottoes, (more overhangs really), are thought to have been sacred sites for Buddhist worshippers since the 3rd century BCE whilst in the 5th century CE a king Kassapa contructed his capital here including a fortified palace on the rock’s summit.

Sigiriya
Sigiriya, overview

The frescoes are found around halfway up the rock face with Kassapa’s palace on the summit and further temples, palace buildings and Royal Gardens spread around the base of the outcrop.

Sigiriya frescoes
Sigiriya frescoes

There are apparently, (UNESCO counted them not us), 21 of these ‘maidens’ painted on the rock face though no-one is either sure of their definite age or indeed who they are supposed to represent.

The king's concubines?
The king’s concubines?

They certainly look intended to represent real people: each face is different, they’re not Angkor style ‘Apsaras’ or even recongisable characters from Buddhist mythology and ladened with jewelry and well tended by their servants are also clearly important personages.

Palace VIPs?
Palace VIPs?

Palace concubines may be a good bet? (Interesting to note what appear to be the extended earlobes.)

Flowers feature heavily in the frecoes
Flowers feature heavily in the frecoes

The rock itself towers some 200 m over the surrounding flat plateau and whilst it can be a bit of a struggle up the steps to the top the views are tremendous. Best time of day obviously is early morning, ideally dawn, when temperatures are low and the crowds haven’t arrived at this popular site yet.

Sigiriya, view from top
Sigiriya, view from top

A visit to Sigiriya is included in both our classic Sri Lanka tour, ‘Isle of Serendipity’ as well as our upcoming off the beaten track Sri Lanka itinerary to central and northern parts of the island.

Cheers!

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