Hidden in a cave along the citadel at Sigiriya are some of the most magnificent ancient frescoes in South Asia.
Halfway on Sigiriya-rock, you can see very special mural paintings. They are non-religious representations of women, of which some have been preserved very well. Some sources even say that the whole western face of the rock used to be covered with these paintings (of 500 women).
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, an area 140 metres long and 40 metres high. There are references in the graffiti to 500 ladies in these paintings. However, most have been lost forever. More frescoes, different from those on the rock face, can be seen elsewhere, for example on the ceiling 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 India