Weather, offerings calm wasps at Lankan heritage site

Agence France Presse

Colombo, May 4:

Venomous wasps which attacked tourists at a fifth-century Sri Lankan rock fortress have calmed down after offerings to deities and improved weather, an official said today. The World Heritage site will reopen partially from tomorrow with access limited to the 1,500-year-old frescoes of bare-chested women known as Sigiriya maidens. The insect colony at the Sigiriya fortress, also known as the Lion Rock, was quiet today, four days after the wasps stung around 300 local and foreign holidaymakers, manager Cyril Hevavitharana said. He said a few workers were stung yesterday but offerings of alms and cash at the foot of the 180-metre structure appeared to have calmed the wasps.

“The weather has also improved and with increased winds the wasps tend to settle in their hives rather than buzz around and attack tourists,” Hevavitharana said. “We will open only a section of Sigiriya tomorrow and allow visitors up to the frescoes,” he said. “We will not allow visitors to get on top passing the area where the nests are located.” Hundreds of thousands of tourists come each year to the fortress to see the frescoes of the Sigiriya maidens and are advised to keep quiet so as not to upset the wasps.

The privately-run Island newspaper said overcrowding was a major threat to the heritage site and applauded the wasps for keeping down tourists. The paper said the wasps were the reincarnation of soldiers of King Kasyapa who built the fortress and they were “performing their historic assignment.” “Let us hope that Kasyapa’s guardians now keeping jealous watch over those beautiful damsels, as they have done for centuries, continue to perform their royal assignment and puncture the bums in minis and hot pants that come in their thousands to disturb them,” it said.