A spoonful of wildlife, a pinch of culture, plus a dash of truly exotic holiday destinations; Sri Lanka is where smart travelers come to live the tropical dream. Aside from all the hype about romantic beaches and irresistible wildlife parks, this is also where you can find some amazing history and culture. And if that grabs your attention, you’re probably going to love historical attractions like Anuradhapura, Adam’s Peak and Polonnaruwa. Among these sacred locations, another place of special interest is the Dambulla Cave Temple.
This much beloved religious ground dates back several centuries and is a celebrated world heritage site. The place is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla.
The Dambulla Cave Temple is 148 Km east of Colombo and 72 Km north of Kandy. Coming in from Colombo? Your quickest route would be through Kurunegala. Check out the map below.
This site is pretty much the largest and the most well-preserved rock temple in Sri Lanka. The beautiful rock-sculpted temple rises over 160 m above the surrounding road. It sits snugly over the town’s southern reaches; a monumental piece of Buddhist history. This astounding network of caves is believed to have been developed into a temple sometime in the 1st century BC. The site was first used as a base by the warrior King Valagamba, who later claimed his throne at Anuradhapura. Later on, the King is said to have transformed this labyrinth of caves into an array of simply stunning rock temples. Fascinating!
Kings that came into power over the subsequent years have added their own touches to the Dambulla Cave Temple. Today, the place is essentially one breathtaking tapestry of superior workmanship and skill.
An experience to take your breath away, the very sight of this ancient wonder inspires the nomad within you. For the most part, the cave surfaces are bare and smoothly black with very little wood work to be seen. You’ll find five separate caves, each holding precious monuments and priceless artwork. There’s also over a whopping 150 pieces of unique paintings and statues that you can see here. Most of the work you’ll be seeing in these caves rank among Sri Lanka’s most important religious artifacts.
Much of the paintings and monuments to be seen here are those added by various Kings over the ages. The caves interiors have also been gilded with gold, a touch added by the devout King Nissankamalla.
Don’t forget to take a peek at the surroundings below you from the caves! The views are just astonishingly beautiful and you can even see Sigiriya in the distance.
The main attraction in the first cave is a stunning carving that depicts the last moments of the Buddha’s life. This monument is about 47 feet long and beautifully detailed. A number of images that portray other religious moments can also be seen here.
The second cave at the Dambulla Cave Temple is easily the largest and most ornate one. This cave features striking paintings on almost every visible surface. The colors are excellently preserved and the overall brilliance of the room is breathtaking. You’ll find 53 different artifacts here, most of them being Buddha statues set at different heights in the cave.
The third cave is slightly less dramatic than the second. You’ll see about fifty figures of the Buddha here. These statues are said to have been carved from natural rock. There’s even a curiously realistic look about them. The cave interiors have all been beautifully painted to display the various milestones in the life of the Buddha before his enlightenment.
The fourth cave at the Dambulla Cave Temple holds ten statues of the Buddha. The main attraction here is a meditating Buddha figure placed under an arched gateway and painted to perfection. There is also a small stupa set at the center of the cave. Totally rad! The interior surfaces here, like all the other caves, are covered in graceful paintings that depict various Buddhist stories.
The fascinating Sigiriya rock fortress is only 12 miles away from the Dambulla Cave Temple. Another location that you wouldn’t want to miss in the area is Kurunegala. A tiny town of culture and kingly history, Kurunegala was once a capital of the ancient Kings. There are several curious attractions and historical sites to keep you hooked there.