Dambulla cave temple – Temple in the rock

Dambulla golden cave temple

Dambulla cave temple – Temple in the rock

Dambulla cave temple or Dambulla golden cave temple is one of the most precious ancient sites in The island of Sri Lanka. This ancient temple harbours a large number of murals and sculptures originated many thousands of years ago. Today Dambulla cave temple is an important world heritage site located within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and included in most Sri Lanka road trips.

The temple is fully integrated with the giant rock, therefore that the roofs, walls and the floors practically from the stone. This cave temple is located in the city of Dambulla in the central province of Sri Lanka. It is one of the world heritage sites in the country. Even though it takes a lot of time to reach the temple from the destinations in the west and east coast, where the most tourist resorts are located, it is worth to make a visit to the temple, due to the historical and artistic value of the temple.

Dambulla cave temple - Temple in the rock
Dambulla cave temple – Temple in the rock. The temple is located within the enclosed granite caves and the only front of the temple is decorated with several sturtures.

This temple is occupying five natural caves on a giant rock near Dambulla city, rocky outcrop of the caves is surrounded by a large number of lakes, mountains, valleys, farmlands and patches of forests. It was an ideal location for a peaceful Buddhist hermitage, indeed it had been Buddhist hermitage in the past. The temple was sheltering the King Walagambahu in the 1st century BC, during the troubled period, in which the King lost his throne, due to the South Indian invasions. Later, after regaining his throne, the king had developed the caves into a Buddhist temple complex. It was used as a monastery for many centuries and then neglected due to an undisclosed reason. It fell into oblivion; it was re-discovered by the British colonial rulers in 1800.

The travellers, who wish to see the ancient temple need to climb up a rock, which is about 200 meters from the surrounding area. The temple is located in a rocky outcrop of dry-zone of the country. A giant rock houses the temple of Dambulla. There are several spacious caves about halfway up on the rock. These natural caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks in the early days of Sinhalese civilization. Later the temple was established by King Walagambahu in the 1st century BC. The path to the temple is paved with cement steps but it can be a bit tough due to the rapid climb.  Despite the effort that demands you to pump more adrenaline than for an average rock climb; this fascinating temple is visited by hundreds of thousands of travellers every year. Travellers can enjoy elegant and artistic religious paintings and statues that originated many centuries ago.

Dambulla cave temple comprised of 5 caves and located in the city of Dambulla, Sri Lanka. This cave temple dates back to the Anuradhapura period, Circa 1st century BC. Dambulla cave temple is one of the most visited historical attractions on the island and includes almost every Sri Lanka road trip that includes cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.

It has a great collection of Buddha statues representing Theravada Buddhist traditions. Dambulla cave temple showcases some of the masterpieces of religious paintings and sculptures in Sri Lanka. Dambulla cave temple is located near Sigiriya rock fortress, another masterpiece of ancient engineers and a UNESCO world heritage site. Dambulla cave temple is an important archaeological site of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka; therefore it is explored by the visitors in conjunction with other important places in the cultural triangle such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya.

The image houses built into the rock are decorated with beautiful religious paintings. These paintings show a lot of similarities to the ancient paintings in Ajanta caves. The caves here are arranged like most Buddhist image houses, but they show lot more charm and serenity and the upper part of the rock also keep the hot sun rays away from the caves and moderated the temperature inside. Despite the fact that temple is located in a surrounding with high humidity, the humidity remains at a very high level within caves during most of the time. It has created some negative impact on the ancient wall paintings and some of them are already partly destroyed.

The unique formation of the rock has created a gap with sizable space in which the image houses were built. Even though the rock is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, the oppressive heat is not felt here, due to the constant wind. The opening of the rock is facing the western direction and the wind blows directly into the caves, removing the warm air trapped in the caves.

There is a spacious open passage in front of the caves allowing visitors to move freely at the site. This archaeological site is comprised of five caves. There are about 150 statues here representing Buddha, Gods and a king from the Kandyan era. The view from the caves commands awe-inspiring scenery over the surrounding paddy fields and reservoirs of dry-zone. Therefore temple does not only allow the visitors to see some of the ancient religious paintings and statues of Sri Lanka but also discover the natural beauty of the dry-zone.

30 meters high gold plated seated Buddha statue at Dambulla cave temple
30 meters high gold plated seated Buddha statue at Dambulla cave temple

Guide to the Dambulla cave temple

Dambulla cave temple is located near the city of Dambulla, on a granite rock which rises abruptly from the ground. The climbing of the granite rock is starting from the eastern side of the rock. The first few meters of the climbing goes through the slightly slippery stone surface and several steps in between. At the end of the initial climbing, there is a platform, where one can have a nice view of the beautiful surrounding. There are numbers of street vendors here, who are selling souvenirs, artefact, postcards, T-shirts, shirts, flowers and fruits for visitors.

The rest of the climbing to the temple is much easier than the first part due to the well-formed steps. The steps are broad and wide even though they may be bit high. There are about 250 steps in the second part of climbing and takes about twenty minutes to reach the end of the steps. The entrance of the temple is located after the second part of the climbing and one can have a magnificent view over the surrounding vegetation from the main door. There is a number of rice field and tanks around the Dambulla rock. Dambulla is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka and the area is grown with dry zone evergreen vegetation. Beautiful isolated hills also can be seen from the summit of the rock. One can see the Sigiriya rock from the distance if the weather is clear. One reaches the inscription of King Nissankamalla from Polonnaruwa at about halfway up on the climbing after the platform.

The second part of the climbing ends up in an open flat area on the rock and the entrance to the Dambulla cave temple follows.  The magnitude size doors of the temple stay opened during the visiting hours. Just after entering the temple premises, one can see the Bo tree and the caves are located towards the left-hand side.

Devaraja-lena

First cave is known as Devaraja-lena, which houses the biggest reclining Buddha statues of the temple, the statue is 14 meters long. Reclining Buddha statue is hew to the granite rock. There are several more statues in the first cave such as Vishu Statue, a statue of Ananada thera and meditation Buddha statue.

Maharaja-lena

Being the biggest cave (60m long and 15m in height) in the temple, Maharaja-lena houses 66 Buddha statues in various sizes. Maharaja-lena considered being the most beautiful cave in this world heritage site. Buddha statues in the second cave belong to different periods and different rulers. Most of the statues had been adorned with gold during the 12th century AD. Other than the Buddha statues one can find several god-figures in the second cave alone with beautiful paintings that covers a large part of the inner surface of the cave.

Devaraja-lena

The third cave of the temple is known as Devaraja-lena, which is the youngest cave in the temple. Here one can find a statue of the last king of Sri Lanka, Kirti Sree Rajasinghe.

Pachima Vihara

This is the fourth cave of the temple and houses number of Buddha statues, one miniature dagoba and number of paintings. Most of the paintings are in bad condition due to the high humidity in the cave.

Devana Alut Vihara

Last cave of the temple houses large reclining Buddha statue with several other statues that are in meditation and standing postures.

Controversy over the unauthorized mosque in Dambulla

The government of Sri Lanka has taken necessary actions to stop the constructions of the controversial mosque in Dambulla sacred area of the Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya. The controversial mosque will be built in another location in Dambulla. The controversy of an unauthorized mosque in the sacred area of Dambulla had caused a minor friction among the Buddhist and Muslim community in the island. Being the minister of Buddhist affairs and religious affairs, Hon Prime minister D.M. Jayaratne has taken prompt action to solve the religious agitation in the area.

A special meeting was held with the participation of authorities and the Prime Minister and the addressing the gathering Prime Minister instructed the authorities to take necessary actions to build the mosque in a Dambulla and ensure the Islamic community can carry out their religious activities without any hindrance.

Further to Prime Minister, the all Muslim countries are having very friendly and cordial relationship with Sri Lanka and such minor issues should not be allowed to make conflict situations. Creating problems among the communities and religious groups cannot be acceptable any manner.

The meeting was attended by Muslim religious leaders, Minister A.H.M Fowzie, Western Province Governor Alavi Mowlana, Minister Abdul Cader and Minister M.L.A.M Hisbullah

Development of sacred Dambulla area

Development of sacred area in Dambulla Sri Lanka will be completed within next six months by the government of Sri Lanka. It was revealed by the secretary to the ministry of Buddha Sasana.

The meeting was held at Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara with the participation of including several government authorities and several monks. Asgiri Chief Prelate, Ven. Udugama Buddharakkitha Thero and Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara Ven. Inamaluwe Sumangala Thero has also attended the meeting. Secretary to the ministry said that the government will take all the necessary steps to remove unauthorized buildings, once the sacred area plan is completed.

The government has decided to remove all the unauthorized building in Dambulla after the dispute over an unauthorized mosque in Dambulla sacred area. A huge protest was organized by the Buddhist people in the area with the participation of several Buddhist monks, against a mosque located in the sacred area. The dispute as solved by the religious affairs minister D.M Jayarathne after a lengthy discussion with Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders.

The development of Dambulla sacred area is initiated after the dispute between few Buddhist monks and Muslim community in Dambulla. The dispute has generated political and religious unrest in the country.

How to get there

Dambulla cave temple is located near the city of Dambulla and the temple is only 200 meters away from the city centre. After arriving the Dambulla city the travellers need to have a short drive or a walk in the direction of Kandy on A9 main road. The modern part of the Dambulla temple is located adjoining the main road and the historical Dambulla cave temple (world heritage site ) is located Behind the modern part of the temple. The most prominent landmark of the temple is the 30 meters high gold coloured seated Buddha statue, which is clearly visible to passerby.

Hotels in Dambulla

There are several high-end hotels in Dambulla. Most hotels are concentrated around Dambulla lake, which is most picturesque part of Dambulla where the natural beauty at its best. This area is very rich of trees and plants and away from the hustle bustle from the busy city. There are several other properties in the area catering to low-budget travellers such as guest houses and rest houses. The number of accommodation providers in Dambulla is very low compared to other popular places with a historical background such as Sigiriya. Therefore a large number of the tourist base in Sigiriya or Habarana and make a short tour (30 minutes drive from Habana to Dambulla) to the Dambulla cave temple.

Entrance fees for Dambulla rock cave temple

The entrance fees of Dambulla cave temple is 1500 Rs (USD 10) per person and it is valid only for 1 visit.

Guiding at Dambulla cave temple

Dambulla cave temple is a historical monument with rich historical past. The temple is comprised of a large number of statues and murals dating back to many centuries. Having a local guide is the best way to learn about this world heritage site. There are many stories and folklores involved with this important religious site. If you have a guidebook on Sri Lanka it might contain only the basic information on this temple but if you wish to know the information on the detail you can hire a local guide, who are ready to help you.

The temple tour lasts about 1 hours but the duration might vary depending on your interest. The Dambulla cave temple opens daily from 6.00 AM to 6.00 PM

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