Dambulla is one of the most amazing places I have visited with nature combined with cultural vale. Dambulla is situated in the Matale district, Central province of Sri Lanka. It’s around 150 Km (90 miles) to the northeast of Colombo which the capital of Sri Lanka. From Kandy which is the second capital of Sri Lanka Dambulla is nearly 72km (45 miles) away.
Dedicated Economic Centre- Dambulla
Dambulla is famous for many things in Sri Lanka. One is its huge market. Mostly vegetables and fruits are distributed in the market. Dambulla dedicated economic centers provide its customers and salesmen with many facilities such as 24 hrs. Security, Parking facility, Bank units and Police Security Points, Other Infrastructure facilities etc. There are more than 155 trade stalls available on the premises where you can purchase vegetables, fruits, dry fish and other groceries. Some restaurants are located there as well. You can visit the market practically any day as it is open 24 hours every day except for Poya day. Poya day is a religious day Sri Lankans celebrate every month. If you want to get a sense of everyday local life in Sri Lanka Dambulla economic center is never to miss.
Dambulla cave temple
But the main attraction of the areas is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex of Dambulla. It is absolutely amazing without any doubt. If you have enjoyed ancient artifact hunting movies like the one with Angelina Jolie in it, then you are going to have an amazing time visiting the temple complex. Dambulla cave temple, in Singhalese known as Dambulu Len Viharaya, is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla. There is a huge Golden Buddha Statue in the temple. Though I’m not very sure, maybe that’s the reason for the name. Again I must mention that the caves are absolutely amazing taking you to another world.
There are more than 80 documented caves in the premises apparently. But the majority of visitors only visit around five or six caves only. Inside these caves are decorated with ancient Buddha statues and artifacts as shown in the pictures. Walls are painted with ancient drawings. All these paintings, statues, artifacts, structures are related to Buddhism and Gautama Buddha. There is a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include Vishnu and the Ganesha. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square meters (23,000 sq. ft.). Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara and Buddha’s first sermon.
The five main caves were built at a rock base which is situated 150m higher from the ground. This geographical characteristic gives you the ability to get a panoramic view of the surrounding from the up above. You can even see Sigiriya, the rock fortress, which is another popular tourist destination situated close by, around 20 km away from the temple caves.
Main Caves in the Temple
Largest cave is called Devaraja Lena in the native language which as the meaning of “The cave if the divine king”. The main feature of this cave is the 14-meter statue of the Buddha, hewn out of the rock. At the feet of the Buddha it is said that his favorite student, Ananda is represented while at the head of the statue is Vishnu who is believed to have used his divine power to build the cave. These are all stories written in the history. So it’s up to you to decide to what extent you believe it or not. 🙂
The second largest cave is called “The cave of the great king”. The paintings in this cave are honestly amazing. It actually calms your mind for some reason, looking at those colors. Distinctive tempera paintings on the cave ceiling date back to the 18th century. They represent scenes from Buddha’s life, from the dream of Mahamaya, the mother of Gautama Buddha, to temptation by the demon Mara (Death). All the pictures and paintings here tell an important story from the country’s history. Also, there are 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha in the cave. Besides those, there are also statues of gods such as Saman and Vishnu which devoted visitors and pilgrims often decorate with garlands. These garlands are available to perchance inside the premises. When you climb the rock you can meet locals selling these garlands and also many other types of souvenirs as well. Not only that in these caves some of the great kings who rules Sri Lanka are honorably represented. One is King Vattagamani Abhaya, who honored the monastery in the 1st century BC. Another is King Nissanka Malla, responsible in the 12th century for the gilding of 50 statues, as indicated by a stone inscription near the monastery entrance.
Another main feature of this cave is the spring. It is believed that this water from a rock crack has healing powers. You will get into the mood of believing these stories once you enter these heavenly caves. Trust me ;).
The third most significant cave is called the Maha Aluth Vihara, which has the meaning “The Great New Monastery”. It is famous for its paintings which are related to a certain painting style in Sri Lankan history, Kandy Style. It is said that the King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, the famous Buddhist revivalist made a huge contribution to the creation of these paintings. Therefore in addition to the 50 Buddha statues, a statue of the king is also there.
Extra amazing facts about the cave temple
It is believed that prehistoric ancestors might have lived in the caves before Buddhism. Because there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibbankatuwa which is also near the Dambulla cave complexes.
Fees and Recommendations
There will be a small entrance fee of around 10 USD to the cave temple. But I would say it’s totally worth it. J . The Cave temple is opened from 7 Am to 7 pm. You can spend however the time you want in these caves. However, if you are on a schedule I would advise allocating at least one or two hours in the caves to fully enjoy the site. You can arrive Dambulla from Colombo in about 4 hours.
I hope you enjoy the article and find it useful. If you have any questions regarding the destination shoot me a comment. I will absolutely try my best to answer you. J Hope you get a chance to explore and enjoy the divinity of the caves. Keep Travelling.