The Dambulla Cave Temple is located in Sri Lanka. It is one of the important historical monuments in Sri Lanka. In other words, the place is known as the “Golden Temple”. In Sinhala, the Royal Cave Temple of Dambulla temple is known as “Dambulla Raja Maha Viharaya”. Since the temple was built in ancient times and was maintained by the Kings, they have a significant historical value. For the Buddhists, the cave temple is a very important place for the Buddhists. Anyone exploring the central parts of Sri Lanka should explore this wonderful place. It is situated 30 km southwest from one of the eighth wonders of the world, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
Importance of Dambulla Cave Temple
The Cave Temple of Dambulla is an important place to check out when visiting Sri Lanka. It is the Largest and best-preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. Due to its importance, the temple is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since past times, Dambulla Cave Temple is occupied by Buddhist hermits and monks.
For a person who is looking to study the history of Buddhism, Dambulla Cave Temple is an ideal place. It’s murals, statues provide interesting facts to study the history of Sri Lanka, it’s artistic skills and Buddhism.
Brief History of Dambulla Cave Temple
The Dambulla Cave Temple dates back from third and Second centuries BC. During that time period, the monastery was established as one of the largest monasteries in Sri Lanka. Since then, the temple is considered as a major centre for Buddhism. It is recorded that King Valagamba (89–77 BC) of Anuradhapura has converted this cave into a temple. During his reign, the Cave Temple of Dambulla was massively developed. In 1190, King Nissankamalla of Polonnaruwa (1187 – 1196 AD) added 70 Buddha statues to the cave temple.
The cave was restored and painted during the Kandyan period in the 18th century. This is why we see Kandyan era paintings around the temple.
How to reach to Dambulla?
The historical Cave Temple is situated in Dambulla which is situated in the Central Province, Matale District. It is located 74 km north of the world famous Kandy city. From Colombo, the shortest way to Dambulla is via Kurunegala which is 159 km. Approximately, it may take a 4-6 hour drive from Colombo.
Visiting the Caves
When visiting Dambulla Cave Temples, the visitors should cover their shoulders and knees and the hats should be taken off. You can visit the temple from 7 am to 7 pm. Note the ticket counter closes at 5 pm. It is better to take the tickets before closing. The entry fee may cost 1,500 LKR per adult.
5 Major Cave Temples in Dambulla
The Dambulla Cave Temple’s rock is 160m in height. There are more than 80 caves have been found. Only five caves are the major attractions for the tourists. Each of these caves has significant paintings and statues.
- The Cave of ‘Lord of the Gods’ (Deva Raja Viharaya)
- The Cave of ‘Great Kings’ (Maha Raja Viharaya)
- The Cave of ‘ Great New Temple’ (Maha Aluth Viharaya)
- The Cave of ‘Western Temple’(Paschima Viharaya)
- The Cave of ‘ Second New Temple’ (Devana Alut Viharaya)
The Cave of ‘Lord of the Gods’ (Deva Raja Viharaya)
In Dambulla Cave Temple, this is the first cave that a visitor comes first through the gateway. The major attraction inside this cave is the 47 feet long reclining Buddha statue that depicts the Parinibbana(the last moment) of the Buddha. The statue is well preserved to date. Near the colossal statue, a statue of Venerable Ananda can be found. Venerable Ananda is a devoted disciple of Lord Buddha. There are more wall and ceiling paintings in this cave. Unfortunately, they seem damaged.
The Cave of ‘Great Kings’ (Maha Raja Viharaya)
The Maha Raja Viharaya is Viharaya is also known as “the cave of Great Kings” This cave is the largest and most magnificent among the caves in Dambulla Cave Temple. It is believed the cave is called is Maha Raja Viharaya, because King Valagamba found this cave and assisted its creation.
The cave is well preserved and is painted in brilliant colours. There are many Buddha statues and they vary in different sizes and different postures. There are some stupas that are about 18 feet in height. The circular pedestal is ornamented with four figures of Buddha. The statues of King Valagamba and King Nissankamalla can be found as well as the statues of gods like Saman, Upulvan, Maithree and Natha can be found here.
On the rock ceiling, thousands of murals have been painted. The rock paintings portray historical Buddhist events. One of the main attractions in the life-size standing Buddha statue with a Dragon Arch (Makara Torana) above this statue. This granite statue is said to be one of the glided statues done by King Nissankamalla. The parts of gold can still be seen.
The Cave of ‘ Great New Temple’ (Maha Aluth Viharaya)
To enter into this cave temple, there are two doorways with Dragon Arch Designs. There are more than 50 Buddha statues in this cave, 42 standing and 15 seated Buddha statues. There is a 30 feet reclining Buddha statue built out of the living rock from the cave itself. You can find a seated Buddha statue with a dragon arch which is constructed in the centre of the cave.
The cave was built by King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy (1747 – 1782 AD). The statue of the King is found on the right side of the entrance. The cave walls are decorated with Kandyan-era mural paintings.
The Cave of ‘Western Temple’(Paschima Viharaya)
The main attraction in the cave is the seated Buddha statue with Dragon Arch. There are nearly identical seated Buddha statues around the cave. There is a small dagoba in the cave which is known as ‘Soma Chethiya’. It is said the jewellery of King Valagamba’s Queen Somawathi is placed inside the dagoba. There are statues of God Vishu and Saman in the cave.
The Cave of ‘ Second New Temple’ (Devana Alut Viharaya)
This is the newest of the five caves in the Dambulla Cave Temple. This has no historical value. It was built during the recent past. A large reclined Buddha statue about 32 feet in length can be found here. There are many Buddha statues both standing and sitting. Unlike statues in other caves which are made of granite rock, the statues in this cave are built with brick and plaster.
The Dambulla Cave Temple is a great place to visit. You can explore the arts and crafts of ancient Sri Lankans from this place. The murals in the Golden Temple is a treat to watch.