Dambulla Cave Temple
Towering 160m over Sri Lanka’s central plains is the beautifully preserved Dambulla Cave Temple, the largest cave temple complex in the country.
The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to 157 Buddha images, stunning paintings and an array of spectacular Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100m2).
The main attractions of the temple are spread over five caves: Devaraja Viharaya, Maharaja Viharaya, Maha Alut Viharaya, Pachima Viharaya and Devana Alut Viharaya. All caves are filled with beautiful Buddha figures, but perhaps the most impressive is the Maharaja Viharaya, otherwise known as the “Temple of the Great King”. Here you will find incredible statues of the two Kings: Valagamba and Nissanka Mala – giving the cave its name. The main feature of this cave is the life-size granite Buddha statue, which appears to have once been covered in gold leaf. It is because of the gold traces found on the statue, experts believe that it may be one of the gilded statues completed by Nissanka Mala. The Maharaja Cave is also the largest, measuring in at 52m by 23m with a 7m high ceiling. From the ceiling, is a constant drip of water that collects in a vessel to be used for sacred rituals.
The cave temples is said to have been built during the reign of King Valagamba around the 1st century BC. While he was seeking refuge from the South Indian invasion - he is said to have been forced into hiding here for 15 years. After reclaiming his kingdom, Valagamba built a temple inside the caves here as a marker of his gratitude for its protection. After the reign of King Valagamba, the site became a place of residence for Buddhist monks. Over the centuries, different Kings have added to the caves, embellishing and renovating here and there to make it the major religious centre it is today.
Interested in a Sri Lanka holiday? Call our specialists on 020 7622 5120 for help planning a tailor-made trip.