Dambulla

Overview

Dambulla is a small town located at a distance of 19 km from Sigriya on the Sigriya-Kandy road. Dambulla has over 80 caves in the surrounding and some of them have been used by the monks as meditation locations.Dambulla is one of the major tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, which is famous for the Cave Temple Complex dating back to 2nd century BC. The city is located in the Matale District, Central Province, at a distance of 148 km from Colombo and 72 km from Kandy. An interesting fact about Dambulla is that UNESCO has declared it as a part of Sri Lankas Cultural Triangle. The unique and long history of the city renders a certain mystic charm about Dambulla. The caves in Dambulla are believed to be one of the largest monasteries in the country. The city of Dambulla experiences moderate climate throughout the year, with the average minimum temperature recorded as 22 C, which can go up to 31 C. along with its pleasant weather conditions, another good thing about Dambulla is its connectivity to places within the country. The city is well-connected to prominent destinations like Colombo and Kandy by road. However, due to the lack of an international airport in Dambulla, tourists have to travel to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, from where they can easily reach this beautiful place.

Other places of tourist interest are Iron Wood Forest and Rose Quartz Mountain. The site was declared as a human sanctuary by King Dappula in 10 century AD. Trees believed to have been planted by those who sought sanctuary here, later on turned into a vast plantation of Iron wood forest. Apart from the biodiversity of the site as it contains many other plants, it is also geologically important because of the Rose Quartz mountain range in the garden, which is believed to be over 500 million years old. White, rose and violet colour quartz deposits can be seen here.

 

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Attractions and Places to Visit

Cave Temple

The beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely stunning Buddha statues and paintings, some of Sri Lanka's most important and evocative religious art. Buddha images were first created here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art. From the caves there are superb views over the surrounding countryside; Sigiriya is clearly visible some 20km distant. The beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely stunning Buddha statues and paintings, some of Sri Lanka's most important and evocative religious art. Buddha images were first created here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art. From the caves there are superb views over the surrounding countryside; Sigiriya is clearly visible some 20km distant.

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Aukana Buddha

Aukana Buddha: According to legend, the magnificent 12m-high standing Aukana Buddha was sculpted during the reign of Dhatusena in the 5th century, though some sources date it to the 12th or 13th century. Aukana means ‘sun-eating’, and dawn – when the first rays light up the huge statue’s finely carved features – is the best time to see it. Note that although the statue is still narrowly joined at the back to the rock face it is cut from, the lotus plinth on which it stands is a separate piece. The Buddha’s pose, ashiva mudra, signifies blessings, while the burst of fire above his head represents the power of total enlightenment. You’ll need a sarong to visit the statue; the ticket office is at the top of the first set of steep steps. A couple of vendors sell drinks near the parking area.

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Dambulla Musem

Re-creations of art from the cave temples, artefacts and detailed English-language explanations are presented in a large building some 500m south of the main caves' parking area. The displays are a good primer on Sri Lankan art – from cave paintings to 18th-century frescoes. Staff are keen to show you around.

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Golden Temple

At the foot of the cave temples hill stands the modern Golden Temple, a kitschy structure completed in 2000 using Japanese donations. On top of the cube-shaped building sits a Buddha image in the dhammachakka mudra (wheel-turning pose) and a huge neon sign.

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Cave I (Devaraja Viharaya)

The first cave, the Temple of the King of the Gods, has a 15m-long reclining Buddha. Ananda, the Buddha’s loyal disciple, and other seated Buddhas are depicted nearby. A statue of Vishnu is held in a small shrine within the cave, but it’s usually closed.

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Cave II (Maharaja Viharaya)

The Temple of the Great King is arguably the most spectacular of the caves. It measures 52m from east to west and 23m from the entrance to the back wall; the highest point of the ceiling is 7m. This cave is named after the two statues of kings it contains. There is a painted wooden statue of Valagamba on the left as you enter, and another statue further inside of Nissanka Malla.

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Cave III (Maha Alut Viharaya)

This cave, the New Great Temple, was said to have been converted from a storeroom in the 18th century by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy, one of the last Kandyan monarchs. It is also filled with Buddha statues, including a beautiful reclining Buddha, and is separated from Cave II by only a masonry wall.

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Cave IV (Pachima Viharaya)

The relatively small Western Cave is not the most westerly cave – that position belongs to Cave V. The central Buddha figure is seated under a makara torana, with its hands in dhyana mudra (a meditative pose in which the hands are cupped). The small dagoba in the centre was broken into by thieves who believed that it contained jewellery belonging to Queen Somawathie.  

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Cave V (Devana Alut Viharaya)

This newer cave was once used as a storehouse, but it’s now called the Second New Temple. It features a reclining Buddha; Hindu deities, including Kataragama (Murugan) and Vishnu, are also present.  

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