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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Joanna James Joanna James
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Attractions in Dambulla – Ancient Town of Buddhist Heritage

Dambulla is best known for its network of cave temples while being part of Sri Lanka's cultural triangle. Dambulla is quite fascinating to explore if you love tradition and culture. Read on for more.


Dambulla Cave Temple – Golden Temple of Dambulla

The place is a World Heritage Site since 1991; also called the Golden Temple of Dambulla this network of cave temples are the best preserved across the nation. It's located 148kms from the commercial capital Colombo and is based amongst a huge rock that reaches a height of 160 metres. There are over 80 recorded caves in the complex while the main attractions are centred around the five main caves. The beautiful artefacts within these caves consist of paintings and statues that bear relevance to the life of the Gautama Buddha. Some of the country's best statues and paintings are found within these caves dating back to almost 2,000 years. From the summit of the rock, you are rewarded with clear views across the land with heritage city Sigiriya clearly visible 20kms away.


Cave I – Devaraja Viharaya

This is the cave dubbed Temple of the King of Gods; it is the first in the network. Within you will come across a 15-metre long statue of the reclining Buddha. In addition, there are statues of Ananda the Buddha's faithful follower as well as other statues of the Buddha in various poses. There is also a small cave here within which a statue of Hindu God Vishnu is found; mind you this part of the temple is generally closed to the public and offers limited viewing.


Cave II – Maharaja Viharaya

This is the temple of the great king and is quite rightly the most stunning of all five caves. Its circumference is measured as 52 metres from west to east and 23 metres from the entrance all the way to the back while the ceiling at its highest measures at 7 metres. The cave is home to two statues of great kings; hence the name. These are two of the islands greatest monarchs King Valagamba and King Nissanka Mala.


Cave III – Maha Aluth Viharaya

The name means the 'New Great Temple'. It is believed the temple before being transformed to its current status by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe was a store room. Separated by a brick wall from Cave II this place houses many Buddha statues.


Cave IV – Pachima Viharaya

Located on the western edge this is a small cave. You will find a statue of the seated Buddha under a Makara thorana a type of mythical dragon image. The statue's hands are depicted in the dhyana mudra meditative pose.


Cave V – Devana Alut Viharaya

Here you will come across statues of the reclining Buddha as well as revered Hindu deities. This cave too was once a storeroom and is the last amongst the five main caves. Do keep in mind that most of the top hotels in Dambulla are famed for will offer excursions to the cave complex and are excellent for a comprehensive scout of the entire area.


Siyabalawewa Tank – Asia's Largest Quartz Mountain

Dambulla has much to offer the curious tourist; such as the ancient Siyabalawewa Water Tank that has been a part of Sri Lanka's ancient civilization for many centuries. Enjoy the solitude and serene ambience of the tank's surroundings home to Jetwing Lake and lush vegetation. The heritage city is also privileged with being blessed by South Asia's largest Rose Quartz mountain range a treat to explore.

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