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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Why the Dambulla Cave Temple is a must visit in Sri Lanka – Explore one of Sri Lanka's lesser-known World Heritage Sites
Joanna James Joanna James
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Why the Dambulla Cave Temple is a must visit in Sri Lanka – Explore one of Sri Lanka's lesser-known World Heritage Sites

Half an hour's drive from Sigiriya, the Dambulla Cave Temples hold an equally important branch of Sri Lanka's vivid history but for some inexplicable reason are constantly forgotten by visitors.


The historical importance of Dambulla

According to history books, the caves of Dambulla were first home to hermits during the first century. Later on, many ancient Kings of the country such as King Vattagamani Abhaya sought refuge in these caves during times of invasion by foreign forces. It was made prominent during the reign of King Nissankamalla who spent a vast amount on renovating the temple and constructing seventy statues of the Buddha. For history lovers, the Dambulla caves need to be one of the top things to do in Dambulla. It is quite close to most hotels in the area such as the likes of Heritance Kandalama so accommodation is of no hassle.


The paintings inside the caves

The caves house up to one hundred and fifty images of the Buddha as well as many other statues. The paintings can be compared to the paintings found in Sigiriya. What sets them apart is that the patterns and designs used in these paintings do not bear any resemblance to the traditional arts used in Polonnaruwa and other ancient cities. The style used in Dambulla seems to be influenced by techniques from South India. This makes the frescos that adorn most of the walls completely unique. The frescos depict the life of Buddha.


The architecture used to build the temples

A massive one hundred and sixty metre granite rock towers over the temples. It is out of this rock that the temple had been sculptured. The flight of stairs that lead to the interior finish at a large and beautifully built Buddha statue that sits at a height of thirty meters. These caves are also the biggest and most well preserved in the country.


The massive caves!

There are a total of four caves inside the temple. The first temple you enter into is referred to as the Temple Of The King Of Gods. The main feature of this cave is the 47 feet long image of the Buddha. Carved out of the natural granite rock of the cave, it is impressively well preserved and is still attached to the main rock. The cave has a further five images. The second cave is known as The Temple of The Great King. Thought to be built as an honour to the king Vattagamani Abhaya, it contains fifty three images and statues of the Buddha. The third cave was once a storeroom but is now a shrine. Called The Great New Temple, it is a shrine to Kirti Sri Rajasinha and has fifty images of the Buddha here. The fourth cave is named as the Western Temple. There are multiple statues of the Buddha here too and it is home to another magnificent picture of the Buddha, but this time in the act of meditation.

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