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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Facts and Wonders of the Dambulla Cave Temple – Treasured Heritage Site
Joanna James Joanna James
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Facts and Wonders of the Dambulla Cave Temple – Treasured Heritage Site

The Dambulla Cave Temples located in the village of Dambulla Sri Lanka is believed to have been established in the 1st century BC. The temple is made up of five caves, belonging to a network of over 20 caves located on the huge Dambulla Rock. Here are some facts on this UNESCO heritage site.


The Largest Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

Dambulla Cave Temple is also known as the Golden Temple is both the oldest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The temple made up of five caves is located under a towering rock 160 metres tall. Part of the reason the caves are so well-preserved is attributed to the drip line which has been carved on the exterior of the cave, thus allowing water to pass from the outside and helping preserve the inside treasures from water erosion. Tourists staying at a Sigiriya hotel will find the caves are easy to access; and the place is approximately around 31 minutes from Heritance Kandalama, where nature abounds.


A Network of Five Caves

The temple is spread across five of the huge honeycomb network of caves; it's separated into 3 large caves and 2 smaller ones. The 3 main caves are named as follows; Maharaja Lena or Cave Of The Great Kings, Devaraja Lena or Cave of the Diving King and the Maha Aluth Vihare the Great New Monastery. These three main caves are the most impressive; containing a majority of the artefacts, the Cave of the Great Kings is the largest of the three and is home to over 56 Buddha statues.


Interior Treasures to Savour

The ceilings and walls of the caves are covered in ancient motifs; with one cave boasting over 1,500 varied paintings of the Buddha on its ceiling. Between the caves, there are statues of the Buddha, gods and ancient kings. The distribution is as follows; 153 statues of the Buddha, 4 statues of Gods and three of the islands ancient kings. Amongst the Buddha statues, the largest is 50 feet high; the statue hewn into the rock shows Ananda, the Buddha's, favoured disciple at the feet. The rest of the statues depict various stages of Buddha's life.


Legend of the King

The Dambulla Cave Temple is believed to have been established by King Valagamba from the Anuradhapura Kingdom, as homage to providing him with a refuge when he fled from Indian invaders. The king is said to have lived within the Dambulla cave complex for 15 years.


A Temple Complex Revered by Many Kings

After King Valagamba established the cave temple, many other kings proceeded to add to the allure of the temple, right up to the 11th century. In 1190 King Nissanka Mala of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom ensured the Cave of the Great King was gilded and placed over 50 Buddha statues within it; a fact which is confirmed via an inscription on a stone found close to the entrance of the cave. Later in the 18th century, during the reign of the Kandyan kingdom the caves were fully restored to their original splendour.

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