The largest and one of the best preserved caves temples in Sri Lanka is Dambulla Temple. The Dambulla Cave temple is a sacred pilgrimage site situated 160-meter above the countryside and offers dry zone for over 20-Kilometer distant. The cave complex is spread over 2,100-square meter with around 157 statues. If you are planning to visit this Heritage site, then best to visit the cave is in reverse order, that is starting from Cave number 5 and then to Cave number 2. The Dambulla Cave is also declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
History of Dambulla Temple- Sri Lanka:
The temple was first constructed in during King Vattagamini Abhaya in 103 BC and 89-77BC. During period when Vattagamini lost his throne to a small group of Invaders, which forced him to hide in caves for safety for 14-years. Then after years, reclaiming his throne at Anuradhapura, Vattagamini constructed individual cave and hiding place in rock, the caves are created by dividing the wall what was originally a single huge rock overhang. The caves were further remodelled by Kirti Sri Rajasinha in a period of 1747-82 and also by the King Kandya Senerath in 1604-35. The Caves holds a vast number of murals in the interior.
The Golden Temple of Dambulla
The Golden Temple is located at bottom of the steps toward the caves. The temple has the 30m seated Golden Buddha, which is also the largest Buddha statue around the world next to the Leshan in China. Besides, the Golden temple of Dambulla, there is Golden Temple Buddhist Museum. The Museum is large with cave painting around. There are also a vast number of artefacts which are donated by a few monks from around the world, but none of those are labelled.
The Cave 5 is also known as Second New Temple, the Devana Alut Viharaya is most modern temple which is fashioned out from the hard solid rock. The images on the wall are carved out from the plaster and bricks. The main reclining Buddha statue is a 10-meter long. There is also a painting of Vishnu with his peacock to right and Bandara (a local deity) at left.
The Cave 4, Paccima Viharaya is also called the Western Temple, which was constructed after Cave 5, is comparatively small. Multiple Buddha statues in meditation postures can be seen in this Cave 4. A small dagoba is in the middle, while the cracks at side is work of thieves who broke the statue with a belief to find treasure or jewellery.
The Cave 3 is also known as Maha AlutViharaya, which was constructed by Kirti Sri Rajasinha. The cave appearance can be seen after sloping ceiling of height up to 10-meters or so. On the right side of the entrance is a statue of Kirti Sri Rajasinha, with his four attendants on wall. Both the Buddha statues are carved out of rock one seated in the middle and other sleeping posture on the left wall. One can find numerous interesting murals in Cave 3.
The Cave 2 is known as the temple of the Great Kings. It is one of the biggest and most spectacular caves among other caves. Vattagamini Abhaya is credited for the creation of this Cave 2 or Maharaja Vihara. The cave is also named after two kings, with Vattagamini Abhaya and Nissankamalla.
The cave is lined by the huge array of Buddha statues. The main Buddha statue on the left is set under Makara torana, in Abhya mudra. The caves also has paintings of Ganesha and Kataragama.
The Cave 1 is also known as Temple of Lord of Gods, which is named after Lord Vishnu. There is also a Brahmi inscription outside the temple which commemorates the foundation of the temple. Inside the cave, there is a narrow space which is filled with 14-meters of sleeping Buddha, aesthetically carved out of solid rock.