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Dambulla Cave Temple

Supposedly built during the reign of King Valagamba in the 1st century BC, the Dambulla Cave Temples are a series of five caves carved out of the overhanging rock. Officially marked as one of the important UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, the cave temples’ structure is ingeniously carved out and decorated with elaborate Buddha statues, murals and paintings along the wall making it just one of the more unique Buddhist pilgrim sites in Sri Lanka.

Best Known For

Culture and Heritage:

  • Its unique architecture, its distinct wall paintings and murals, elaborate statues of Lord Buddha, kings and even Hindu deities make it the primary reason for tourists and locals to visit the historical site.
  • The cave temples also serve as a cave monastery for Buddhist pilgrimages to practice their faith to the best of their ability.

Interesting Facts

  • The Dambulla cave temples are actually five temples; ‘Deva Raja Viharaya’, ‘Maha Raja Viharaya’, ‘Maha Alut Viharaya’, ‘Paschima Viharaya’ and ‘Devana Alut Viharaya’.
  • The Deva Raja Viharaya literally translates to ‘Temple of the King of the Gods’ since it is believed that god Sakka (King of the gods in Buddhism) gave the finishing touches to the principle image of the cave. The image being that of Lord Buddha in his last moment (Parinibbana).
  • The Maha Raja Viharaya is the largest and the most elaborately designed. Translated as ‘Temple of the Great King’ is believed to have been designed by King Valagamba when he reclaimed his kingdom from the Indian invaders.
  • The Maha Alut Viharaya or the ‘Great new monastery’ was built by King Kirti Sri Rajasinha using Kandyan designs that attempted to revive Buddhism in the country.
  • The Paschima Viharaya too has Kandyan influence and is seen immaculately preserved in the figure of Buddha seated in the posture of meditation (dhyana mudra) hewn from the natural rock of the cave itself and painted in brilliant colours of the Kandyan Kingdom.
  • The Devana Alut Viharaya or the ‘Second new monastery’ was in fact a storeroom but was converted into a monastery that houses a reclining Buddha statue as well as Hindu deities such as Kataragama (Murugan) and Vishnu.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The season to visit the temple is between the months of July and October when the weather is nice and dry.
  • The temple is open from 7.00am - 6.00pm, however, is best experienced in the mornings and late afternoons when the crowds are less.
  • Entrance fee is USD 10 for adults and USD 5 for children.
  • It is important to note that the site is not only a place for cultural tours, but also a place of worship therefore making it important to dress and behave accordingly.

In conclusion, the Dambulla Cave Temple, with its five cave temples, each boasting of elaborate murals, paintings and statues make it a center to understand the arts and craftsmanship of an ancient kingdom that once thrived and how Buddhism prevailed, even during turbulent times in the island of Ceylon.

Title image by: Yohan Perera The information displayed is provided by Dambulla Cave Temple

Location info

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Season

July

October

Tickets

Adults
LKR 1,600
Children
LKR 800

Tickets At

Type

Culture and Heritage

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