Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka
Rajamaha Temple of Rangiri Dambulla (Also known as the Golden Rock Temple or Dambulla Cave Temple) is located north of Kandy and considered by most to be the centre point of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and a World Heritage City, declared by UNESCO.
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The name Dambulla derives from Damba – Rock and Ulla – fountain. One sees the incessant drip of water from the fountain within the main image house.
The cave complex at Dambulla is one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. It was here that King Vattagamini Abhaya (Valagamba) took refuge in the 1st century BCE. He later turned the caves into a rock temple. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the temple interior gilded, earning it the name of Ran Giri – Golden Rock.
Dambulla Viharaya contains an abundance of valuable material from the very earliest times till the late eighteenth century, and shows the evolution of the Singhalese Buddhist art. Such vast material in one place, combined with a long history, is a rare find anywhere.
The temples contain 153 Buddha images, 3 images of kings and 4 images of gods and goddesses. There are also 4 main monasteries and it was within this complex that the monks began the militant nationalist movement against the British in 1848.
These 80 or more caves tell of the inhabitants dating back to the 3rd Century BCE. Five main caves hold the holy Buddhist shrines. The stupa was built in the 5th century AD and the caves contain precious paintings and innumerable Buddha sculptures. Among the paintings, two of the most magnificent depict the temptation of the Buddha by the demon Mara and the First Sermon of the Buddha.
Other Points of Interest Close to Dambulla
Namal Uyana is a pink-quartz mountain and Na-forest located in the village of Ulpathgama close to Dambulla. Namal Uyana is a stretch of seven hills; one flowing gloriously to the other. It was established as a sanctuary for monks in the 8th century BC during King Devanapiyatissa’s era. Namal Uyana was later made an open prison-camp where the prisoners had to plant Na trees. Take a day off and visit the fascinating site where history merges with natural, exotic beauty.
Activities in and around Dambulla
Elephant Rides in Habarana
Go on an Elephant ride like a Maharaja on safari in the jungles at Habarana. The ride will take you on a village path, along the river and through the forest. Although comfortable elephant saddles are provided you can also sit on the neck and be a ‘temp mahout’ if you are adventurous… If the elephant is really playful he might even give you a surprise shower whilst in the river.
At the end of the ride you can show your appreciation by feeding the elephant some bananas or plants.