Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla cave temple ( Singhalese :දඹුල්ල ලෙන් විහාරය – Dambulla len Viharaya ) also known as Dambulla golden temple is located in the central region of Sri Lanka. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of world’s best preserved cave art to date.
This cave temple complex is the largest and most sacred cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. There are more than 80 caves in Dambulla vicinity. This cave complex is positioned 160 meters above the ground level, in the mid section of a huge rock boulder which dominates the entire landscape. The Temple mainly consists with 5 caves. All are heavily decorated and devoted with Buddha Statues and paintings related to Lord Buddha and life of Buddha. Coming in numbers; cave bares 153 Buddha statues, 4 God statues including Wishnu and Ganesha and 3 statues of past Sri Lankan Kings.
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History of Dambulla cave temple
Dates back to 1st century BC, at the time of the temple was initialized, it was a centuries old monastery where enlightened Buddhist monks meditated, studied and preached Buddhism. Cave had the perfectly shaped rock boulder leaning forward making a huge cave over 100 meters long, 25 meters wide and 7 meters in height. A drip line was initially carved to preserve the interiors and meditating monks from rain water. Main entrances were gabled and arch colonnaded. This provides temple a unique, designated, sacred and spiritual exterior. Interior is entirely and eternally decorated by traditional arts. Mostly relying on Kandyan art style and crafts heavily depending on rituals and patterns of Buddhism and Sinhalese culture. Arts are consisting of statues of Buddha, Bodhisathwa (practicing Buddha to come), Goddess and past rulers of the nation.
Why a monastery converted to one of main Buddhist attraction
Dambulla cave temple was recognized as a UNESCO World heritage site since 1991. This is mainly due to the arts which are known as best preserved cave arts in the entire World . Dates from 2nd to 1st century BC, King Walagamba of Anuradhapura ( 1st reign : 104 -103 BC / 2nd reign : 89 -76 BC ) converted this monastery to a temple of the state. It was an interesting lesson, where King had to escape from his northern Kingdom of Anuradhapura to inland Dambulla area due continuous genocidal attacks from south Indian clans. The monks lived in this cave during that period have majorly assisted the king in providing shelter and protection. 15 years later, with the large influence from Buddhist monks and Sinhalese people, king overthrew the Tamil chiefs, re-claiming the throne and never forgot the cave and monks he was once protected, sheltered and helped by in uniting the locals against invaders.
Since then, many succeeded kings sponsored the temple in adding re-instating the paintings and statues. King Nishankamalla of Polonnaruwa kingdom was highlighted due to his major devotion of 70 Buddha statues to the temple during his reign in 1190 AD; 1200 years from temple’s first establishment. The gabled entrances, arched colonnades were added during the Kandyan Kingdom in 15th century and ceiling paints, statue paints were also re-stored.