Dambulla golden cave temple
UNESCO Site Dambulla
Dambulla Cave temple is a complex of cave temples built under a single giant rock which rises more than 150 meters from ground level. The history of the complex dates back to 300BC and it houses one of the world’s best preserved ancient paintings and statues to date. This UNESCO world heritage site is located 150km East of Colombo and it is one of the perfect destinations for eyes that admire the ancient architecture.
These caves were used to be one of the largest Buddhist monastery complexes in Sri Lanka in 3rd century BC. Sri Lankan king Valagamba (89-77BC) flew away from then Sri Lankan capital Anuradhapura due to a South Indian invasion and remained hidden here till he regained the throne. Once he got hold of the helm he paid his tribute by building this temple complex under the rock and he made sure it was decorated with stunning masterpieces of artistry.
Since then, the temple complex had undergone various developments over two millennia and hence it holds on to carvings, paintings and statues of different eras of Sri Lankan history. There are 153 statues of Lord Buddha and Bodhisathwa (Previous lives of Lord Buddha).Also there are 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses. Statues vary in sizes, postures and they bear testimony to Sri Lanka’s rich architectural narration. Ancient folklore states that King Nissankamalla glided the statues with gold and named the complex as Golden Temple. In Kandyan era which was Sri Lanka’s last kingdom, walls of a temple complex was given their lively carvings that amazes visitor’s eyes.
The walls and roofs of rock temples are painted with Buddhist paintings and these cover an enormous 2100 square meters. The natural color pigments used in paintings were very resilient and withstood centuries of natural hazards since the 18th century in which they were painted. These pictures are drawn using only 4 natural colors in black, yellow, red and white while maintaining fine details on an angulated wall. Paintings were repainted in different periods to preserve them, but it has been proved that newer paintings carried out using chemicals were less resistant to natural damage while old natural paintings easily endured the salts and moisture came against them. There is a traditional family called Jeevan Naide family whom were assigned the task of preserving and safeguarding the cave paintings. More recently copper sheets were employed to arrest the rain water that leaks through rock walls and damaging the paintings.
Even though there are more than 80 natural caves and many temples, 5 caves get major tourist attraction. Photographs are allowed to be taken inside the temple but you are not allowed to photograph people inside the temple. If you are starting from Colombo the quickest route is via Kurunagala. Sigiriya which is the renowned ancient Sri Lankan kingdom is located 12km from the cave temples and therefore many visitors make sure they pay a visit to both destinations in the same trip. In addition to the Golden cave temple there is a museum and a site of ancient civilization nearby.