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Located in the heart of Sri Lanka, the bustling city of Dambulla is a treasure chest of historical monuments that are a must-visit for all the history buffs who like to relive the stories of the past. From the Cave Temple complex to the Minneriya National Park located nearby, this city is a must-see for all those who want to quench their thirst for adventure. With spectacular sculptures and paintings strewn all over, the caves of the Rock Temple will mesmerize you and leave you spellbound. The beautiful fortress of Sigiriya will nourish your soul with its serenity and the elephants of the MInneriya National Park will take you on a journey of a lifetime. Being a true Sri Lankan city, this place has a strong authentic vibe. The busy streets will refresh your mind and the local cuisines will satisfy your gustatory needs. What more can you ask for? The food, the caves, the people, and most importantly the city, has a certain magic that will leave you stunned and amazed. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, take the essentials, and find your way to this magnificent city which is truly a paradise.
Location: North of Matale District
Nearest Airport: Colombo
How to reach: by air/road/train
Famous for: the largest, best-preserved, cave-temple
Best time to visit: Jan to Sept
Dambulla Rock Temple,The Caves and Paintings of Dambulla
Buddhist Museum & Museum of Wall Paintings,Cave No. 1 (Deva Raja Viharaya)
Cave No. 2 (Maha Raja Viharaya),Cave No. 3 (Maha Alut Viharaya)
Cave No. 4 (Paschima Viharaya)
Draped in the rich fabric of history, the city of Dambulla calls out to all the history lovers. The caves of this magical city provided refuge to King Valagamba in his 14-year-long exile from the Anuradhapura kingdom. The Buddhist monks protected the king from his enemies during his refuge and as a token of appreciation, the king built a magnificent rock temple at this place. Earlier known as Dhamballai this place was ruled by Kings like Raja Chola and Rajendra Chola. The statues and paintings that adorn the caves are as old as the 1st century BC. The historical monuments present here have a story to tell to anyone who listens and embellish the city with their rich history.
Places of Interest:
Dambulla Rock Temple- Towering 160 meters above the surrounding plains, the Dambulla Cave Temple complex evokes an unequivocal sense of awe and wonder in all those who come here. This ancient Buddhist pilgrimage is the largest cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The five major caves located in this complex are dotted with more than 150 magnificent Buddha statues (and a few depicting Sri Lankan kings, gods, and goddesses) as well as huge cave paintings & beautiful murals. We have all seen pictures of Buddha in a cave but if you wish to explore the glory of Buddha in reality, this temple will surely satisfy your soul. The intricate cave paintings and the serene atmosphere makes these caves a mesmerizing spiritual sanctuary.
The Caves and Paintings of Dambulla- There are five caves in the Dambulla Cave Temple. All of these caves are adorned with statues of Buddha and various personages of the Buddhist Order or History. The four main caves contain statues and paintings representing various epochs of Sinhalese sculpture and painting. Buddha images were first painted here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art. These paintings and the overall vibe present here is breathtakingly coherent.
Buddhist Museum & Museum of Wall Paintings- You will be greeted by a gigantic golden Buddha statue that marks the entrance to the Dambulla Museum even before you begin your ascent for reaching the Dambulla Cave Temple. This marvelous sculpture is considered to be Asia's largest Buddha statue in the Dhyan Chakra mudra. The museum inside is extremely beautiful and it holds old artifacts and statues of Buddha. This establishment also houses a terrace which offers a breathtaking view of the place and also allows you to enjoy the serene vibes that engulf the temple. The Museum of Wall Paintings is adorned with paintings that are depictions of the evolution of Sri Lankan culture over the years.
Cave No. 1 (Deva Raja Viharaya)- This “Temple of the King of Gods” is the first cave that is entered by the visitors. It is well-known for containing an image of the last moment of Buddha also known as the Parinirvana of Buddha. Many history lovers believe that it was carved by Sakka(the King of Gods) himself. This cave also houses images of Arhat Ananda (the immediate disciple of Buddha) and Visnu.
Cave No. 2 (Maha Raja Viharaya)- Named after King Vattagamani Abhaya, “The Cave of the Kings” is embellished with beautiful paintings and murals throughout. Around 56 Buddha statues fill this cave and one can admire the life of Buddha through these sculptures. The cave also contains a vessel that holds the drops of water that fall through the roof and this water is used for holy purposes.
Cave No. 3 (Maha Alut Viharaya)- “The Cave of Great New Temple” harbors 50 statues of Buddha and also has a statue of King Kiti during whose rule it was constructed. You can also feast your eyes on a beautiful statue of Buddha which shows him resting his head on a pillow.
Cave No. 4 (Paschima Viharaya)- Hewn of the natural rock that forms this cave, the beautiful statue of Buddha seated in the meditation pose is sure to catch everyone’s eye. This cave is filled with vibrant colors and is also known as the “Western Temple”.
Sigiriya (25 km)
Once known to be the private residence of King Kasyapa, the massive Sigiriya Fortress is not only appealing to the eyes but is also satisfying for the soul. Towering way above these rocks, lies a magnificent white palace which is an epitome of beauty. Sigiriya frescoes are filled with charm and they will surely nourish your soul.
Minneriya National Park (47 km)
Want to have a look at wild elephants? Minneriya National Park should be at the top of your list. Famous for its toque macaques, sambar deer, buffalo, crocodiles and leopards, this park is every nature lover’s paradise. The park has plenty of scrub and forests and these add to its panoramic beauty.
Where to stay:
Dambulla, Sri Lanka is a treasure trove of historical monuments and to visit all the magical places that are housed here, your stay must be a comfortable and relaxing one. Heritance Kandalama and Jetwing Lake are the ideal hotels that you should try for a pleasant stay. These are located close to the main attractions of the city and so it will be easier for you to plan your excursions. Sigiriana Resort by Thilanka and Cinnamon Lodge Habarana will surely satisfy your gustatory needs and will leave you satisfied with their serene vibes.