Dambulla Caves: Buddha Statues and Impressive Sinhala Art


We felt fresh in the morning – had a good night sleep and ate a hearty breakfast of toast, egg roti and a cup of tea (lots of tea here in Sri Lanka!) – and most of all, we were excited. We had read quite a bit on the UNESCO sites prior coming to Sri Lanka and it was our intention to see these places. We discussed with our host’s daughter, Michelle, the evening before, and she offered to arrange for a private car and driver to take us to Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya and Kandy city for US$65 a day. As it turned out, the driver was our host himself – George – we finally met him at breakfast.

George has been in the tourism industry for almost 20 years now, and he is actively running Kandy Guesthouse and Michelle Tours. George and Michelle made every effort to ensure their guests are well taken care of in the guesthouse and provided excellent service in their tour excursions for guests, not only within the nearby province but pretty much everywhere in the country.

The journey from Peradeniya to Dambulla was about 2 hours (or perhaps a little longer as we stopped for more tea!). The first UNESCO site we visited was Dambulla Cave Temple. Situated in the central province of Sri Lanka, it is the largest and most well-preserved cave complex in the country. The main attraction is the 5 caves which contain statues and paintings so well-preserved in terms of design, pattern and vivid colours but according to Wikipedia, there are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. The statues and paintings are related to Buddha and his life.

Golden Temple Sri Lanka

dambulla caves golden templec

Ideally, we should have hired a guide but decided not to as we wanted to appreciate the incredible Sinhala art frescoes in the caves by ourselves at our own pace. However, I have read the historical facts about the caves, and here’s a summary:

–          The caves were converted into temples by kings way back in 1st century B.C. It was also believed that the caves became an established monastery by the 2nd and 3rd century B.C.

–          Kings continued to build temples and added statues in the caves as centuries went by, thus by the 11th century, the caves became a major religious centre.

–          By the 18th century, Kandyan Kings restored and painted the caves.

The most impressive is the 5 caves under a huge overhanging rock and they were converted into shrine rooms. To access these caves, we climbed up Dambulla Rock – the climb was not steep, instead it was gradual (some locals especially old men and women climbed up bare feet!), and the view was amazing. We saw a panoramic view of the surrounding flat lands of Dambulla. Although the weather was hot and humid, there was some breeze, thus giving us some respite from the heat.

dambulla caves up the hill

dambulla caves monkeys snoozing

dambulla-caves-view-from-the-hill

Dambulla Cave Temple

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If you like to read more in detail about each cave, please click The Rock Temple.

As we continued to travel for the next couple of days, we found that, overall, the Dambulla Cave Temple was the real highlight of our  trip, and it was a real treat. 🙂

*****

Useful Information:

Visiting Hours: 7am-7pm daily

Entrance Fee: LKR 1,500 (US$11.50)

*****

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18 comments

  1. The concept of temples being built within caves is so cool! And in some of the pictures you can’t even tell that it’s underground, it could be anywhere (that’s dark)!

    1. The temples are simply amazing in the caves, they were preserved well. Thanks Elizabeth, for your comment, appreciate it 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying the weekend…

    1. Thanks Marie. It’s only 15-20 mins climb up to Dambulla Rock, and the climb is gradual. Furthermore, the view is great as you climb. So if you feel tired, take the opportunity to stop for a few secs to rest and enjoy the view. You will love Sri Lanka 🙂

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