Located not far from the magnificence of the Sigiriya rock fortress is another World Heritage Site that will leave any visitor spellbound. The ancient Dambulla Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, is the largest and most well-preserved cave complex in the country. Situated on a massive rock that towers 100m to 150m over the surrounding area, the caves dates back to the 1st century BCE.
The caves are open for public viewing from 7am onward and do attract a large number of both tourists and Buddhist pilgrims. If you happen to be staying at one of the nearby Hotels in Sigiriya like the luxurious Hotel Sigiriya, then do try to get to the caves as early as possible to avoid the crowd and take in the beauty of the caves in relative peace.
To reach the caves, you need to purchase tickets at the base of the hill near a modern gold temple, then following a path up to the caves. The path runs up along a sloping rock with steps hewn in places as it ascends. The hike is not too strenuous and there are plenty of good vantage points that afford a good view of the surrounding landscape and even the Sigiriya fortress.
The cave temple consists of five caves located under an enormous overhanging rock and inside each cave, the ceilings are covered with colourful, intricate scenes of Buddhist imagery following the contours of the rock. Some of the paintings can be traced back to the 2nd century BC while other as recently as the 1800’s. The images are of several stages of the Buddha’s life as well as various gods and goddesses.
Aside from the beautiful paintings, there are 153 statues of the Buddha in various postures (standing, meditating, reclining etc.) and several wooden and stone statues of Sri Lankan kings, gods and goddesses. These include sculptures of the Hindu deities Vishnu and Ganesha. The cave monastery, which dates from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, is one of the largest and most significant monasteries and is still in use today.
Fritzjames Stephen is a travel writer, who writes content based on the myriad of experiences and indulgences that the world has to offer travellers across all walks of life.