Not at all like its nearest neighbor India, Sri Lanka is generally a Buddhist nation with a convention going back over 2000 years. Today, around 70% of the inhabitants in Sri Lanka recognize themselves as Buddhist with the rest distinguished as Muslim, Hindu, and Christian. Throughout its rich history, numerous Buddhist Kingdoms have risen and fallen in Sri Lanka but then, but the social remnants of their significance still stay right up until the present time. Let’s check out the Dambulla Cave Temple and its enriching past.
History of the place
The Dambulla Cave Temple is a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, located in the central part of the country. It was built during the 1st century BC and has a rich history, with the caves being used by Buddhist monks as a place of refuge and meditation for over 2,000 years. The temple contains a series of five caves, which house over 150 statues and paintings, making it one of the largest and best-preserved collections of Buddhist art in the world. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Painting and the caves of Dambulla
- There are five caves (places of worship rooms) in the Dambulla temple. All of these caves are loaded with statues of Buddha and various personages of the Buddhist Order or History.
- There are 150 Buddha images in the Dambulla Cave temples. Cave No. 5 (the last altogether) has no historical value as it was done in the second decade of this century.
- All of the alternate caves contain statues and paintings speaking to various epochs of Sinhalese sculpture and painting.
- The early paintings of Dambulla are accepted by some to have a place in the eighth century A. C. However, this cannot be demonstrated at all because of over-painting.
- In any case, this place is a mine of decorative outlines, the patterns of which look like those of Sigiriya.
- To an understudy of the historical backdrop of Buddhism, a careful investigation of the paintings of Dambulla gives a decent deal of source material.
- It is generally accepted that the classical school of Sinhalese painting ceased to exist after the fall of the Polonnaruve kingdom at the finish of the twelfth century.
- There are no extant examples of this style after the thirteenth century. It is from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that we have, once again, examples of crafted by a school of indigenous painters.
- This new school does not appear to have had its foundations in the artistic traditions which created the masterpieces of Sigiriya and Polonnaruva.
- Its style is simply two-dimensional; in compositions, it doesn’t show the expertise of the masters of earlier epochs.
- In its conventions, particularly in the decorative outlines and in the representation of trees and creepers, it doesn’t appear to have any connection with the earlier art of the Island.
Dambulla Cave Temple Timing
The Dambulla Cave Temple is open to visitors every day from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. It is recommended to visit in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day and to get better lighting for viewing the art and sculptures inside the caves. It is also advised to dress modestly and remove shoes before entering the temple premises.
How to reach
The Dambulla Cave Temple is located in the central part of Sri Lanka and is easily accessible by several modes of transportation:
- By Car: You can hire a car or take a taxi from Colombo or other nearby cities. It takes approximately 3-4 hours from Colombo to reach the temple.
- By Bus: Buses are available from Colombo, Kandy, and other cities, and the journey takes about 4-5 hours.
- By Train: You can take the train from Colombo or Kandy, and get off at the Dambulla railway station, which is located about 5 km from the temple.
- By Air: The nearest airport is located in Sigiriya, which is about 40 km from the temple. You can take a taxi or a local bus to reach the temple.
Things to see and do
At the Dambulla Cave Temple, there are several things to see and do:
- Explore the caves: The temple consists of five interconnected caves, each containing its own unique collection of statues and paintings.
- Admire the Art: The caves are home to over 150 statues and paintings, including depictions of the Buddha and other important Buddhist figures.
- Climb to the Summit: You can climb to the top of the rock for a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
- Learn about Buddhist Culture: The temple is a great place to learn about Sri Lankan Buddhist culture and the role it has played in the country’s history.
- Visit the Museum: There is a small museum at the temple, which displays artifacts and other items related to the history and culture of the area.
- Shop at the Local Market: You can visit the local market near the temple, where you can buy traditional Sri Lankan crafts, souvenirs, and other items.
- Participate in a Puja Ceremony: If you’re interested, you can participate in a traditional Buddhist puja ceremony, which takes place at the temple daily.
The entry fee for the Dambulla Cave Temple is LKR 1,500 (approximately USD 8) for foreign tourists, and LKR 30 for Sri Lankan citizens. The fee includes access to all five caves and the museum. It is important to note that the entry fee is subject to change and it is best to confirm the current fee before your visit.
There are several nearby attractions to the Dambulla Cave Temple, including:
- Sigiriya Rock Fortress: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, located about 40 km from the temple.
- Anuradhapura: An ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its well-preserved ruins and monuments, located about 150 km from the temple.
- Kandy: The cultural capital of Sri Lanka and home to the Temple of the Tooth, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about 120 km from the temple.
- Minneriya National Park: A wildlife reserve that is known for its large gatherings of elephants, located about 30 km from the temple.
- Polonnaruwa: An ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its well-preserved ruins and monuments, located about 90 km from the temple.
- Matale: A city known for its spice gardens and Hindu temples, located about 50 km from the temple.
- Pidurangala Rock: A nearby rock formation offering views of Sigiriya and the surrounding countryside, located about 10 km from the temple.