Golden Temple Of Dambulla

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Golden Temple Of Dambulla

History

The Golden Temple of Dambulla also known as Dambulla Cave Temple is a temple in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country. Situated 148 km east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy, the temple is the largest and the best preserved temple of the various cave temples in Sri Lanka. The Golden Temple of Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. It is a popular tourist attraction and also a religious site.

The rock towers 160m over the surrounding plains. There are more than eighty caves in the surrounding area with their own attraction but there are five caves that are of major attraction. The five major caves are hewn from the big rock which contains statues and paintings. These paintings and statues represent Lord Buddha and showing his life and events surrounding the pantheon of Buddhism. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan Kings and 4 statues of Hindu gods and goddesses. Among them is a 15m long reclining Buddha. Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Buddha's first sermon.

The five caves that make up the Golden Temple of Dambulla are the Cave of the Great Kings, the Great New Monastery, the Cave of the Divine King, and two other, lesser caves, which are not usually given their own epithet.

The first cave is called Devaraja Lena or “Cave of the Divine King”. On the entrance of the cave is inscribed an account of the founding of the monastery in a first century Brahmi inscription. The 15m long statue of the Buddha is the main attraction of the cave. At his feet is Ananda, Buddha’s favorite student and at his head is Vishnu, who is said to have used his divine powers to create the caves. The statue has been painted number of times in the course of its history, the last time painted in the 20th century.

The second cave is Maharaja lena or the “Cave of the Great Kings” and is the largest of the caves of the Golden Temple. It contains 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha and also the statues of the gods Saman and Vishnu, King Vattagamani and King Nissanka Malla. There is also a spring which drips its water through a crack in the ceiling and is also said to have healing properties. Paintings of the 18th century adorn the walls depicting scenes from Buddha’s life, from the dream of Mahamaya to the temptation by the demon Mara. The pictures also relate important events of Sri Lankan history.

The third cave called the Maha Alut Vihara or the “Great New Monastery” was the cave painted in the late 18th century in the typical Kandy style during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, the well known Buddhist revivalist. The Great New Monastery contains more than 50 statues of Lord Buddha and also a statue of the King.

The fourth and the fifth caves are smaller; they date from a later period and are not of such high quality. A small Vishnu Devale between the first and second caves attracts many worshipers.

The caves were originally used as hiding places by the Sri Lankans before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. This is supported by the burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes. Later on in history they were embellished more and more by several kings. On the inside, the caves are decorated with religious and secular paintings from the 15th and 16th century.

The Golden Temple possesses the foremost Buddha Statue of the World designed in the pose of Dhamma Chakka. This magnificent statue construction began in 1998 and was completed by 2001. Just below the golden statue and environmental landscaping displays, a modern museum displays recent history of Sri Lankan Buddhist culture. Architect of this magnificent new addition, which attracts million of local and international visitors, is Ven. Inamaluwe Sri Sumangala Thero.

Dambulla has been a sacred place since the second century BC. It has earned the name Golden Temple because of its gilded interior.

Best time to visit

Dambulla’s climate is fairly temperate throughout the year, without extreme variations, so it doesn’t really matter when you go. However, if you would much rather avoid the monsoons; don’t go in May-August or October-January, as this is the time for heavy rain.

Trivia

The Golden Temple of Dambulla contains more than 150 statues and thousands of paintings of Lord Buddha. With a number of other Buddhist sites found nearby, this is an area well worth visiting if you’re in Sri Lanka.

Timing

Many hours can be spent exploring the caves. Although there is a small charge to visit the Golden Temple of Dambulla, it is one of the best deals in terms of World Heritage Sites to be found in Asia


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