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Dambulla Royal Cave Temple

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  • Category: World Heritage Sites
  • Distance From Colombo‎: 175 km
  • Established: 11th century
  • District: Matale
  • Drive Time: 3 h 40 m
  • Location: Central Province
  • Availability: All Year
  • Txp: Van, Car, Jeep, Bus
  • Area: 2,100 m²
  • Best Time To Visit: May to August
  • Elevation: 180 m above sea level
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site
About Dambulla

Dambulla Rock Cave Temple (UNESCO world heritage site) can be reached from Kandy(68 km) along A9 road or directly from Colombo. Located at a height of 1118 feet above sea level, Dambulugala raises as a massive rock from the surrounding plains of Dambulla. It is home to the world’s most acclaimed cave complex of magnificent Buddha images and rock paintings of vivid colours dating back from the 2nd century BC to the 18th century, thus forming an unbroken line of Sri Lanka history and painting through 2500 years.

Good to know
There are 364 steps up to reach the temple! But worth it
Respect for the Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka
Temple Etiquette

Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of the majority of Sri Lanka practised by 70% of Sri Lanka’s population. Theravada Buddhism and religion have long influenced culture is particularly strong in the southern and central regions of the country. Before Visit, find out about these practical label tips.

Never touch or pat the top of a Buddhist monk’s head, including small children in temples. This seen as disrespectful.

Don’t take selfies with a statue of a Buddha.

Don’t turn your back on any figure of the Buddha.

Don’t share appropriate clothes when you are going to religious sites or temples.

Keep in mind that on full moon days, Poya (monthly) is not possible to serve or sell alcohol. Even in these days, no meat is sold in the markets.

If you have Buddha tattoos on your body, you must take care to hide them because it is considered disrespectful to have a Buddha image on your body.

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Dambulla Highlights
Dambulla Royal Cave Temple

Rock temples

Buddhist Temple

The incredible Royal Rock Temple complex is located about 160 m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. It consists of five separate caves containing about 150 extraordinary images and statues depicting the Buddha, considered among the most important and evocative works of religious art in Sri Lanka. The first likenesses of the Buddha were created here over 2000 years ago, while further additions and embellishments were made under the following kings. From the caves, there are splendid views of the surrounding countryside; Sigiriya, which is 20 km away, is visible. It was believed that Dambulla was used as a place of worship starting from the 1st century BC, when King Valagamba (also known as Vattagamani Abhaya), driven out by Anuradhapura, took refuge in Dambulla. Once the throne was regained, the sovereign had the interior of the caves carved to make a series of magnificent rock temples. Later rulers added others
decorations; among them Nissanka Malla, who had the entrance to the caves gilded (hence the name Ran Giri, or “golden rock”). Although the reworking of the original works of art and the creation of new ones continued until the 20th century, the general appearance of the complex is surprisingly harmonious.

Cave I

(Devaraja Viharaya)

The first cave, whose name means “temple of the king of the gods”, houses a 15 m long reclining Buddha. Nearby are depicted Ananda, the faithful disciple of the Buddha, and other seated Buddhas. A statue of Vishnu is kept inside a small shrine in the cave.

Cave II

(Maharaja Viharaya)

The “temple of the great king” is undoubtedly the most spectacular cave. It measures 52 m from east to west and 23 m from the entrance to the back wall; the highest point of the ceiling reaches 7 m. The cave is named after the two statues of kings placed inside. Entering, on the left, you can see a painted wooden figure depicting King Valagamba and later one of King Nissanka Malla. The central statue of the Buddha, once probably covered with gold leaf, is placed under a Makara Torana (portico decorated with dragons) and has the right hand raised in the protective gesture of the Abhaya mudra (which offers protection). In the cave are also represented some Hindu gods, and there is a container to collect water that constantly drips from the ceiling of the temple (even in times of drought) and which used for rituals.

Cave III

(Maha Alut Viharaya)

It seems that this cave, the ‘new great temple’, formerly served as a warehouse and was transformed into a temple only in the 18th century by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy, one of the last monarchs of this city. Also, this cave is full of statues of the Buddha, among which one of exquisite workmanship that shows him lying down, and is separated from the Cave II only by a masonry partition.

Cave IV

(Pachima Viharaya)

The relatively small ‘western cave’ is actually not the one to the west, which is instead the Grotta V. The Buddha in the centre is seated under a Torana Makara and has his hands placed in the gesture of the dhyana mudra (meditative posture with cupped hands). The small dagoba (Buddhist reliquary) in the centre was damaged by some thieves who believed it contained the jewels that belonged to Queen Somawathie.

Cave V

(Devana Alut Viharaya)

This more recent cave, which was once used as a warehouse, now houses the so-called “second new temple“. Inside there are a reclining Buddha and some Hindu gods, including Kataragama (Murugan) and Vishnu.

Golden Temple

Buddhist temple

At the foot of the hill of cave temples stands the modern Golden Temple, a slightly kitsch taste built-in 2000 thanks to Japanese donations. At the top of this cubic building, there is a seated Buddha depicted in the dhamma chakra mudra (turn of the wheel of the Dhamma) position and a huge neon sign.

What to See and Do in Dambulla
Closest landmarks

Book Now, pay Later Program

With Book Now and Pay Later Program, you can enjoy your Vacation in Sri Lanka months before. You can lock down your travel dreams Paying a minimum deposit payment of 30% of the total cost. You can pay the balance up until 60 days before the tour commencement date – leaving you to enjoy the holiday countdown without the financial worry. It is interest-free, you don’t need to worry about being charged the inflated rates that come along with loans or credit cards. All that’s left to do is get excited about your next trip! It is valid all year, except for the July 15 - August and December. if you have planned to visit Sri Lanka one of those months the deposit will be is to 60%. Please note that the cancellation will not refund the deposit.

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Buddhism in Sri Lanka
A Short History:

  • There are around 6,000 Buddhist monasteries on Sri Lankawith approximately 15,000 monks.
  • Sri Lanka was ruled by 181 monarchs from the Anuradhapura to Kandy periods.
  • Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in 236 b.e. (cir. 250 BCE)
  • Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the oldest tree in the world, and it planted in 249 (2268 years ago) BC
  • Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle includes three major sites that form a triangle. Anuradhapura to the north, Polonnaruwa to the east and Kandy to the south-west. Inside the triangle, there are other places of interest; Mihintale, Ritigala and Dambulla.

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Spiritual Journeys To Sri Lanka

Wonderful 15-day spiritual tour in Sri Lanka, bursting with cultural richness, many stunning historical landscapes and fabulous sacred sites with intriguing history. Commencing from Negombo, you will explore the former capital cities and discover more than 9 amazing ancient monuments and temples, such as: The Sacred City of Anuradhapura (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Sigiriya rock fortress (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the incredible stone cave temple in Dambulla, the Ancient Kingdom of Yapahuwa, Arankele Ancient Monastery and the Mysterious Forest Monastery of Ritigala.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What type of Buddhism is practised in Sri Lanka?

What type of Buddhism is practised in Sri Lanka? Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of Sri Lanka, with about 70% of the country’s population as followers.

How many Buddhist temples and monks are there in Sri Lanka?

There are around 6,000 Buddhist monasteries on Sri Lanka with approximately 15,000 monks.

Did Buddha visit Sri Lanka?

The Siddhartha Gautama’s (Buddha) first visit was in the ninth month after Buddhahood on Duruthu (January) Full Moon Day.(1 B.E. or 528 B.C.)

How did Buddhism spread to Sri Lanka?

How did Buddhism spread to Sri Lanka?
Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in the third century BCE. After the Third Buddhist council by Arhanthà Mahinda Thero, son of Emperor Ashoka, during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura.

How old is the Buddhist religion?

The religion is 2,500 years old and is followed by 350 million Buddhists worldwide.

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