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Dambulla Cave Temple: Sri Lanka’s Sacred Place for 22 Centuries

The Dambulla Cave temple is situated in the central town by the same name i.e. Dambulla in the Matale District of Sri Lanka and is of significant historical importance that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the country. It is believed that the cave temple was a place of residence for Buddhist monks and also a burial site back in the day.

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Buddha statues within one of the caves. Credits: Aditya Mehta

The Dambulla Cave temple is more than 2000 years old, consists of over 150 Buddha statues and is bound to leave you mesmerized by the intricate artwork it has to offer. The cave temple is a UNESCO world heritage site and a must visit if one is planning a trip to Sri Lanka.

Dambulla Cave Temple: An Overview   

Location Central Sri Lanka
Mode of Travel By Road
Best Time to Visit November to April
Nearby Places Sigiriya Lion Rock
Average Duration of Visit 2 – Hours
Ticket Price LKR 1500
Timings 7 am to 7 pm
Dambulla Cave Temple

The colossal Golden Buddha statue. Credits: Aditya Mehta

 

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Buddha statue zoomed. Credits: Aditya Mehta

How to Reach the Dambulla Cave Temple ?

The Dambulla Cave temple is located approximately 150 kilometers northeast of Colombo and 70 kilometers north of Kandy. Although several buses and trains ply towards Dambulla, however the ideal way to travel would be to rent a car from any of the two cities. A day trip can be made of it if one is travelling from Kandy and can also include a visit to the nearby Sigiriya Lion Rock, as it is only 20 kilometers away from the Dambulla Cave temple.

Top Things to do

  • Exploring the temple
  • Hiking
  • Monkey Spotting
Exploring the temple

As you approach the Dambulla Cave temple one can see the colossal 30 odd meters Golden Buddha statue, which in itself is a sight to behold and quiet modern in its design having being installed in 2001. The Dambulla Cave temple is divided into 5 sanctuaries each displaying unique wall paintings and Buddha statutes of different sizes and postures such as standing, meditating and reclining.

Also, the cave temple houses the statutes of various gods and kings of Sri Lanka in addition to the Buddha statues. While there isn’t much information boards at the Dambulla Cave temple regarding its historical importance hence, a little research in relation to its past can provide a better perspective of the place and the influence of Sinhala art and architecture.

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Devaraja Lena – The Cave of ‘ Lord of the Gods’ Credits: Aditya Mehta

 

However, if history is not your thing don’t worry one can still truly appreciate the elaborate paintings (which almost seem to be painted on a canvas, as such is the detail and exquisiteness of these paintings), carvings and the surreal views of the vegetation around the area.

The paintings and statutes are well preserved and the mind boggles to make a sense of how truly ancient the caves are in form and concept.  The caves continue to look natural from the inside with man made intervention seeming to be at its minimum.

 

 Hiking

To reach the Dambulla Cave temple one has to hike for around 15 minutes. Anybody with moderate fitness should be able to complete it with reasonable ease. The hike can be done leisurely and it presents some scenic views of the surrounding areas, hence take your time, pause and soak in the innate beauty of the place.

 

Monkey spotting

On your hike towards the Dambulla Cave temple you will come across plenty of monkeys. Don’t be afraid to take their pictures and observe their nuances as they look for food and laze around, just ensure the camera is secure in your hand or around your neck.



Things to keep in mind

The hike to the Dambulla Cave temple can be tiring especially if you have already covered the Sigiriya Lion Rock earlier in the day hence, be sure to carry essentials such as a water of bottle, sunscreen and shades (likely to be hot and humid in the afternoons).

Also, wear comfortable breathable clothes and be sure to cover the shoulders and legs before entering the temple. Scarves are available for purchase at the temple, however it’s an expense one can easily avoid by planning in advance what to wear or carrying a cloth. Shoes need to be removed before entering the temple hence, ensure you keep some change to be paid at the counter.

 

Further, the caves are quite dim from the inside as it is after all a cave, hence ensure that you carry a good low lighting camera to capture the perfect snaps and a torch so you can view the wall and ceiling paintings more clearly.

Places to eat

Near the parking area there are couple of eateries. They do offer plenty of snacks such as rolls, samosas and bakery items to munch on and beverages such as juices, milkshakes, tea and coffee to quench ones thirst. The food is fairly priced for a tourist spot.

Nearby place to visit

In close proximity to the Dambulla Cave temple is another UNESCO world heritage site – the Sigiriya Lion Rock, which is 200 meters above the plains and is also well preserved. There are ponds, rock gardens and the hike on the Sigiriya Lion Rock is more challenging than the hike to the Dambulla Cave temple. The hike provides you with a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape and plenty of greenery can be seen well into the horizon.

 

If one is planning a day trip from Kandy with the intention of bundling both the Dambulla Cave temple and the Sigiriya Lion Rock then it is preferable to reach the Sigiriya Lion Rock first, as it is a more arduous hike which should be completed before the sun scorches in the afternoon. On the way back to Kandy one can visit the Dambulla Cave temple.
Dambulla Cave Temple

Deep in the middle of Sri Lanka, a massive column of rock juts out from the green tropical forest. It reaches 660 feet tall and features frescoes, graffiti, and landscaped gardens. The rock is known as Sigiriya. Credits: Aditya Mehta

 

Sigiriya: The Lion Rock. Credits: Aditya Mehta

 

Dambulla Cave Temple

One of the most breathtaking features of Sigiriya was the gardens. Credits: Aditya Mehta

Final thoughts on Dambulla Cave Temple

A moment should be taken at the Dambulla Cave temple to realize that you are amidst history that dates back to more than 22 centuries and it is bound to leave you awestruck and wanting more. You feel as though you have gone back in time and are left with a slice of Sri Lanka’s rich history to savor.

Happy Wayfaring 🙂

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aditya Mehta is a qualified Association of Chartered Certified Accountant (‘ACCA’) professional who loves to explore new places whenever the opportunity presents itself.  An avid sports and music enthusiast, he believes that the essence of a great travel is the people and the cuisine you come across and the experiences shared amongst diverse cultures.

 

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