Dambulla Cave Temple – දඹුල්ල රජමහා විහාරය

View from the Temple

View from the Temple

Entrance to the cave complex

Entrance to the cave complex

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Dambulla Temple as in 1896 from The ruined cities of Ceylon by Henry W. Cave

Dambulla Temple as in 1896 from The ruined cities of Ceylon by Henry W. Cave

Sri Lanka has many cave temples but the Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya or the Golden Rock Temple of Dambulla is the most venerated, celebrated and most probably the most visited.

The cave complex that consists of the five viharayas has a spectacular setting on a massive rock some 1118 ft. above sea level and surrounded by the plains of Kurunegala on one side and the rock of Sigiriya and the mountain of Ritigala on the other.

The rock which soars upwards some 600 ft above the surrounding plains at one point, gape and enfolds to creates the caverns that mother the caves. Almost as if in thanksgiving to nature’s gift the cave temples celebrate – a veritable art gallery filled with thousands of images of the Lord Buddha in sculptures and paintings.

It is believed that the initial temple here was built by King Valagamba in the first century BC in gratitude for giving him refuge and shelter when fleeing the the invading Cholas. But it is most probable that these caves were in occupation many centuries before. After King Valagamba succeeding kings added to its maintenance, repair and prosperity.

 Cave Number 1 - Devarajalena

Cave Number 1 – Devarajalena

 Cave Number 1 - Devarajalena

Cave Number 1 – Devarajalena

 Cave Number 1 - Devarajalena

Cave Number 1 – Devarajalena

Today the pilgrim or tourist in you will not be disappointed. The sloping rock leading towards the holy precincts only will serve to heighten the sense of reverence and excitement. In front of the caves is a pleasantly paved midula. The cavern itself extends to some 170 feet with a breadth of about 75 feet and a height of about 20 feet in front receding to the back till it meets the ground. There are four big caves and two smaller ones.

 Cave Number 1 - Devarajalena

Cave Number 1 – Devarajalena

 Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

 Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave No 1, the Davarajalena is entered by passing through a great Makara Thorana and includes a massive rock-cut figure of the Lord Buddha in the parinibbana mancaka or in the final passing away, attended at his feet by his devout disciple Venerable Ananda. The presence of a large wooden image of Vishnu who is considered here as the Lord of the Gods by whose divine power the construction of the Dambulla caves was possible, explains the name given to this cave.

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave No 2, the Maharajalena or the cave of the great kings is the most impressive and is filled with statues (nearly 60) both religious and secular carved out of the living rock, wood or stucco and thousands of colorful paintings all around the cave on the walls and the ceiling. This cave includes seated, lying and standing Buddha images, the images of the four gods; Natha, Maitreya, Upulvan, and Saman, a life-size wooden statue believed to be that of King Valagamba, and a statue of King Nissankamalla. The presence of the statues of the kings obviously influenced the name given to this cave.

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

The main statue in the cave is a life-sized image of the Lord Buddha carved in the standing posture under a Makara Torana . On either side of the main image is a unique grouping of the images of the Mahayana Bodisatvas : Maitreya on the left and Natha or Avolokatesvara on the right.

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya - A world heritage site

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya – A world heritage site

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

The ceiling and walls are covered with colourful murals that follow the natural folds of the rock depicting the history of Buddhism and the history of Sri Lanka. Here amongst the murals is found the striking mural of Dutugemunu-Elara in combat where King Dutugemunu is shown to carry the Sinhala flag.

 Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

 Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena Murals on the cave ceiling

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena Murals on the cave ceiling

The cave includes a small dagoba surrounded by 11 seated Buddha statues. This cave is also sacred due sto the miraculous water droplets which fall with unerring regularity from a crevice in the ceiling. The devout believe that the water will never cease even during a drought. The water is collected in a vessel and is considered sacred.

Cave Number 2 - Maharajalena Murals on the cave ceiling

Cave Number 2 – Maharajalena Murals on the cave ceiling

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya  King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya
King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe

Cave No 3 the 18th century Maha Aluth Viharaya or the Great New Temple which is second only to the Maharajalena due its number of statues and paintings, was built by one of the last kings of the Kandyan Kingdom Kirti Sri Rajasinghe whose life size image distinguished by his full beard and royal robes is also found here.

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave No 4 the small and beautiful Pacchima Viharaya includes a seated image of Lord Buddha showing Dhyana mudra under a Makara Toran as its main image In the middle is a small dagoba referred to as the Soma chetiya, after the queen of King Valagamba.

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave No 5 or the Devana Alut Viharaya or the Second New Temple and the newest of the five caves was formerly a store house.

Here are also found Buddha statues including a colossal reclining Buddha and the images of Vishnu, Skanda and a local god known as Devata Bandara.

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

This port gradually faded in importance while port Mahathiththa/ Mahathota/ Mantota (now Mantai) located at the mouth of Malvatu oya developed as a key intersection of sea-routes and the Dambakola Patuna Viharaya was lost in time. The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, the Mahavamsa and Samanthapaasasdika mention pilgrims coming from “Yonaka” country to Jambukola to worship the Jambukola Viharaya in the ancient times.

Cave 3 - Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave 3 – Maha Aluth Viharaya

Cave No 4

Cave No 4

Cave No 4

Cave No 4

Unfortunately today there is nothing on the temple which shows any antiquity. Most of the the structures in the temple including the stupa which has been completed in a record 65 days have been done by the Sri Lankan Navy. Even the current bo tree was planted in 1998 by the Navy.

Cave No 4

Cave No 4

 Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rock inscription

Rock inscription

Nature and wildlife at Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Nature and wildlife at Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

 Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya

The Bo Tree of the Temple

The Bo Tree of the Temple

Text by Kishanie S. Fernando
Daily Mirror

Also See

Map of Dambulla Cave Temple

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Driving Directions to Dambulla Cave Temple

Route from Colombo to Dambulla

Route from Kandy to Dambulla

Though : Ambepussa – Kurunegala
distance : 155 km
Travel time : 3.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Kandy – Jaffna Road
distance : 72 km
Travel time : 1.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
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© www.amazinglanka.com
first published : May 6, 2007
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Posted in Heritage

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