Dambulla Golden Temple

The Dambulla Golden Temple is unquestionably the city’s most visited tourism destination. The majority of tourists visit the Dambull Golden Temple when they are in Dambulla. Because it is such a popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka, the Dambulla Golden Temple is included in the majority of Sri Lankan vacation packages. Dambulla cave temples drew inspiration from a sizable granite outcrop that towers over 160 metres above the surrounding terrain and provides breathtaking views across the arid zone plains to Sigiriya, located over 20 kilometres away.

Table of Contents

Dambulla Golden Temple

Dusty little DAMBULLA is known for its incredible buddhist cave temples, five magical, dimly lit grottoes packed with statues and decorated with some of the best murals in the country—a picture-perfect example of Sinhalese Buddhist art at its finest—which are roughly in the centre of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle.
The strategic intersection of the ColomboTrincomalee and KandyAnuradhapura highways in Dambulla renders it a prime starting point from which to investigate the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, the town is not particularly picturesque among the surrounding areas due to its dispersion along a solitary, protracted, and filthy primary thoroughfare. The typical clocktower denotes the municipal centre. The primary retail district is situated in an uninspiring series of new, unsightly concrete structures to the north of it. Southernmost in proximity to the clocktower are the town transit station, the wholesale market, and the majority of the guesthouses.

Importance of Dambulla Golden Temple

The Dambulla Golden Temple is unquestionably the city’s most visited tourism destination. The majority of tourists visit the Dambull Golden Temple when they are in Dambulla. Because it is such a popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka, the Dambulla Golden Temple is included in the majority of Sri Lankan vacation packages. Dambulla cave temples drew inspiration from a sizable granite outcrop that towers over 160 metres above the surrounding terrain and provides breathtaking views across the arid zone plains to Sigiriya, located over 20 kilometres away.
It is advisable to traverse the caverns in the opposite direction, beginning with Grotto 5 and retracing your steps. This will enable you to observe the caves with increasing splendour, culminating in the awe-inspiring cave 2.

Visit to the Dambulla Cave Shrine

A visit to Dambulla Cave Temple is a widely favoured excursion among visitors in Sri Lanka, owing to the opportunity it provides to observe several of the country’s most picturesque and significant tourist attractions. It is possible to reserve the Dambulla Cave temple tour independently or in conjunction with other multi-day Sri Lanka tour itineraries. Typically, tour companies like Seerendipity Tours handle the booking process for the one-day trip to Dambulla from Colombo. The one-day excursion to Dambulla is frequently supplemented with tour to the Sigiriya rock formation and the Minneriya safari.

A recap of previous occurrences

The cave sanctuaries were constructed during the reign of Vattagamini Abhaya, alternatively known as Valagambahu or Valagamba, which spanned from 89 to 77 BC until 103 BC. Following the Tamil invaders’ seizure of his dominion, Vattagamini sought refuge in subterranean tunnels for fourteen years. During this time, he remained in hiding. In gratitude for the rock’s assistance in concealing him, Vattagamini, who had reestablished his throne at Anuradhapura, commissioned the construction of temples in that location. Walls were erected as partitions beneath a solitary, substantial rock overhang that had been present previously. As a result, the individual caves that now house the sanctuaries were formed. Significant restorations and remodels were completed by the Kandyan kings Senerath (1604–35) and Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747–82), who also commissioned numerous murals that adorn the interiors of the cave temples and constructed the remarkable Cave 3. Nissankamalla added additional embellishments to the cave temples. Throughout the reigns of these two final monarchs, the majority of what is visible was created. However, the task of precisely dating specific paintings remains challenging due to the fact that artists continued to enhance and alter them well into the twentieth century, frequently repainting them as the original paint decayed.

The Dambulla Cave Temple’s Cave 5

Brick and plaster comprise the images in cave 5, also referred to as the Devana Alut Viharaya (“Second New Temple”), in contrast to the majority of the other monuments at the site, which are crafted from solid rock. As such, it can be considered the most modern among the temples. The centrepiece is a reclining Buddha measuring 10 metres in height. Paintings of a dark Vishnu, Kataragama and his peacock to the right, and Bandara, a local divinity, to the left, adorn the wall behind him. As one departs, one may notice a painting that portrays a nobleman holding lotus blossoms in his hand. It is possible that this nobleman bestowed the temple upon you.

The Dambulla Cave Temple’s Cave 4

Cave 4, also referred to as the “Western Temple” or Paccima Viharaya, is comparatively modest in size, despite the fact that cave 5, an earlier temple, is situated further west. The walls are adorned with numerous identical sculptures of Buddhas in meditation posture, interspersed with a few larger figures, one of which is draped and positioned beneath an elaborate makara torana arch. The focal edifice is a diminutive dagoba that has sustained a breach in its side due to unauthorised entry by criminals who entered on the pretext that Vattagamini Abhaya’s wife, Queen Somawathie, was in possession of valuables. Its walls feature Buddha statues and floral and chevron patterns, similar to Cave 5. The majority of these walls underwent extensive renovations during the early 1900s.

The Dambulla Cave Temple’s Cave 3

On a significantly grander scale, Kirti Sri Rajasinha constructed Cave 3, also known as the Maha Alut Viharaya (“Great New Temple”). The cavern exhibits a sloping ceiling with a maximum height of ten metres, creating the illusion of a vast tent adorned with over fifty Buddhas in both standing and seated positions. Located to the entrance’s right is a statue depicting Kirti Sri Rajasinha, accompanied by four attendants who are depicted on the wall behind him. Astonishingly, both the meditating Buddha in the centre of the cave and the resting Buddha on the cave’s left wall are sculpted from solid rock, especially considering the era when abrasive chisels were used to remove each stone.

Wall paintings

Cave 3 contains several captivating wall paintings. Two ceiling paintings depict the future Buddha Maitreya proselytising in a pavilion resembling a Kandyan. In the first, he addresses a group of stern followers (as you approach the grotto, raise your gaze upwards); in the second, he speaks to a congregation of exquisitely adorned deities in the Tusita paradise, where he is presumed to be residing for the next five billion years prior to his return to Earth. Upon exiting the opposite side, one will encounter an additional intriguing image depicting an idealised setting adorned with square ponds, trees, elephants, cobras, and Buddhas (positioned behind a pair of sat Buddhas). An addition from the nineteenth century, this element recalls the folklore of the Kandyan era murals.

The Dambulla Cave Temple’s Cave 2

The largest and most magnificent cave is Cave 2, also known as the Maharaja Vihara or “Temple of the Great Kings,” located in Dambulla. It is an expansive burial area measuring over fifty metres in length and seven metres in height. Although Vattagamini Abhaya is credited with its inception, it underwent significant reconstruction and modification in the seventeenth century. The cave obtained its appellation from the statues of the two monarchs that were unearthed within. The initial depiction is a painted wooden figure of Vattagamini Abhaya, positioned directly to the left of the door that is the most distant from the main entrance. Nissankamalla is concealed at the extremity of the cave on the right in the second image, nearly concealed behind a large, reclining Buddha. The fate of this most arrogant Sinhala autocrat was shrouded in mystery.

The cave’s rear and sides are adorned with an extensive collection of Buddha sculptures. Traces of the gold leaf adorning the primary Buddha statue can be observed to the cave’s left, situated beneath a makara torana in the abhaya (“Have No Fear”) mudra. Wooden statues of Maitreya and Avalokitesvara, alternatively referred to as Natha, adorn both sides. Statures of Saman and Vishnu rest against the wall behind the main Buddha, while paintings of Ganesh and Kataragama adorn the wall beyond. This compact assemblage of Hindu, Mahayana, and Theravada deities is extraordinarily diverse.

The Paintings

Cave 2 is considered the preeminent location in Sri Lanka due to its exquisite mural adorning the walls and ceiling. As one approaches, the western end of the cave (to the left) features a ceiling adorned with Kandyan-style strip panels. These panels depict significant events from the life of the Buddha and dagobas situated at sacred sites in Sri Lanka. Narrowly visible is the small white elephant, symbolising the unique qualities of the Buddha’s unborn child. While expectant, it appeared in a dream to the mother of the Buddha. The three adjacent ceiling panels depicting the Mara Parajaya (“Defeat of Mara”), which details the challenges encountered by the Buddha during his quest for enlightenment at Bodhgaya, are far more impressive than these murals. In the first, he is depicted seated beneath a meticulously maintained bo tree as legions of grey, hairy devils—one of which even carries a musket—fir arrows at him. The spectacular Mara, atop an elephant, maintains a watchful stance over all. The subsequent panel, titled “The Daughters of Mara,” portrays the Buddha yielding to the allure of a substantial assemblage of alluring maidens, thus illustrating the ineffectiveness of this endeavour to distract his focus. The subsequent Isipatana panel serves as a memorial to the Buddha’s victory over these extraordinary demonstrations of feminine ingenuity. It depicts the Buddha delivering his first lecture before a large congregation of exquisitely attired deities.

Contrary to it, in the right-hand corner of the cavern, is a wire-mesh enclosure containing a pot irrigated continuously by drops from the roof. It is not anticipated that, even in the most severe drought, it will run completely.

The Dambulla Cave Temple’s Cave 1

Commemorating the establishment of the temples is a Brahmi inscription located to the right of the temple’s exterior. Cave 1, alternatively referred to as the Devaraja Viharaya or “Temple of the Lord of the Gods,” procures its name in homage to Vishnu, the presumed architect of the caverns. The fourteen-meter-long Buddha in slumber occupies nearly the entire tiny area. The Buddha statue is fashioned from solid granite and features faint indications of fine gold plating on his elbow, an area that is frequently concealed. Sitting at the feet of the Buddha is a statue of his most devoted disciple, Ananda; behind an ornately painted wooden partition, representations of Vishnu and other deities are concealed. Although certain sections of the cave’s paintings are thought to be among the earliest, years of subsequent painting have severely deteriorated them. Complicating 20th-century embellishments are the vibrant frescoes adorning the area behind Ananda’s head. These frescoes portray an atypical tree adorned with a cherub in the manner of Italy.

A bo tree stands opposite a tiny blue church dedicated to Kataragama that is situated outside the entrance.

Sacred Golden Temple

The gilded Temple, an extraordinary edifice containing a thirty-meter-tall gilded Buddha atop a lavish, retro structure, is situated at the base of the stairs that ascend to the cave temples. A sign in close proximity erroneously asserts that this Buddha statue is the tallest in the world, although it is merely the second-tallest in Sri Lanka (the authentic tallest Buddha statue is situated in Leshan, China, and measures 71 metres in height).

Golden Temple Museum

The gilded Temple Buddhist Museum is situated beneath the colossal Buddha statue. It is accessible via the gilded mouth of a monstrous creature resembling a lion. In spite of the museum’s expansive size, its exhibits are somewhat limited. A few uninspiring replicas of the cave temple murals, a few Buddha statues donated from around the world, and a few unidentified artefacts are also present.

In opposition to Dambulla

Two of the most magnificent ancient Buddhas on the island, located at Aukana and Sasseruwa, are tucked away in the Namal Uyana Conservation Forest, which is situated northwest of Dambulla on the road to Anuradhapura. If you own a vehicle, it is simple to incorporate all three attractions into a brief and enjoyable day excursion departing from Colombo.

Aukana Statue of Buddha

One of the foremost symbols of Sri Lankan religion and art, the magnificent 12-meter-tall standing Buddha, is located in the village of Aukanna. Buddha’s statue is in close proximity to the colossal Kala Wewa reservoir, which the misfortuneful King Dhatusena constructed in the fifth century. However, its dating is consistent with the images discovered at Maligawila, Buduruwagala, Gal Vihara of Polonnaruwa, and Lankatilaka, indicating that it is likely three to four centuries older. The transient popularity of these enormous religious edifices might have been aided by the Indian Mahayana school of thought, which emphasises the transcendental attributes attributed to the Buddha.

Aukana, whose name translates to “sun-eating,” is most stunning when observed in the early morning, when the delicate light accentuates the statue’s intricate details—that is, provided that you are able to reserve a vehicle and driver for that hour. In the asisa mudra, or blessing posture, which is uncommon for Sri Lanka, the statue faces the viewer with its right palm flexed laterally, as if it were poised to deliver a swift karate blow. The circular figure is carved and is solely affixed to the rock from which it is extracted at its rear; the lotus pedestal upon which it is supported is composed of an individual slab of granite. Originally, the walls surrounding the pedestal of the statue formed a vaulted chamber for the image.

Regarding Sasseruwa Buddha


Situated at an approximate height of two times that of the Aukana Buddha, the Sasseruwa Buddha (alternatively referred to as the Reswehera Buddha) is a solitary, unfinished figure. The figure is holding an abhaya mudra in the same “Have No Fear” position as at Aukana. The beam holes carved into the surrounding rock appear to imply that the creature once resided in its own image dwelling. The monument was originally an element of a monastery that Vattagamini Abhaya constructed. It is said that the King sought refuge there while fleeing the Tamil invasion. The statue is surrounded by remnants of the monastery complex, which include two cave temples—one containing a substantial recumbent Buddha and the other featuring additional Buddha statues and murals dating back to the Kandyan period.

A narrative concerning two Buddhas

Two anecdotes link the Aukana and Sasseruwa Buddhas. As per the initial, more prevalent hypothesis, fissures began to manifest in the Sasseruwa Buddha’s torso throughout the construction process. As a result, the statue was demolished, and an alternative one was constructed in Aukana. An alternative, more poetic interpretation posits that the two Buddhas were carved concurrently by a master and his disciple. The pupil, disheartened by his own deficiencies, abandoned the Sasseruwa figure when the instructor completed the Aukana Buddha in front of him. The notion that the two statues were produced entirely at different points in time constitutes a third and virtually more compelling argument. Sasseruwa Buddha, who lived in the third century AD, is said to exemplify the Gandharan sculpting style, which was influenced by Greek art and originated in the region that is now Afghanistan. Inspired by this style, Buddha statues were erected throughout South Asia. The awkward square head and enormous features of the Sasseruwa Buddha stand in stark contrast to the chiselled grace of the Aukana image.