The Golden Temple of Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you visit you will find out that it is a mind-blowing experience. As you walk up the mountain past the wild monkeys, you start to feel like you are on sacred ground. Just outside the caves are ‘modern’ (built in 1938) white buildings and a large green coloured pond just outside. More monkeys come and go. Then you step into the first cave. WOW! It is completely packed with 1000 year old statues, paintings and cloth decorations. Although it is dark, you can easily see the vivid array of colours. Many statues are literally falling apart, but most are well preserved.
There are 5 main caves and most of them are crowded with statues of Lord Buddha and his life (153 statues!). There are also 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses – including Hindu gods Vishnu and Ganesh.
The Cave complex dates from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, when they served as monasteries. King Valagambahu is traditionally credited with converting the caves into a temple in the 1st century BC when he was forced out of Anuradhapura (the ancient capital) by rebels from southern India. He encamped here for 15 years before he was able to retake his own kingdom. He built the temple complex as a way of saying thanks for his victory.
You can find out more about this world treasure here:
Officially Dambulla is a part of the Cultural Triangle declared by UNESCO - but personally Dambulla is a unique place - possibly the highlight of my trip. I found unexpected charm, there: 5 wonderful temples carved into rock and painted with ancient frescos and filled with buddha and hindu statues.They were founded in the 1 century BC by King Valagamba but they then kept being enlarge and redecorated or embellished.
Fondest memory: I liked everything: the 5 large buddhasttues (one in each cave) and the gorgeous frescos. But above all I liked the little details, for example the painted soles of the feet of the buddha in the first cave. Intricate patterns!
Favorite thing: In this cave temple are hundreds of Buddha statues and his paintings on the wall. They are amazingly well preserved. Vivid colors and gentle smiles of Buddha. He is everywhere you look...