These cave temples are the best preserved and biggest in Sri Lanka. The rock rises to a height of 160 m (520 ft.) from the surrounding plains and houses more than 80 documented caves along its 2000 feet length. However, the most important are 5 caves, which contain priceless statues and paintings relating to the life and times of Buddha. I counted over 150 statues of Buddha in various poses, one statue each of Vishnu and Ganesh and a few of the Kings of Sri Lanka. The paintings on the walls of the caves are unique and include Buddha's first sermon. Cave 1 contains a huge statue of the Buddha in a recumbent posture on a pillow with the right hand; Cave 2 is a larger one and joined with Cave 3, which contains over 55 statues of the Buddha, an image of the future Buddha (Maitreya Buddha) and a dagoba in the middle of the shrine; Cave 4 houses 10 images of the Buddha and two dagobas. There is also a huge bo-tree outside the vihara.
It is said that during the decade and more exile from Anuradhapura, King Valagamba took refuge in these caves with the Buddhist monks looking after him. Later, on his re-assumption to the throne, the grateful king built a magnificent rock temple for the monks.
On your way down, after admiring the sculptures and the frescoes, zoom in on the distinctive feature of the Sirigiya Rock Fortress. Also, stop awhile and taste the delicious mangoes the wayside stalls have to offer. The souvenirs may best be left for a better shop.
The Raja Maha Vihara at the village of Dambulla is the most impressive. It consists of a series of five caverns. The temple is on the summit of a huge slope rock face that rises more than 350 feet above the village.
The most interesting is the largest cave, as ceiling of this cavern is fully illustrated with paintings. Among the cave’s numerous statues are the earliest devala statues to appear in a Buddhist image house.
You CAN'T use Cultural Triangle Ticket in Dambulla cave temple, which charges Rs500. (Feb 06)
Just outside the entrance to Dambulla Caves is a large pond and a few buildings. The monkeys are everywhere and are very used to tourists. It is best to not get to close, but they are happy to pose for photos!
The cave temples open daily from 07:30-19:00 (admnission fee) are located 2 kms south of Dambulla town centre. Thre is steep 10 minutes climb up from the street level to the caves.
These are man-made granite outcrops which rise 160m above ground offering splendid views across the surrounding countryside.
It is believed that these caves were inhabited in prehistoric times and later on they served as shelter and Buddhist shrine by king Vattagamani Abhaya (1st century BC) who lost his throne at Anuradhapura and hide himself here. There have been much later restorations and remodellings carried out by Kandian kings in the 17th and 18th century.
There are 5 caves which best visited in reverse order (from cave No 5 to the biggest and most magnificent cave No 2)
Don't keep yourself occupied only with the caves' interior. Sit down a while before departure and enjoy the majestic landscape of the plains extending as far as Sigiriya.
I was lucky enough to witness a gigantic lizard slopping down from the rocks!!
Before climbing up the stairs to the caves, stands the undoubtly kitsch Golden Temple. This new building is topped by a huge (around 30meters high) seated golden Buddha. Though it claims it is the largest Buddha statue in the world, this is not true.
The buidling houses the Golden Temple Buddhist museum in a building below, entered through the golden mouth of an enormous lion-like beast. I read in my guidebook that the exhibition is rather modest limited to copies of cave paintings and Buddha staues from around the world, so I saved my money.
There is also an ninternet shop where you can check your e-mails.
Along with Buddha images, in the center of the room there is a dagoba (Buddhist shrine that looks like small stupa). When the dagoba was contructed one of Sri Lanka's kings supposedly placed jewels deep inside the structure.
This is one of the nicest temple caves. This is the Temple of the Great King-since there are two statues of past kings. In the middle of the cave, there is a locked area that contains an urn that collects water that drips down from the top of the cave. The water is used during droughts and sacred rituals.
This is the smallest of the five caves. This cave is the Temple of the King of the Gods. It contains a large reclinning Buddha. There are other Buddhas and Ananda(Buddha's loyal disciple) inside the cave. This is the darkest cave, so it may be difficult to take good photographs. Flash is not allowed.
There is a Buddhist museum, but very little is written in English. There is a Buddhist bookshop. Also, an internet cafe. It's open from 7.30- 11.30 pm. Cost is around 500 rps. (includes entry to temple caves). Nearby there is a golden chedi.
The fifth cave is the Devana Alut Viharaya: it's the newst of the five and the least impressive. It's very tiny and it once used to house some wharehouses. Both the large reclining buddha and the other statues are not very impressive. The frescoes are pretty but not very colourful nor spectacular. Maybe one should visit this cave first and then move on to the more interesting ones
The fouth cave is one of the newest caves. It's called Pachima Viharaya and it's not regarded as anything spectacular but.... it turned out to be my favourite of all five caves. Together with the usual arrays of smaller and larger buddhas and hindu statues, there is a large recling buddha which is absolutely charming: look at its face - it's an image of joy and peacefulness. The frescos are very bright in this cave, and in general it gives you a joyful impression
The third cave, Maha Alut Vihara, is called the "Great New Monastery". The painting and frescos are very well preserved, especially because they are of more recent origin: they were painted during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1782). There's also, besides the usual large Buddha and smaller Buddhas and Visnus, the statue of the king. The style is different from that of the other temples: this is pure Kandy style. I don't know how it's officially explained but for me it's a style of light - both in the sense of luminosity and in the sense of being deprived of weight. It's all very soft, very airy
The second cave is Maharajalena, the "Cave of the Great Kings." it's th largest of the five caves and it contains 56 statues of buddha, as well as other statues of the gods Saman and Visnu. Other statues are those of King Vattagamani, who visited the monastery in the first century B.C., and King Nissanka Malla who, in the 12th century, commissioned the gilding of 50 statues. In this cave, like in all other caves, there's a large reclining buddha statue: however its most eye-capturing "monument" is an old dagoba surrounded by six rock statues. From the ceiling waters drip, as if it were a spring: this water is supposed to have healing powers.
The first cave is called Devarajalena, or "Cave of the Divine King." The main element of the cave is a 14-metres rock statue of a reclining buddha. it's all brightly painted , but the best part is the sole of itsfeet, which is decorated with intricate patterns. Two more statues are of some importance: Ananda, the Buddha's favourite pupil, and Visnu, who is said to have created this natural cave.