Dambulla Caves and Golden Temple : Sri Lanka


http://www.bootsandbutter.com/Dambulla Cave also known as the Golden Temple of Sri Lanka is the most beautiful site especially for those who love art and history. Dambulla is the largest cave complex, with over 80 caves in the vicinity but for tourists, the 5 major caves are most relevant. 
Typically Sigiriya and Dambulla should be covered together as they are just a few miles apart. After a long and tiring climb at Sigiriya Rock, we were too tired to walk at all. However, we did not want to miss this amazing place in our Itinerary - so we gathered ourselves, and headed for it.

History of these Caves :
The cave temple date back to the first century BCE where pre-historic Sri Lankans used to live. It has 5 caves which are under and over-hanging rock lined with a drip lining to keep the temple dry. The paintings and statues are related to Gautam Buddha and his life. There are about 153 Buddha Statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 Gods and Goddesses. In the pre-historic times, these caves were occupied by the Buddhist hermits who used to live and meditate here in the search of salvation. 
It is said that when the Sri Lankan king Vattagamani Abhaya fled from his kingdom in Anuradhapura (when it was invaded by South Indians), the Buddhist monks gave him a refuge here. 

How to go:
Colombo to Dambulla - 178 kms (4.5 hours)
Kandy to Dambulla -91 kms (2.5 hours)
Sigiriya to Dambulla - 20Kms (Half hour)

So we first went to Sigirya from Kandy and while returning, went to Dambulla cave temple. There is quite a climb again in Dambulla. We were too tired, but went half the way up when we were asked for tickets and the ticket counter is all the way down to the other side. This is very misleading for tourists - It was too tiring to go back down again and then climb up the stairs. Ask your cab driver to take you to the entrance where you can purchase tickets. 

Ticket Price : 1500 LKR per head. Yes, it is very pricey and there is no discount for Saarc citizens. 

Also there is nothing to eat on the way up the climb and in the caves. So please carry water bottles and food if you need.

Experience and Details:

I am a big fan of pre-historic caves and scriptures, so it was really exciting for me to visit this place. Long long back, this was a place where buddhist monks used to live away from the city and family life in this peaceful environment. As soon as you land into the first cave and notice the Sleeping Buddha, it hits your soul. The place is so quiet and cold with no artificial lighting that it feels as if it has transformed you to someone else. All the tiredness of Sigiriya will start fading away and the senses were completely relaxed as if in the meditative state. I wish they had some place to sit inside the caves but unfortunately that is not there.

I am putting the details of these caves in a very simple format for the tourist to understand - I had read about this place from Wikipedia and this site

Cave #1 : Cave of King of Gods (Deva Raja Viharaya)
This cave depicts the final moment of Buddha - it is 47 feet in length - the face is dull and lifeless, with no emotions and the body is in Samadhi state.
The cave contains, another five images of which the standing one at the southern end of the. Room is supposed to be that of Arhat Ananda, the immediate disciple of Buddha, weeping at the death of his master.
At the northern corner of the cave, opposite the face of the principal image, there is a statue, of Visnu, (some scholars believe that this is of Upulvan, one of the four guardian deities of Sri Lanka) - Surprising that Hinduism has influence here - Vishnu is a Hindu God, finds place in a Buddha cave in Sri Lanka.

Cave #2 : Cave of the Great King (Maha Raja Viharaya)
This cave is the most impressive cave here - it is huge. This cave contains fifty-there images. The majority of the statues are of Buddha in different attitudes.The ceiling nearest the entrance is used mostly to depict the life of the Buddha, before and after his Enlightenment. In this part the artist has also attempted to paint the earlier births of the Buddha. In addition to 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha, are the gods Saman and Vishnu, which pilgrims often decorate with garlands, and finally statues of King Vattagamani Abhaya, who honored the monastery in the 1st century BC

Cave #3 : Great New Monastery :(Maha Alut Viharaya)
This Cave is separated from Cave No.2 by a wall of masonry. This is said to have been used as a store room before the eighteenth century. It acquired ceiling and wall paintings in the typical Kandy style during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, the famous Buddhist revivalist. In addition to the 50 Buddha statues, there is also a statue of the king.

Cave #4 : Western Cave (Paschima Viharaya)
This cave contains ten figures of the Buddha. The principal image which is under a torana, is of the same size as the other statues. This is a very beautiful figure of the Buddha seated in the dhyana mudra (posture of meditation) hewn of the natural rock that forms the cave itself.

Cave #5 (the last in order) has no historical value as it was done in the second decade of this century.

Overall it took us around 2 hours to cover these caves, there is also a museum and temple at the bottom, but it is a bit of a walk to the side - we decided to skip it. 
I think this is almost a full day trip, but as we were too tired after Sigiriya, we just finished it too soon and left for the day. 

It was a beautiful experience, and I would definitely recommend to cover Dambulla in your Itinerary when visiting Sri Lanka

Other Articles for Sri Lanka :
1. Sri Lanka Itinerary
2. Bentota - Beach town
3. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
4. Kandy
5. Sigiriya.. Ravan's fort
6. Dambulla.. Caves and Golden temple
7. Colombo Trip Part 1
8. Colombo Trip Part 2


  1. Good to see you writing after long, Sneha.

    I loved every aspect of your trip - tiring journey, surreal experiences, and finding Vishnu too...maybe it is their God.
    I just wish there was a place to sit down and mediate a bit.

    1. Thanks Alok.. Yeah I have been so busy at work nowadays!! but I realize that my blog was feeling ignored.. so re-did the layout and started writing again !! :)

  2. I know this place as perhaps international cricket matches held. Thanks for this detailed informations about this place.

    1. Yeah but beyond Cricket matches, Its a beautiful place !! Thanks for visiting my blog !!

  3. I remember visiting this place, it was quite something and I really loved it, even though monkeys tried to steal from my back on my way there. And you have a great pictures!