Sri Lanka’s best-preserved and largest cave-temple complex, the Golden temple of Dambulla is rich in architectural value. With five sanctuaries, this site has been there for 22 centuries. 157 Buddha statues are housed within the five caves of the complex. These include a reclining Buddha with a length of 15 meteres. Beautiful paintings cover the side walls, ceiling and the rock surfaces inside the caves, making this the world’s largest antique painted surface. They have been drawn using indigenous traditional colour schemes and sprawl across nearly 22,000 square feet. As King Nissankamalala had preferred these paintings to be done in gold, the temple is fondly referred to as Rangiri Dambulla”. Back in 1991, the site was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its artistic, archeological and historical significance.
In order to preserve the temple’s antiqueness, various activities are carried out: ancient practices and rituals as well as functions are followed for this. A must visit for history buffs, it has been the centre for pilgrimage for Buddhists since the First Century BC. The total of its exquisite murals amount to 2000, perfectly depicting various events from Buddha’s life.
In order to visit this complex, tourists and pilgrims have to ascend the sloping ground in addition to several sets of stairs. Along the way you are bound to witness the world famous Sigiriya rock fortress in the distance. The most impressive one among the caves is the Temple of the Great King, the entire surface of which is a mosaic of frescoes with various styles and themes. The paintings at the temple represent various epochs of Sinhalese Buddhist art. The paintings at the complex are said to have been originally done during the 17th century by Kandyan artists.
Bands of sinuous flowers and tendrils can be seen beyond the array of Buddha statues and black, yellow and red motifs. Some elaborate murals depict battles while others narrate some significant events of the country’s rich history. In order to be able to completely understand and admire this unique art, it is best to let an experienced guide accompany you.