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Cave Temples of Dambulla

Hewn into a 160 m granite outcrop are the remarkable cave temples of Dambulla. Located at the centre of the island, 148 Km from Colombo, and on the main route north to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the cave temples are masterpices of Buddhist art. Each is filled with murals depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life, and gilded statues of the Buddha in various poses.

In the 1st c. BC, the caves provided refuge to a king who fled a South Indian invasion. On reclaiming his throne, the grateful king had temples constructed in the caves that had sheltered him. These were embllished by subsequent rulers, especially during the Kandyan period in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Altogether, there are five caves. Cave 2, the Maharaja Vihara is the largest and most spectacular at over 50m long, 7m high and almost 25m deep. The spiritual energy at Dambulla is palpable and the Buddhist art on display is unparalleled in Sri Lanka. An added bonus is the majestic view from the top of the rock.


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