Dambulla – The Golden Rock Temple
Rajamaha Temple of Rangiri Dambulla (Golden Rock Temple) Located north of Kandy and considered by most to be the centre point of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and a World Heritage City, declared by UNESCO.
The name Dambulla derives from Damba – Rock, and Ulla – fountain. One sees the incessant drip of water from the fountain within the main image house.
This complex of caves at Dambulla is one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. It was here that King Vattagamini Abhaya (Valagamba) took refuge in the 1st century BCE. He later turned the caves into a rock temple. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the temple interior gilded, earning it the name of Ran Giri – Golden Rock.
Dambulla Viharaya contains an abundance of valuable material from the very earliest times till the late eighteenth century, and shows the evolution of the Singhalese Buddhist art. Such vast material in one place, combined with a long history, is a rare find anywhere.
The temples contain 153 Buddha images, 3 images of kings and 4 images of gods and goddesses. There are also 4 main monasteries and it was within this complex that the monks began the militant nationalist movement against the British in 1848.
These 80 or more caves tell of the inhabitants dating back to the 3rd Century BCE. Five main caves hold the holy Buddhist shrines. The stupa was built in the 5th century AD and the caves contain precious paintings and innumerable Buddha sculptures. Among the paintings, two of the most magnificent depict the temptation of the Buddha by the demon Mara and the First Sermon of the Buddha.