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Cave Temple

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

Kandy - Jaffna Hwy, Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Opening Hours

7:00 AM - 7:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Varies

Find it on google maps

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expert
Krishan
Local tour guide
"Inside Kandy's Cave Temple, you'll find a quieter and more contemplative atmosphere if you visit early in the morning, before the tour buses arrive. Don't miss the hidden corner in the second cave to the left, where you can see an intricate mural that many visitors overlook."

What is Cave Temple?

Cave Temple, also known as the Dambulla Cave Temple, is a magnificent complex located in Dambulla, a large town situated in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. The site is renowned for its intricate rock-carved temples and a network of cave sanctuaries adorned with religious artwork. It is one of the most well-preserved and extensive cave temple complexes in the country, consisting of over 80 documented caves in the area, with five main caves holding the most significant religious and artistic treasures.

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The main caves are embellished with colorful frescoes and statues that depict various aspects of the life of Lord Buddha, as well as Hindu deities and Sri Lankan kings. The ambiance within these caves is one of profound tranquility and spirituality, making the Cave Temple a must-visit for those seeking either cultural enrichment or a moment of peace amidst their travels.

History of Cave Temple

The history of the Cave Temple is steeped in legend and religious devotion, dating back to the 1st century BCE. It is believed that the caves were used as a refuge by King Valagamba (also known as Vattagamini Abhaya) of Anuradhapura when he was exiled from his kingdom by South Indian invaders. During his 14 years in hiding, he vowed to create a majestic temple complex as a token of gratitude for the shelter provided by the monks residing there.

Upon reclaiming his throne, King Valagamba kept his promise and the caves were transformed into a thriving religious center. Over the centuries, subsequent kings further embellished the caves, adding statues, murals, and in the 18th century, gilded embellishments during the Kandyan period, which enriched the cultural and artistic heritage of the complex. Each generation contributed, leaving a layered historical tapestry for us to explore and appreciate.

Why is Cave Temple Important?

Cave Temple is a jewel in the crown of Sri Lankan cultural and historical heritage. Its importance is multifaceted—it stands as a testament to the enduring faith of the country's Buddhist practitioners and the regal patronage that supported Buddhist art and architecture throughout the ages. The temple has been continuously maintained and venerated for over 22 centuries, making it one of the oldest and most significant Buddhist monuments in the world.

The UNESCO World Heritage site attracts not only the spiritually inclined but also historians, archaeologists, and art lovers. The temple's narrative murals, intricate painted ceilings, and collection of 157 statues of Buddha, gods, and goddesses, along with the historical figures of Sri Lankan kings, offer an unparalleled glimpse into the past. These illustrations are telling of the Sinhalese crafting skills and the distinct iconography of Sri Lankan Buddhism.

Things to Do & See at Cave Temple

Visiting the Cave Temple is like stepping into a different realm—a tranquil and sacred space filled with centuries of devotion and artistry. As you ascend the steps leading to the temple, take a moment to enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding plains. The natural beauty of the area is breathtaking and serves as a serene backdrop to your temple visit.

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  • Explore the Five Main Caves: Delve into the heart of the temple complex. Each of these caves is dedicated to a different aspect of Buddhist theology and showcases a unique artistic style. The caves, named Devaraja Lena, Maharaja Lena, Maha Alut Vihara, Paccima Vihara, and Devana Alut Vihara, boast intricately painted walls and ceilings with well-preserved frescoes that illustrate various Jataka tales—stories of the Buddha’s previous lives.
  • Marvel at the Statue of Reclining Buddha: One of the most revered statues in the complex is the 14-meter long reclining Buddha in the Maharaja Lena cave. This statue is particularly remarkable for its serene expression and the detailed craftsmanship of the robes and pillow.
  • Attend a Puja Ceremony: If you're fortunate enough to visit during a puja (religious offering ceremony), it’s a unique opportunity to witness the local Buddhist traditions in practice and experience local devotion first-hand.
  • Discover the Murals: Admire the extensive murals that cover the ceilings and walls, amounting to a total area of about 2,100 square meters. These murals represent centuries of artistic work and dedication, depicting the Buddha's life, monastic life, and Sinhalese history.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Cave Temple in Kandy?

The Cave Temple, also known as the Dambulla Cave Temple, is a historic and religious site located in Kandy. It's a complex of Buddhist cave temples with magnificent murals and statues.

How old is the Cave Temple in Kandy?

The Cave Temple in Kandy dates back to the 1st century BCE, making it over two millennia old. It has been a place of pilgrimage for many centuries.

What can visitors see inside the Cave Temple?

Inside the Cave Temple, visitors can see a series of caves filled with statues of Buddha and Hindu deities, as well as exquisite murals depicting various religious and historical scenes.

Are there any entrance fees for the Cave Temple in Kandy?

Yes, there is typically an entrance fee required to visit the Cave Temple in Kandy. The fee contributes to the maintenance and preservation of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

What are the operating hours of the Cave Temple in Kandy?

The Cave Temple in Kandy usually operates from early morning to evening. However, hours may vary, so it is advisable to check the latest timings before planning a visit.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

Kandy - Jaffna Hwy, Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Opening Hours

7:00 AM - 7:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Varies

Find it on google maps