A city within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle, dazzling Dambulla is a must-see site to be included in the itineraries of all culture and history buffs. It is home to the iconic Dambulla Cave Complex, as well as a variety of cultural and nature attractions.
Dambulla Cave Complex
Renowned Dambulla Cave Complex draws an endless number of travellers and locals keen on setting sight on the grand statues and mystical interiors of this well-preserved attraction. The largest cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, the compounds holds more than 80 caves, 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of deities.
The main tourist attractions are spread over five caves, each containing striking paintings and statues related to Buddha and the events that occurred in his life. The first cave visitors come across as they enter through the main gateway is known as Dev Raja Viharaya, which translates to mean ‘Temple of the King of the Gods‘. The second, known as ‘Cave of the Great Kings‘, is the largest and most impressive of all the caves within the complex. It houses a total of fifty-six Buddha statues, as well as those of Sri Lankan kings and deities. A stupa stands to the right of the main entrance, and a spring dripping water from the ceiling is said to provide healing powers.
Step past a masonry wall from the second cave, and you will find yourself in the third cave – ‘The Great New Temple‘. The ceiling and wall paintings found in this cave are done in typical Kandyan style. These colourful frescoes depict Buddha and the events that occurred throughout his life. The fourth and fifth caves in the complex are smaller in size, and both house a number of finely-carved Buddha statues.
Painting Conservation & Research Center, Painting Museum
Situated a mere 100 metres away from the Dambulla Cave Temples, the Painting Museum is worth a quick visit, particularly for travellers with a keen interest in art history and paintings. The wall paintings displayed are richly-coloured and well-preserved, and a tour around this compact museum will provide insights into the history, paintings and art techniques of Sri Lanka.
Nature lovers should not miss out on a scenic walk in the grounds of Popham’s Arboretum. As Sri Lanka’s one and only dry zone arboretum, it was established four decades ago by British planter Sam Popham, while the main building and grounds are designed by renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffery Bawa. A leisurely stroll in through the compounds lasts between one to two hours, and offers plenty of opportunities to catch sight of foliage and flora, medicinal plants, bird life, bats, slow lories, butterflies and dragonflies. Visitors arriving in the day time may explore the arboretum from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M., while night tours start after 7 P.M.
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