Situated on the Central Province of Sri Lanka, 12 km away from Sigiriya is an isolated colossal rock mass. Dambula has diverse landscapes with numerous caves surrounding the area.

Dambulla is notable for its sacred caves, which served as shrines in prehistoric times and were occupied in the 2nd century BC by Buddhist monks, who established a monastery here. In 90 BC they provided a refuge for King Vattagamini Abhaya, who established a temporary capital here after abandoning Anuradhapura when it was attacked by the Tamils; and according to tradition it was he who made the caves into a centre of worship and pilgrimage.

The sacred caves are near the top of a gneiss hill, the lower part of which a dark grey mass with a slightly convex surface, like the back of a giant whale. After a climb of 100 m the path (perfumed by the frangipane trees) leads on to a terrace in which the mouths of five caves: the first cave known as The Temple of the King of the Gods (Dev Raja Viharaya). The cave holds infinite wall and ceiling paintings as well as the well preserved images. One of the striking images in the temple is one that depicts the Parinibbana or the passing of the Buddha; the second cave (Maja Raja Viharaya), the largest (53 m long, 23 m wide, 7 m high), contains about 50 life-size statues of Buddha, a figure of Vishnu unexpected in a place of Buddhist worship, and the figures of some ancient king. With the aid of candles provided by the guide it is possible to see some wall paintings of relatively modern date. The oldest may date from the 18th century; some may be copies or restorations of earlier 11th or 12th century paintings; the third cave (Maja Alut Viharaya) was converted into a shrine room by King Kirthi Sri Raja Singhe during 18th century. The cave houses around fifty Buddha images. The principal image of this cave is the standing figures, carved out of the natural rock, placed under the ornate gateway facing the entrance; the fourth temple known as the Western Temple (Pascima Viharaya) contains 10 proportional figures of the Buddha; the fifth cave (Devana Alut Viharaya) is the smallest of all the shrine rooms in the area. Here one can find eleven images of Buddha in which the most prominent one is the recumbent Buddha image. (Here and in other caves and temples a good electric torch is a useful accessory for the alternatively flash photography will provide a more permanent record which can be studied at leisure after returning home.)

The Golden Temple
Located on the Eastern side of the Royal Rock Temple is the Golden Temple. It possesses all the prescribed distinctiveness needed for its completeness. It is a sacred pilgrimage for more than 22 centuries. The imposing giant golden Buddha sitting on the roof of the Golden Temple was said to be the largest of its kind in the world. This statue was built in 1998 and was completed in 2001. The temple houses remarkable collection of statues of Buddha, Bodhisattas as well as several Hindu deities. There are also magnificent displays of environmental landscapes and modern museum which features recent history of Sri Lankan Buddhist culture.

From the terrace there is a magnificent view of the dense surrounding forest. From the summit, 50 m higher up, the Lion Rock of Sigiriya can be seen.

38 km north-west of Dambulla is the famous statue of Avukana, the glorious rock cut Buddha statues in Sri Lanka. Cut out of the solid granite about 13 m high. This 5th century statue was carved out during the reign of King Dathu Sena.

Beyond Dambulla, follows a winding course through the central mountain region, with some stretches of the old primeval forest, and then enters a region of plantations (cacao, rubber, coffee) and terraced rice-fields (deniyas).

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