Sri Lanka has a long history of the presence and practice of Buddhism. The Dambulla cave temple represents one of the oldest sites for Buddhist monasticism, with a history as a pilgrimage site for twenty-two centuries. The massive cave temple complex is unique in Southeast Asia because monks carved the caves from the rock. The caves have been developed in stages in continuous use for more than two millenniums. The complex dates from the third and second centuries BCE.
Dambulla cave temple is, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. Major attractions are spread over five caves which contain statues and paintings of Lord Buddha and his life. More than eighty caves have been discovered and documented in the area. A total of 153 Buddha statues, three Sri Lankan kings, and four statues of gods and goddesses have also been found and preserved in the five leading caves. Apart from the Buddhist related statues, there are several Hindu deities’ statues added later years at the old age. There are murals covering many cave walls depicting Buddha’s temptation by Mara and Buddha’s first sermon.
In his fourteen years of exile from Anuradhapura kingdom, king Valagambahu was given refuge and protection by the monks at the caves. When King returned to his throne at Anuradhapura kingdom in the 1st century BC, he converted the caves into a rock temple as gratitude. There is about a 300′ climb to reach the temple. It will take only 10 minutes to do the climb, but you will be sweating at the top if you are leaving in the middle of a tropical day. Sigiriya and Dambulla cave temple is a must visit if you are visiting Sri Lanka.