A small town situated in the heart of the Cultural Triangle, Dambulla lies at a junction of the Kandy-to-Anuradhapura and Colombo-to-Trincomalee roads. There are several accommodation options in town and in the surrounding countryside, so Dambulla serves as a good base for exploring sights in the nearby area. While most visitors come here to see the famous Dambulla Cave Temples, there are also some museums to take in. south of the city centre is a vibrant wholesale fresh produce market, which makes for a fascinating visit.
The imposing golden Buddha statue at the foot of the steps leading up to the Dambulla Cave Temples is hard to miss. This 30 m high image portrays the Buddha in the dharmachakra (wheel-turning) pose. At the base of the statue lies the Golden Temple Buddhist Museum, the entrance to which is through the mouth of a kitsch-looking dragon. Exhibits on display include Buddha statues from Thailand, Myanmar, Korea and Japan, panels illustrating the story of the Buddha’s life, ola-leaf manuscripts, many painting of peraheras and drummers as well as number of artifacts.
A short distance south of the Golden Temple Buddhist Museums stands Dambulla Museum that traces the history of Sri Lankan art from cave paintings to the colonial era. The museum exhibits excellent canvas reproductions of both well-known frescoes and murals from all over the island, enabling visitors to appreciate art that would otherwise remain inaccessible.
On the first floor is an excellent exhibition detailing the history of mural painting in Sri Lanka, the seven rooms are in chronological order and begin with the rock and wall paintings of the Veddahs, before moving through to the frescoes of Sigiriya, the 12th century wall paintings at Polannaruwa, and works from the prolific Kandyan period. The exhibition finishes with reproductions of early 20th century paintings. In addition, the museum explains the new tradition of painting scenes depicting hell in Buddhist shrines.
Dambulla Cave Temples
The beautifully painted cave temples of Dambulla were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The cave temples date back to the 1st century BC, when King Valagambahu sought refuge in the caves after being exiled from Anuradhapura. When the king regained his throne after 14 years, he converted the caves into rock temples in gratitude to the monks who had offered him sanctuary. Further improvement and embellishment were made to the temples by various kings down the centuries. The temple complex is made up of a series of five caves that are filled with statues of the Buddha in various sizes and mudras. The walls and ceiling of the caves are adorned with paintings depicting religious and secular themes. The murals dates from between the 2nd century BC to 18th century AD. more