150 km from Colombo and the geographical center of Sri Lanka, the Rock cave Temple consists of 5 caves which have been converted to shrines. During an invasion from South India in the 1st century BC. The Sinhalese King Walagambahu took refuge in the caves at Dambulla and through meditation gained the strength to drive the invaders away. As a token of gratitude he declared the caves as a sacred area and today, Dambulla is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the world. The name Dambulla derives from Damba – Rock and Ulla – fountain. One sees the incessant drip of water from the fountain within the main image house.
The cave complex at Dambulla is one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. It was here that King Vattagamini Abhaya (Valagamba) took refuge in the 1st century BCE. He later turned the caves into a rock temple. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the temple interior gilded, earning it the name of Ran Giri – Golden Rock. Dambulla Viharaya contains an abundance of valuable material from the very earliest times till the late eighteenth century, and shows the evolution of the Singhalese Buddhist art.
Such vast material in one place, combined with a long history, is a rare find anywhere. The temples contain 153 Buddha images, 3 images of kings and 4 images of gods and goddesses. There are also 4 main monasteries and it was within this complex that the monks began the militant nationalist movement against the British in 1848. These 80 or more caves tell of the inhabitants dating back to the 3rd Century BCE. Five main caves hold the holy Buddhist shrines. The stupa was built in the 5th century AD and the caves contain precious paintings and innumerable Buddha sculptures. Among the paintings, two of the most magnificent depict the temptation of the Buddha by the demon Mara and the First Sermon of the Buddha. Namal Uyana close to Dambulla is a pink-quartz mountain and Na-forest located in the village of Ulpathgama close to Dambulla. Namal Uyana is a stretch of seven hills; one flowing gloriously to the other. It was established as a sanctuary for monks in the 8th century BC during King Devanapiyatissa’s era. Namal Uyana was later made an open prison-camp where the prisoners had to plant Na trees. Take a day off and visit the fascinating site where history merges with natural, exotic beauty.