DAMBULLA ROCK TEMPLE - GOLDEN TEMPLE
Petit Futé's opinion on DAMBULLA ROCK TEMPLE - GOLDEN TEMPLE
In the heart of the island and wilderness, the site, perched on a hill, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. This temple-cavern has been a high place of Buddhist pilgrimage and meditation for more than twenty centuries. Its origin therefore goes back to the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. This troglodytic monastery impresses for the way it has been preserved: the state of its mural paintings dating from the 13th century (Kandy kings' periods) and telling the story of Buddha's life are the very example. These frescos cover a total of 6,000 m2 of walls. Between the 12th and 18th centuries, the temple underwent a metamorphosis, it underwent numerous restorations which made it a sanctuary of colours, gold and silver, containing a total of 5 caves and 157 statues.
The origin of this temple dates back to the 1st century BC, when King Vattagamani Abhaya, who had fled Anuradhapura to find refuge in Dambulla in 104 BC, created the cave complex when its title was restored. A huge golden Buddha, donated by Japanese benefactors in 2000, oversees the base of the site, overlooking the Buddhist Museum. The Golden Temple, some 150 metres higher, is actually reached by stairs on the left of the Buddhist Museum, carved in stone and invaded by monkeys. The climb is neither long nor exhausting, and in good weather, the walk is particularly appreciated. Once you pass the entrance where your tickets are checked and where you can leave your shoes, you enter a large outdoor courtyard all in length offering a superb view of the region. On the other side of the courtyard, under the rock, a corridor, whose exterior architecture was taken over in 1938, provides individual access to each of the 5 rooms.The Golden Temple is a modern (and kitsch) temple located at the base of Rock Temple. Its style detonates strongly with the wonderful caves located above.... In short, it is in rather bad taste and its visit is dispensable. It was built in 2001 thanks to donations from Japanese benefactors and houses the Buddhist Museum, whose entrance is included in the price of access to the site. There are mainly reproductions of Rock Temple paintings and several statues and images of Buddha from local donations but also from Thailand, Myanmar, China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Golden Temple is overlooked by a huge golden Buddha, the Golden Buddha Statue
Tickets are purchased just before starting the ascent. Rock Temple is 150 metres higher, and is accessed by stairs carved in stone. Once the entrance is passed, the shoes removed and the tickets checked, you enter a large and long outdoor courtyard with a superb view of the region. On the other side of the courtyard, under the rock, a corridor, whose architecture was taken over in 1938, provides individual access to each of the five rooms. Attention: shoulders and knees must be covered inside.
The finely executed frescoes you will discover were renovated in the 13th century. They cover a total of 6,000 m² of walls and are one of the richest examples of cave art in the world. They are completed by 157 statues (mainly of Buddha) of all sizes. The largest of the rooms measures 52 m by 23 m and 7 m high. The caves that have now been transformed into sanctuaries are only a few of the 80 or so of the vast complex that has been dug for more than 22 centuries. The entrances to these "forgotten" caves have been walled up as the history of the site progresses, the first faithful elements of which date back to the 1st century AD, when King Vattagamani Abhaya, who had fled Anuradhapura from Indian invaders, found refuge in his caves already occupied by monks.
First room (Dev Raja Viharaya - Temple of the King of the Gods). It owes its name to the god Vishnu, whose statue is found inside. There is a large fresco depicting the parinivana, i. e. the end of Buddha's earthly existence and his entry into nirvana, as well as a superb statue of Buddha lying 15 m long, and others depicted sitting
Second room (Maha Raja Viharaya - Temple of the Great King). It is the largest. It would take its name from its investigator, who is believed to be King Vattagamani Abhaya. Two statues of kings are arranged inside, one of Valagamba, the other of Nissanka Malla, as well as several Hindu deities such as Kataragama, Ganesh, Vishnu and Wat Sama, no less than fifty-three statues of Buddha in various positions and a stupa surrounded by sitting Buddhas. The walls are entirely covered with historical frescoes depicting the life of Buddha and the spread of Buddhism on the island
Third room (Maha Alut Viharaya - New Great Temple). This is the most recent one. It was built by order of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, whose statue can be admired near the entrance to the hall. There are two large statues of Buddha, one sitting under an arch dominated by dragons, and one lying reminiscent of the statue in Room 1. There is also a collection of Buddhas carved into the rock of the room, and many colourful frescoes depicting many seated Buddhas
Fourth room (Pascima Viharaya - Temple of the West). One can contemplate about fifty Buddha statues sitting in the posture of the dhyana mudra, used during meditation. The central statue is dominated by a magnificent torana painted in bright colours. Use a lamp to admire the ceiling entirely covered with paint
Fifth room (Devana Alut Viharaya - Second New Temple). It is the most recent of the rooms. There too, there is a reclining Buddha, surrounded by many statues of reclining and standing Buddha. Above two of them, Muchalinda can be seen in the form of a cobra, which protected Buddha during his meditation
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Opening time and information on DAMBULLA ROCK TEMPLE - GOLDEN TEMPLE
Open every day from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm. Input: Rs. 1,500. Keep 25 Rs per person to keep his shoes. Proper clothing (shoulders and knees covered).