Recent archeological discoveries have confirmed that Golden Dambulla Rock Temple caves had been a location of human habitation even during pre-historic period of Lanka. The legends would carry us back to the period of King Devanampiya Tissa (307- 267 BC). The history of the ancient island records that in 89 BC caves were converted to a Buddhist monasteries by King Valagambahu, nephew of the hero of the nation, King Duttha Gamini. King Valgambahu was driven from his throne by marauding Dravidian invaders from South India during the 1st century BC. The king found sanctuary therein for long 14 years & upon regaining his kingdom, following great battles against the marauding Dravidian Invaders from Southern India, had the famous rock temple built in gratitude along with great Abhayagiri dagoba at Anuradhapura. It was a common practice of the Buddhist monks to retire into solitary sanctuaries away from human habitation to immerse in study & meditation. The natural caves were used as the residence of the monks. Golden Dambulla Rock Temple is one of most famous & most adored ancient Buddhist sanctuaries of Sri Lanka.
The cave temples were restored & re-decorated by later kings of the Polonnaruwa. King Nissankamalla (1198-1206AD) left his mark by having the statues restored & murals repainted. The gilding of interior of the caves & statues with gold paint earned the title "Rangiri" meaning Golden Rock in Sinhalese. Even to date the gold sheen all over the ceilings, walls & statues illuminate the interior of the rock temple. Once again during the era of the kingdom of Kandy, King Senarat (1604-1633 AD) & then again King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1746-1778 AD) restored & remodeled the Golden Dambulla Rock Temple.
150 serene statues of Buddhist Order
150 serene statues of Buddhist Order
Within these caves, one of the best preserved ancient edifices in Sri Lanka, is housed a collection of 150 serene statues of Buddhist Order & the island's history.
The first cave named "Devaraja Viharaya" houses a 14m long Buddha statue depicting the final extinction. It was carved out of sold rock. By the head of Buddha are Ananda, Buddha’s shadowlike disciple, God Vishnu & God Maha Sumana Saman. The cave was named Devaraja meaning the Lord of Gods in honor of god Vishnu.
The second & the largest cave, "Maharaja Vihara", meaning "The Temple of Great Kings" in Sinhalese was named after King Valagambahu & King Nissankamalla whose statues are contained there among 16 standing & 40 seated statues of Buddha. Also on display are the statues of Hindu god Vishnu & God Maha Sumana Saman. Throughout the entire span of rock ceiling & entire width of the rock walls are the finest Buddhist murals in Sri Lanka. Also painted are the epochal events of the glorious history of Sri Lanka. The duel between the hero of the nation, King Dutugamunu & marauding Dravidian invader Elara is graphically depicted herein with paramount importance. The Buddha statue hewn out of the rock on the left side of the room is flanked by wooden figures of the Bodhisattvas, Maitreya to the left & Avalokiteshvara or Natha to the right. There is also a mini dagoba & a spring which drips its water from a crack in the ceiling, into a huge metal pot which never overflows. Most possibly excess water is being controlled by an underground channel below the rock floor on which the pot is fixed. Or it could simply be, that the water evaporates at such a rapid rate in the dry zone, there is no chance of overflow at all. Perhaps it cannot be explained.
The third cave, the Maha Alut Vihara is of paintings on ceiling & walls in Kandyan tradition commissioned during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha, the famous Buddhist revivalist. In addition to 50 Buddha statues, there is also a statue of a king. The fourth & fifth caves are smaller & inferior to the other caves.
Information Credit: www.mysrilankaholidays.com