The Dambulla Cave Temple was once known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla. It is a UNESCO heritage site that is situated in the North of Sri Lanka. The Golden Temple of Dambulla one of the important points of interest in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and you will see why. The cultural triangle also includes Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Sigiriya. While we did not have time to stop and explore Kandy, we did manage to fit the other three sites into our itinerary. For the moment, we shall focus on the Dambulla Cave Temple and why you really should keep some time aside to visit it.
The biggest irony of our situation was that we chose Dambulla as our base to visit Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. We drove all over, keeping the Dambulla cave temple for the eleventh hour. From the outside the large golden Buddha statue looked so attractive. We knew that we wanted to visit it and yet we did not realize how big the complex was and how much time it would take. Nevertheless, we did manage to keep an entire morning for it and we delayed leaving Dambulla a few hours so that we could explore it well.
LOCATION OF DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE
Would it be too much of an irony if I said it was located in Dambulla? You just can’t miss the Dambulla cave temple because the larger than life golden Buddha can be spotted from a distance. In fact, we saw it as soon as we got off the bus to head to our accommodation (Richwin Villa). The complex has two parts. One part is the temple with the golden Buddha in front and a museum. The second part is the actual cave temples that are located on the rocky hill behind it. Yup! I’m not kidding. If you want to catch a glimpse of them, you have to hike up. Luckily the hike is not difficult and there is a stairway carved into the rocky face that leads you up to the top.
THE DAMBULA CAVE TEMPLE: Entrance fees and things you should know
Inside the Dambulla cave temple.
In order to head to the cave temples, one first needs to make their way to the ticket office. At first, we thought that the tickets would be available in the museum like it is in every other UNESCO heritage site. That was not the case. Instead, we had to head out through the side gate and head up the road till we came to a staircase which had a sign that said entrance to the cave temple. That signalled the start of our climb upward. A couple of flights of stairs later, we reached the ticket office.
The entrance fee was 1500 LKR per person. There wasn’t a line at the ticket counter and we got ours quickly. The climb upwards was easy. Keep an eye out for wildlife while you climb. We spotted a giant squirrel nibbling on the bark of a tree and just had to stop to watch him. The best time to head to the temple is either early morning or late evening. The afternoon sun can sap the energy right out of your even though the path has a lot of shade.
Once you reach to the top, you will note that you cannot wear your shoes and enter. There are a couple of spots that you can keep your shoes at. It comes with a price, but it is a paltry sum so don’t worry too much. It also means that someone will be watching over your shoes and the monkeys don’t get a chance to steal them. You also need to ensure that your knees and shoulders are covered, and you will need to remove your hat. Remember, it is a religious site and you will need to act accordingly.
INSIDE THE DAMBULA CAVE TEMPLE
One of the many statues of Buddha in the Dambulla Cave Temple.
The temple complex contains five caves, each one is independent from the other and they all lie under one overhanging rock. Not all the caves are off the same size. Some are much much smaller. The first one that we entered next to the entrance was probably the smallest of all five, but it was hard to say. The largest cave on the other hand is called the Cave of Great kings (I found out about the name much later!). Aside from the enormous Buddha, there are a series of wooden statues. There is also a dagoba and a spring that drips water through a crack in the ceiling. People believe that this spring has healing powers.
One thing that you will notice is that the caves are not entirely dark inside. It is still advisable to give your eyes a couple of minutes to adjust. It is only then that you will be able to admire the artwork within. Not only d the caves have ornately carved statues, they also have beautiful paintings on their ceilings so do not forget to look up.
Visiting the Dambulla cave temple was an intriguing experience. I loved the view from the top and the climb was relatively easy. It is definitely something that I would suggest doing if you are in the vicinity.