Dambulla Golden Temple

A complex of five caves, lying ensconced within a 600-foot rock massif rising from the plains, the history of the Golden Temple of Dambulla dates back to the 1st Century BC. This cave complex was initially used as a refuge by King Vattagamini Abhaya during the siege of the capital Anuradhapura, who later went on to establish the cave temple as a measure of gratitude for providing him shelter and security. Over the centuries, Kings after him tended and expanded the caves to the five individual caves that stand today. Within the caves, some of the finest examples of early Sinhalese art and sculpture can be found in its intricate frescoes and imposing statues of the Buddha. The Golden Temple, is a World Heritage site, and gets its name from the dozens of gilted statues that adorn its interiors.

The first cave, Devaraja Lena or Cave of The Lord of the Gods features a massive 45-foot statue of the sleeping Buddha in the Parinirvana state, said to be the moment of his final passing. A statue of one of his closest disciples, the Venerable Ananda stands at his feet watching over him, and one of the Hindu deity Vishnu, lies at the head. The walls of the cave are covered in murals and although they have been repainted over the centuries, show signs of degradation due to the smoke from the incense and oil lamps of pilgrims in early times.

The Maharaja Lena or Cave of the Great Kings is the second cave and is the largest being 125-feet in length, 75-feet in depth and 21-feet at its highest point. This is the most impressive within the complex and holds over sixty images of the Buddha in different mudras. The life size statue of a standing Buddha under a dragon arch is the focal point of this cave and still displays parts of the gold gilt which it was covered in at its creation. A stupa surrounded by eleven statues of the seated Buddha can also be found in this cave, and highlighting the close association between the two religions are statues of the Hindu Gods Saman, Upulvan, Maithree and Natha. The rock walls of the cave are adorned with murals detailing early Buddhist historical events and are in a good state of preservation.

The Maha Aluth Vihare, or Great New Temple is the third of the caves and was created in more recent times by King Kirti Sri Rajasinha who reigned in the middle of the 18th Century. Two immense doorways with dragon arches lead into this cave and within it lies a 30-foot statue of the reclining Buddha. At the centre of the cave, a statue of the seated Buddha under a dragon arch is surrounded by 42 images of the standing Buddha, and 15 seated Buddhas. The magnificent murals on the walls depict typical Kandyan style in this cave.

The fourth cave, the Paccima Viharaya, or the Western Temple features an ornate image of the seated Buddha under a dragon arch, and numerous identical images of the seated Buddha in meditative posture line it's walls. A small dagoba, once covered in murals, show signs of vandalism by treasure hunters, believing it held the jewellery of King Vattagamini's wife, Somawathi. The Devini Aluth Vihare, or Second New Temple is the most modern, with its images being built of brick and plaster where the rest are all hewn from rock. Its age notwithstanding, it presents a unique atmosphere and features a 32-foot reclining Buddha, and eleven smaller images in the standing and seated position, two of which depict a hooded cobra above the statue

Written by Jonathan Roelofsz for TLC.lk

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Review by : thanuja darshani 2015-02-20 12:14:50

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