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Golden Temple of Dambulla

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Dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, Dambulla Cave Temple (or the Golden Temple of Dambulla) is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Situated in Dambulla, Sri Lanka in a region which includes more than 80 caves, Dambulla Cave Temple features 5 well-preserved caves, each of which houses ancient statues of the Buddha and historic artwork depicting the Buddha’s life. The Dambulla Cave Temple grounds also features a functioning Buddhist Monastery dating back to the third and second centuries B.C.

Built at the base of a 150 meter rock face during a long period stretching from the first century B.C. to 1250 A.D, the Dambulla Cave Temple is comprised of five distinct caves, each of which functions as a shrine room. While all five of the Dambulla Cave Temple caves are worth exploring, these three stand out:

Cave of the Divine King: the first of the Dambulla Caves, the Cave of the Divine King is home to a 14 meter tall Buddha statue carved out rock.

Cave of the Great Kings: the second of the Dambulla Caves, the Cave of the Great Kings contains 56 statues of the Buddha

Great New Monastery: the third of the Dambulla Caves, the Great New Monastery contains 50 statues of the Buddha and a statue of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha. During the King’s rule from 1747-1782, the ceiling and walls Great New Monastery were painted in the traditional Kandy style of the times.

The construction and modern maintenance of the Dambulla Cave Temple occurred along the following rough time-line:

7th to 3rd century BC: Early inhabitants

1st century BC: Paintings and statues

5th century AD: The stupa was built

12th century AD: Addition of the statues of Hindu gods

18th century AD: Most of what we see today

19th century AD: An additional cave and some repainting

20th century AD:UNESCO restoration and lighting

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