Dambulla is Located at the central province of SriLanka about 150 km from Colombo capital. It takes four hours of direct drive by a car. At present Dambulla is an upcoming city, where the largest vegetable trade takes place. It is called ‘sleepless city’ […]
Dambulla is Located at the central province of SriLanka about 150 km from Colombo capital. It takes four hours of direct drive by a car. At present Dambulla is an upcoming city, where the largest vegetable trade takes place. It is called ‘sleepless city’ The area is famous as a place where all the varieties of vegetables (Temperate and local) are grown.
Historical Background. The history of Dambulla goes back to the 1st century BC.
There is an inscription above the drip ledge over the second entrance,
Which says King Saddhatissa (1st century BC) has donated the caves for the sangha (Buddhist Monks) as a monastery complex.
King Walagambahu (1st Century BC), after he became the king for the second time, after defeating South Indian invaders he turned it to a Vihara. (A shrine room) Since then, the temple has been considered as a place of the refugee. As King hide under the protection of Buddhist monks during South Indian Invasions
There are many historical records that several kings have visited the place and restored the cave.
King Nissnaka Malla (1187 – 1196 AD.) / 12th Century AD
Gold gilded Buddha images and renamed the temple as Rangiri Dambulla (Dambulla Goldern Rock) after restoration,
King Keerthi Sri Rajasinaha (1747 – 1782) / 18th Century AD
Restored the complex completely and made the third cave as an image house and introduced his own statue.
It has been famous as a place of the refugee. It has become a tradition that several kings visited the place and had offered or done something as fulfilling a vow.
Many chieftains have done some work here in the caves. The last was done in 1921. As a result, Dambulla temple has become one of the important temples among the Buddhists in the country as well as a place must visit in their lifetime. The foreigners too like to visit this place. It has continued records of historical events until the 1848 rebellion against British rule.
The story of Walagamaba.
When the king Walagamba was ruling Anuradhapura in 1st Century BC
Seven South Indians invaded the kingdom and the king had to run away to various places in the central part of the country.
The king met a Buddhist monk called Maha KupikklaTissa, who lived in the Dambulla cave, gave him shelter and helped to organize an army to fight against the invaders.
The chronicles and inscriptions describe the story.
After 14 years the exiled king went to Anuradhapura with the army, defeated the invaders and became the king for the second time from 29 – 17 BC.
As a gratification, the king built a new monastery for the monk, who helped the king and converted the caves to Image houses. It is believed, that the first cave was converted to Vihara (shrine room)) by the king Walagamba. Further, he built a large Stupa in Anuradhapura called Abhayagiriya.
Dambulla Cave temple has been declared as a World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka.
The complex consists of 05 caves, where people consider as Viharas (Image Houses).
As we pass the gatehouse in the courtyard on the right, we can see an inscription by the King Nissankamalla (1187 – 1196) in the 12th C. AD.
According to the inscription, he has visited the site and spent 700,000 (kahawanu) Gold coins to restore the temple, to guild seated, standing and reclining Buddha statues and named as ‘Swarna Giri Guha Vihara’(Golden rock cave Temple).
The complex of five natural caves with well preserved colorfull paintings and images from 8th C. to 20th century are considered as the largest cave paintings in the South and South East Asian regions .
This temple is regarded one of the most important centers of Buddhist pilgrimage of Sri Lanka. Cave temples are Sri Lankan expressions of Buddhist vihara tradition, which could be found a few elsewhere.
The Dambulla caves have been used as a monastery at the beginning and later in the fifth century it has been converted to a shrine. Stillremnants of paintings belong to the 12th C,A,D could be seen on the outside ceiling of the 3rd cave.
Experience the ancient traditions of religions, the religious practices, sculpture, and paintings.
This is supposed to be the oldest temple in the complex. The names of these caves were given in the 18th Century or Kandiyan period. There are colossal ‘ final passing away Buddha’ and three other Buddha images and a statue of his lifelong attendant Most Ven. (Arihath) Ananda. The devotees believe that the passing away Buddha statue is a work of King Walagamba (1st Century BC). But historians believe that the statue belonged to the period of 6th to 8th C. AD. It was carved out from the live rock and considered as a masterpiece of Sri Lankan sculpture. The paintings in this cave are faded and belonged to the Kandyan period. There is a statue of Vishnu, one of the three main Hindu gods.
The temple of the God Vishnu is attached outside. Worshiping Hindu gods and the introduction of statues of the same was taken place during the Kandiyan period and Dambulla is one of the prominent places in that respect.
(Most Buddhist devotees come and worship Hindu God Vishnu there.)
This is the largest and it is over 52 m. (170 feet) long. There are 60 colorful statues as mentioned above. The statue of king Walagamba is on the left corner. The Buddha statue in front of the second entrance has belonged to the 8th to 9th C. AD. All other statues represent the Kandiyan traditions of art.
The face with eyes opened, thick lips, the robe and red shawl, inner dressed robe and the nimbus (Siraspota) are the main features of the period. The serenity of Buddha’s face is no more due to the Hindu influence to the Sri Lankan art. It is a Kandyan tradition of art
There is a natural spring water way up above, seemed to have flowed upwards and it is shown with the painting of fish. The temple uses water for religious rituals.
The ceiling of this cave and all other caves are full of Buddhist murals. These murals depict the Buddha’s images, the stories of Buddha, folklore and important incidents of the Sri Lankan history. One of the significant and the largest panel of the paintings is the “Mara Parajaya ” the defeat of illusions and suppress of craving or the moment of Enlightenment of Ascetic Siddharta. These paintings are done by folk artists coming from traditional families called ‘Sittara’. They paint what they see with better freedom of own interpretation. E.g. There is a ‘devil, or a representative of evils in the panel is aiming a gun at the Buddha!
The technique of painting is ‘tempera’, painting on dry plaster, which is different from Sigiriya frescoes. All pigments and the bonding material for the paintings are from nature. Elsewhere one can observe traditional designs with traditional motifs.
This shrine was built during the reign of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinha in 1749 / 18th Century AD. His statue too can be seen in the cave. Observe the royal paraphernalia. There are about 57 Buddha statues of standing, seated and reclining. The main Buddha statue is in the beautiful Dragon (makara) arch. The ceiling is full of paintings and there is a panel of beautiful forest and three figures of Buddha on the wall.
Devotees believe that forest depicts the Himalaya and according to the Hindu mythologies the greatest symbols and powerful animals in the world like theKalp wruksha – Tree of life, Mahameru,- a Rock ‘Anotapta wila’ which is supposed to be the source of the water and a King – Cobra called Ananata etc are found in Himalaya. But the three Buddha figures, which represent the past, present and future Buddha are the greatest of the all.
are the same with Buddha statues and paintings. For tourists, there is no difference. When you come out, look up the ceiling of the eve of the third cave where you can see remains of Polonnaruwa period paintings.
Rock and wall paintings The paintings, which belong to the 17 and 18th Century murals,form the most important artistic heritage of Dambulla. They cover an area ofmore than 2000 sqm. Spread over the uneven surface of five caves. These murals are the largest preserved group of rock and wall paintings of the region. The paintings display an enormous variety of style and subject matter. The paintings depict the life of Buddha story of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and thousand Buddha images ( Dahasbudun).
No Jataka stories (Pre life stories of Buddha) can be seen. These paintings have been created by folk artists. It is proved by the painting, which depicts “Mara parajaya”(The moment of enlightenment of Ascetic Siddharta.) at the “Maharahja lena (Cave 2)” A family called ‘sittara’ whose generations involved in paintings live close to Dambulla.
Unlike Sigiriya, the paintings in Dambulla is of the technique called ‘Tempera’, painted on a dry plaster, which is thin and made of clay mixedwith find sand.
A bonding agent or a thinner has been used. The most pigments are taken from nature and used oil of bark of Dorana tree to varnishand to preserve from insects.
Even the paintbrushes were made of natural plant fiber like Vatekeiya (Pandaness) and fur of cat.
Dambulla is regarded as a sourcebook of study of Sri Lankan art and sculpture, especially in the Kandyan period.
Dambulla has also one of the richest collection of Sri Lankan sculpture in the form of a large number of Buddha images ( 158) in standing, meditating and reclining postures as well as a few outstanding figures of Hindu gods, deities, and Bodhisattva ( Future Buddha) and three rare royal portrait sculptures. Some of the statues date from the Middle A’ pura period 5th – 8th C. AD.
Although the images have been restored in the later periods,their original styles and iconography have been substantially preserved.
Eg. Largest reclining Buddha figure in the cave No 1., Standing Buddha figure in the cave no.2, etc.
The material used for the sculpture were
wood, bricks, clay, terra – cotta, live rock and cotton net.
As a tradition, all figures were repainted for several times. The artists, (they believe) in charge of paintings were hereditary master craftsmen, the direct descendant of 18 craft men who came along with Sri Maha Bodhi in (3rd century BC).
Dambulla is one of the favorite places among the tourists, because of the colorful paintings and statues after visiting granite and mono-color monuments in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
The last Buddha statue was done in 1920. As a result, Dambulla temple has become one of the important temples among the Buddhists in the country, a place must visit in their lifetime.
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