Dowa Rock Temple has two significance, one is its half finished 38 feet tall Buddha statue carved into a granite rock face the other is these caves provided sanctuary to King Vatta Gamini Abhaya while he had to hide and raise armies to regain the throne of Sri Lanka. A painting called “Ath-Gon Satana” battle between a tusker and a bull found in the temple is quite unique in Sri Lanka. It also consists of many cobra paintings and carvings.
Originally the caves at Dowa Rock Temple were used by a Buddhist monks, the chief incumbent was Kumbaltissa Ariyagala Thero. Just after five months from becoming the King, King Vatta Gamini Abhaya was overthrown by South Indian invaders. The King then had to flee away to save himself, records suggest he had to hide for 14 years. During these years the country went through a famine named “Beminitiya Seya”. While moving from one hiding place to another, and raising armies, Kumbaltissa Ariyagala Thero gave sanctuary to the King at Dowa. Folklore suggests that even the unfinished Buddha statue was built by the King himself and he had to move away to a different hiding place leaving it unfinished. After regaining the throne the King built this temple, but the statue never got finished.
The statue also shares some similarities with the Buduruwagala statues, and some historians believe in theory that this also belongs to the same period.
Dowa holds a few unresolved mysteries. There is an entrance to an underground tunnel beside the small Dagoba of the temple. It is believed that the tunnel gets connected to either the Ravana’s Cave or Bogoda bridge. Some believe that these caves were built in the time of Ravana when he captured Sita.
The temple also has a collection of cobra paintings, even the vessel used to offer water to the Buddha as a cobra painting. There is a cobra sculpture at the entrance of the cave as well.
History suggests the temple was completed in the Kandyan Era. The temple has a lot of Kandyan Era paintings and Buddha statues. The ceiling of the drip ledged cave has magnificent paintings of lotus flowers.
The temple can be accessed from Ella, Bandarawela or Badulla, and situated just beside the Badulla - Bandarawela main road. You will have to wear appropriate clothing when visiting the temple. Try to visit during mornings or noon to take beautiful photographs of the statue and the temple.