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Dambulla cave temple was built by King Valagama after regaining his capital from South Indian invaders in the 1st-century BC. The temple complex is the largest Cave temple on the island, housing 153 Buddha Statues and paintings dating back to the Anuradhapura Era. Built on top of a massive rock about 160 meters high, you’d see magnificent views of the surroundings and Sigiriya from the temple. It is one of the must-see places on the island.
The temple was established by king Valagama, it is believed that after losing his kingdom to South Indian invaders he sought refuge in these caves. Having been overthrown for 14 years and once he regained the throne the King built this massive Buddhist monastery in 1st-century BC. There are records of 80 caves in the surrounding.
Over the years further enhancements were added to the complex by other kings including King Nishanka Malla from Polonnaruwa era. The temple is also known as the Golden Rock Temple or “Ran Giri” in sinhalese after King Nishanka Malla glided the caves’ interiors.
One of these caves has over 1500 paintings of Buddha covering its celine. The largest cave is known as the Cave of the Great Kings or “Maharaja Lena” in Sinhalese. It houses 16 standing and 40 seated Buddha statues accompanied by statues of god Saman, god Vishnu, King Valagamba (Vattagamani Abhaya) and King Nishanka Malla.
Another important fact is that discoveries have been made of 2700 year old human burial sites in Ibbankatuwa, which is in the neighbourhoods of Dambulla. This leads to believe that the area has been inhabited in the prehistoric era.