KANDY

Kandy

Dambulla golden rock cave temple was home to thousands of meditating monks since its monastic beginnings in the first century BCE. Today the same cave temple hosts a massive collection of Buddhist murals and sculptures belonging to a pan-Asian artistic tradition.

If you are planning to visit Kandy, we highly recommend that you visit these places for an unforgettable Kandy travel experience.

Dambulla golden rock cave temple was home to thousands of meditating monks since its monastic beginnings in the first century BCE. Today the same cave temple hosts a massive collection of Buddhist murals and sculptures belonging to a pan-Asian artistic tradition. The cave temple was abandoned at regular intervals since its humble beginnings. Yet the royals and Buddhist elite kept renovating it to appease countless faithful pilgrims. It is still a Buddhist pilgrimage site and has been so for centuries. Dambulla golden rock cave temple is the official name listed in the UNESCO list of world heritages. The cave complex’s original name is “Swarna Giri Guha”. Dambulla Rock Caves are, without doubt, one of the most colorful places in Sri Lanka. It is also a place rich in legends and histories. The caves are easily accessible unlike the spread out historical sites you often find in Sri Lanka. They hide under a single overhanging rock. These caves stand 160 meters above ground, facing spectacular views of the surrounding plains. The five caves were dug out by royal artisans and compartmentalized with brick walls. None of the caves receive natural light. Most murals are hidden in darkness, creating a mystic balance of color. The floors of Dambulla caves are crammed with more than 140 Buddha statues. Some statues of local deities, aspirant Buddhas and patron kings peek out from here and there as well. The oldest murals and sculptures at Dambulla caves are dated back to the twelfth century. Today it is a beautiful monument to both Buddha and Sri Lankan arts.

In the legends, the first cave is called “Devaraja lena”. The literal meaning of the name is the cave of the god king. A Brahmi inscription above the cave describes how the first monastery was founded by “Gamani Tissa” around first century BCE. Traditionally this name is believed to be of King Vatta Gamini Abhaya, aka Valagamba. The cave feels a bit crammed up because of an exquisite 14-meter statue of the Buddha. The statue is hewn out of the existing rock. It probably received its last coat of paint in the early twentieth century. At the Buddha statue’s feet is a sculpture of monk Ananda. At the head is a statue of god Vishnu. God Vishnu is also a Hindu god but he is deeply associated with local Buddhist folklore.

“Maha Raja Lena” means the cave of the great king. Maha Raja Lena cave is architecturally distinct. It is certainly the most beautiful of the five caves. The ceiling and the walls are completely covered by fine murals. Most of them are drawn in strip panels, which follow the artistic tradition of pre-colonial Sri Lanka. Interesting murals are the first sermon of Buddha, dream of great Maya, defeat of Mara and daughters of Mara. Countless Buddha statues showing colorful traditional postures adorn the cave floor. The highlight would be the statue of Buddha, surrounded by aspirant Buddhas. The arch around the Buddha is called a traditional Makara Torana. Makara torana translates to dragon arch. Right behind are statues and paintings of Hindu gods who later became associated with Buddhist folklore. Rare statues of kings Vatta Gamaini Abhaya and Nissankamalla are hidden away behind some Buddha statues as well.

This is an 18th century addition by King Kirti Sri Raja Singha of Kandy. The name of Maha aluth viharaya simply means the grand new temple. The cave certainly retains a sense of grandeur. The murals in this cave show the aspirant Buddha Maithreya. There are more than 50 statues in this cave. The larger meditating Buddha and sleeping Buddha are carved out of the existing rock. Probably the only statue of King Kirti Sri Raja Singha is found at the entrance to the cave.

Paccima viharaya means the western temple. It is a later addition and smaller than the other three caves. Among many statues of Buddha stands a beautiful dragon arch (Makara Torana). A small stupa monument stands in the middle of this cave. It is believed that the jewelries of queen Somawathi were deposited in this stupa. Early twentieth century restorations makes the murals in this cave very colorful.

The smallest cave of five is known as the second new temple or Devana Aluth Viharaya. It was the last addition to the Dambulla golden rock cave temple. A sleeping Buddha takes most of the cave space. Around the statue are murals of god Vishnu, god Kataragama, a peacock, popular local deity Bandara and a nobleman holding a lotus. This selection of characters best displays the contemporary belief system of Sri Lankan Buddhism.

The pathway to all five caves are through a beautiful whitewashed corridor built in the early twentieth century. It distinctly highlights British colonial architecture. On the outer side of the corridor is an atmospheric space from which you can glimpse the huge rock above the caves. An ancient drip ledge runs along the whole length of the cave complex to prevent water seeping into the cave ceiling. A Brahmi inscription can be seen above this drip ledge. To the Eastern side are a Sacred Fig tree and right at the beginning of the cave complex is an eleventh century inscription about King Nissankamalla of Polonnaruwa.

Experiences in Dambulla

The best way to discover authentic Sri Lankan culture is by paying a visit to one of the rural villages. Villages around Dambulla still hold on to the old ways of life. Arranged visits include a lunch at a villagers home, traditional cooking class, slash and burn cultivation visit, canoe ride in a reservoir, bullock cart ride, trekking and bird watching experiences. It is a good way to relax and enjoy a different culture at your own pace.

Advantages of rural village visits from Dambulla

  • Low crowds
  • No guide needed.
  • Short visits are possible
  • Bird watching opportunities
  • Friendly villagers
  • Good diversion from the usual travel route

Things to look out for when you are visiting rural villages from Dambulla

  • Choose a reliable tour organizer. There are many tourist traps involving hidden charges, bad services, last minute cancellations and other undesirable scenarios.
  • Leave before it is dark. You do not want to run into wild elephants at night.
  • If you are going on your own, agree on a price before starting your arranged visit but never pay before the tour is over.
  • Check reviews if available. There are many service providers.

Fifteen kilometers from Dambulla is the famous rose quartz mountain range. It is the largest rose quartz deposit in all Asia. Here mining is prohibited by the Sri Lankan government as the quartz range lie inside a nature reserve. Around the tiny mountain range is the national ironwood forest (Jathika Namal Uyana). It is the largest man-made forest in South Asia. Ruins of a third century Buddhist monastery are scattered inside this ironwood forest. In the ancient times, dangerous convicts had sought refuge at the monastery and the resident monks had ordered them to plant ironwood trees as penitence for their crimes. As time went by the monastery was abandoned but the ironwood thrived.

 Advantages of hiking Rose Quartz mountain from Dambulla

  • Low crowds
  • No guide needed.
  • Relaxing place to walk or meditate
  • Bird watching opportunities
  • Only 15kms away from Dambulla
  • Good diversion from the usual travel route

Things to look out for when you are hiking Rose quartz mountain from Dambulla

  • Leave before it is dark. You do not want to run into wild elephants at night.
  • Rose quartz can be sharp. So wear a good pair of shoes.
  • Take an insect repellent
  • Bring back your food wrappings, plastic bottles and other waste.

An arboretum is a place where trees are grown for study and display. Popham’s arboretum is the only dry zone arboretum in Sri Lanka. Mr. Sam Popham who was an enthusiast founded the arboretum in 1963. Today is is managed by the tree society of Sri Lanka. It is a relaxing place with many footpaths and a collection of semi-evergreen monsoon dry forest trees. The forest makes a superb bird watching site. The highlight of the arboretum is its night walk in which you can see the slender loris, one of the rarest creatures on earth.

Advantages of visiting Popham’s arboretum from Dambulla

  • Low crowds
  • No guide needed.
  • Relaxing place to walk
  • Bird watching opportunities
  • Very close to Dambulla toen
  • Good diversion from the usual travel route

Things to look out for when you are visiting Popham’s arboretum from Dambulla

  • Leave before it is dark. You do not want to run into wild elephants at night.
  • Take an insect repellent
  • Bring back your food wrappings, plastic bottles and other waste.

Dambulla International Cricket ground is not the busiest cricket ground in Sri Lanka. This 30000 seat stadium has hosted more than 50 matches since its inauguration in 2001. Famous cricketer Tilakaratne Dilshan played his career final ODI here. If you are lucky you might actually get to watch an ODI here.

Sri Lanka is home to many domesticated Asian elephants. It is very common to see them near roadsides, temples and houses. Home elephants are gentle creatures unlike wild elephants. However, there are many concerns regarding the future of elephant domestication. Some people view it as an evil act to tame a wild animal. Yet many Sri Lankans find it most natural to take care of an elephant as a family member.

Bull driven carts were once the preferred way to travel between Sri Lankan villages. Bullock cart racing is a rare sport nowadays but not unheard of in rural areas. If you fancy a ride, there are many bullock carts around Dambulla area.

Best Hotels in Anuradhapura.

 

Heritage hotel in Anuradhapura

Address: Galwala Rd, Pothanegama 50000

Phone: 0252 237 806

 

The Lakeside by Nuwarawewa

Address: 11 Nagasena Mawatha, Anuradhapura 50000

Phone: 0255 620 277

Avasta resort and spa

Address: 92.Niwaththak, Anuradhapura 50000

Phone: 0252 227 777

The Lakeside by Nuwarawewa

Address: Near Old Bus Stand, Dharmapala Mawatha, Anuradhapura

Phone: 0252 222 565

Rajarata Hotel

Address: 77 Rowing Club Rd, Anuradhapura 50000

Phone: 0252 030 000

Aryana boutique hotel

Address: Bandaranaike Mawatha, Anuradhapura

Phone: 0252 05520

The Sanctuary at thisawewa

Address: Old Puttalam Rd, Anuradhapura

Phone: 0252 222 299

Hotel Heladiv

Address: 4th Lane, Kandy Road, Anuradhapura

Phone: 0252 056 438

Gamodh citadel hotel

Address: Thanthirimale Road, Lolugaswewa 50000

Phone: 0252 225 454

 

Villu Villa

Address: 601/45B, Airport Road, Jaya Mawatha, Anuradhapura 50000

Phone: 077 739 8111

Best Restaurants in Anuradhapura

 

1. Sanctuary at tissawewa restaurant

Style: Sri Lankan, Indian, Asian

Web link: https://tissawewa.com/

Address: Old Puttalam Rd, Anuradhapura

Phone: 0252 222 299

 

2. Mango Mango

Style: Indian, Sri Lankan.

Web link: http://mangomango.lk/

Address: A12, Anuradhapura

Phone: 0252 227 501

 

3. Little Paradise Anuradhapura

Style: Sri Lankan, Asian

Address: 622, 18 Godage Mawatha, Anuradhapura

Phone: 0252 235 132

 

 

4. Milano tourist rest restaurant

Style: Sri Lankan, Asian

Address: 596/40 Harischandra Mawatha, Anuradhapura 50000

Phone: 0252 222 364

 

5. Casserole restaurant

Style: Sri Lanka, Asian

Web link: https://alankulama.lk/casserole-restaurants/

Address. Anuradhapura

Phone, +94 252 224 443

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