The Golden Temple of Dambulla

For me travelling is culturally enriching that is why rewarding. I would be immersed to different cultures, understanding the local’s behaviors and learning their way of life. When I went to Sri Lanka, I got the opportunity to feel the life in Kandy city when a Kandyan family invited me to their home for a cup of tea. I had the chance to personally witness the Buddhist worship in the temple of the Tooth Relic. Apart from those, I got to see the religious places such as the holy temple in Kandy and that equally famous Golden Temple in Dambulla. Those temples which are frequently visited for worships underpin the richness of the country’s tradition and manifest their spiritual devotion to Buddhism, the major religion in Sri Lanka. 

The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy City, considered as one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka which houses the surviving relic of Buddha, his tooth.

The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy City, considered as one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka which keeps the surviving relic of Buddha, his tooth.

The Golden Temple of Dambulla is located 80 kilometers north of Kandy City. It is acknowledged as one of the historic and religious sites in Sri Lanka serving as pilgrimage for centuries by both Buddhists and Hindus. The temple is along the main highway that connects Kandy and Colombo. From the road, you would see the golden statue of Buddha that sits on top of a temple cum Buddhist Museum. This temple is the main access going up to the cave monastery complex, another significant historical place that houses more than 150 Buddha statues including reclining Buddha and well preserved mural paintings. Due to the artistic, archaeological and spiritual importance of the complex, it is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Buddha's golden statue sitting on top of museum seen from the main road.

Buddha’s golden statue sitting on top of museum seen from the main road.

A closer look of the golden Buddha.

A closer look of the golden Buddha.

A long line of statue  monks depicting their daily routine.

A long line of statue monks showing off their daily routine.

To reach the cave monastery, you need to climb steep stairs to which along the way some souvenirs and food (mainly fruits) are sold. After around 20 minutes, I reached the top and a number of monkeys greeted me at the temple’s entrance. I saw some of the visitors feeding those monkeys which perhaps keep them staying in the vicinity. Entrance fee to the cave costed me LKR 1300. It may be expensive but to witness an important and sacred pilgrimage site existing for 22 centuries I think it was worth it. Before getting in, you should wear appropriate clothing. Sleeveless and short trousers are not allowed. You should likewise need to remove your shoes/sleepers which could be kept for a fee at the entrance. Yes, as a show of respect, you must be barefooted.

Some of the fruits sold along the way up to the cave monastery.

Some of the fruits sold along the way up to the cave monastery.

The place becomes a dating place for young Lankan couples. I saw at least two pairs while on my way up.

The place becomes a dating place for young Lankan couples. I saw at least two pairs while on my way up.

Monkeys at the side of the entrance greeting visitors.

Monkeys at the side of the entrance greeting visitors.

This is where the entrance fee of LKR 1300 is paid.

This is where the entrance fee of LKR 1300 is paid.

The complex has excavated shrines that contain those hundreds of Buddha statues and whose inside walls and ceilings have murals depicting the life of Buddha and his journey to reach Nirvana. Buddhas are all over and seemingly looking and reaching out that you too could achieve enlightenment.

Excavated shrines that house Buddha statues.

Excavated shrines that house Buddha statues.

Reclining Buddha from the first sanctuary. This is I think the biggest among the reclining ones.

Reclining Buddha from the first sanctuary. This is I think the biggest among the reclining ones.

Basically, the sanctuaries are full of Buddha statues.

Basically, the sanctuaries are full of Buddha statues.

Buddhas of different sizes are everywhere.

Buddhas of different sizes are everywhere.

The largest sanctuary where most of the statues are found.

The largest sanctuary where most of the statues are found.

Century old-murals inside the temple are well preserved.

Century old-murals inside the temple are well preserved.

How these monks and the locals are taking care of this wonderful complex is commendable. I truly salute them for doing all  the efforts to ensure that this temple is not only preserved for every tourist to appreciate but most importantly to show to us that Buddha’s life is indeed worthy of emulation.

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