Dambulla, Sri Lanka: Unique ceiling and wall paintings of the cave temples
The main attraction of Dambulla, which is located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, are the five rock caves. In them, visitors can expect numerous Buddha statues as well as fantastic ceiling and wall paintings. They are among the most beautiful portraits that have ever been created in Sri Lanka. There is a small museum in front of the Dambulla rock caves that has some copies of the great works of art on display. The ascent to the cave temples takes place first via a rock path and then via 250 steps that have been carved into the rock. The first three cave temples were created in the first century BC, while the other two were not built until the 18th century.
The cave of the great kings is the most beautiful cave temple
The first cave is called the Cave of the Gods or Devaraja-lena. In it lies a 14-meter-tall Buddha, which was carved directly out of the rock. His master student Ananda is seated in front of the Buddha adorned with gold. The ceiling and wall paintings date from the 1st century BC. The second cave temple is called the Cave of the Great Kings or Maharaja-lena. Art experts no doubt consider it the most beautiful temple of all. In it 66 Buddha statues from different epochs are lined up. Some of them were hewn directly out of the rock. The gold leaf that adorned them in earlier times has now been replaced by a gold color.
Mara wants to dissuade Buddha from believing
The wall paintings of the second cave temple show how Buddha should be dissuaded from the path of faith through Mara. Mara, who has been defeated by Buddha, falls from his black elephant. Other ceiling paintings deal with different phases of the Buddha’s life. Further paintings show the beginning of Siddharta Gautama’s life path to the founder of a world religion. Some scenes from everyday life in the parents’ courtyard are also shown. At the end of the cave temple a frieze can be seen on which excerpts of the dispute between the Tamil ruler Elara and King Duttha Gamani can be seen. At one point on the ceiling of the cave temple, drops of water continuously trickle down, which are collected in a stone basin and used for holy ablutions.
The Great New Temple is up to ten meters high
The third cave temple, the Great New Temple or Maha Alut Viharaya, impresses visitors with its extraordinary height of up to ten meters. There are also numerous sitting and standing Buddha figures in it. Most of them were made in the 18th century. The most important cult object of the cave temple is the Buddha under the Makara arch. The walls of the Great New Temple are also adorned with numerous paintings. Bodhsattvas and Buddhas are shown in different postures and sizes. There are also clear differences in skin color.
The youngest cave temple is the second new temple
The fourth cave temple is called the Western Cave or Pacchima Viharaya. Since it is relatively small, it only contains five Buddha statues. Its walls are also adorned with beautiful murals. The youngest cave temple is the second new temple, which is called Devana Alut Viharaya in the local language. In him lies a Buddha who was only created recently. In addition, figures from the world of the gods of Hinduism can be seen here. One statue is dedicated to Devata Bandara, a regional deity. The ceiling and wall paintings were restored almost a hundred years ago.