The Rangri Dambulla Cave Temple – to give it the full name – is located in the area of north-central Sri Lanka known as the ‘Cultural Triangle’ due to its proliferation of spectacular ancient sites such as the nearby, UNESCO-listed rock fortress of Sigiriya, and also World Heritage-listed ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
The series of 5 shallow, principal caves located under a low, overhanging cliff, reveals evidence of having been occupied by Buddhist monks and hermits for well over 2,000 years with the site having been continually occupied and added to over the centuries although most of the statues, wall paintings and murals one sees today are dated back to the 18th century.
While a certain amount of restoration has been undertaken in more recent times, the sheltered location means that rock paintings are well-preserved and the bright colours seen today are as vibrant as when they were first created.
Just a few of the myriad spectaculr wall paintings[/caption]
The Dambulla site is conveniently placed close to the road between Kandy, (another World Heritage-listed site) and Habarana – our base for visits to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa – as well as the nearby Minneriya National Park with its famous ‘elephant gathering.
Celebrated Sigiriya hardly needs an introduction but is the spectacular fortress and palace situated atop of – and at the foot of – a sheer-sided granite outcrop jutting dramatically out of the surrounding forest while Polonnaruwa is an ancient royal capital considered to date back as far as the 10th-century. Minneriya National Park features a large, natural lake, (known locally as ‘tanks’), which remains filled throughout the year and thus forms one of the region’s few remaining watering holes during the dry season, explaining the large congregation of elephant herds at certain times of the year.