Golden Dambulla Rock Temple (Rangiri Dambulu Temple) (A world Heritage site)
Sri Lanka Culture Holidays: the concept - Part 2
From the rainwater reservoir to the templeAnd why shouldn't we begin with the most ancient temple? The ascent to the caves, which are on a terrace of a gigantic granite outcrop resembling a back of a giant whale is pleasant but then the Leviathan herein, as the scorch through your shoe-soles testifies, is not cold-blooded. The gneiss hills, one of the consistent features of dry zone landscapes of Sri Lanka, during most of the day are hot.
Like Mihintale, the climb herein too, is by means of steps though shorter: about 200 steps in 18 terraces. We climb for 10 minutes about 100 meters of slightly convex surface in the shades of frangipane trees. At the highest terrace is the Golden Dambulla Rock Temple of five caves built into the rock. Oh! From the terrace we have a wonderful panoramic view of the surroundings dense forest, rainwater reservoirs & flat lands, oh! yes, the view includes The Lion Rock Citadel (Sigiriya) too about 20km away. If we dare to climb further 50m up the hill to the very summit, we will have still superior panoramic view.
On entering these elegantly portal led caves, we begin to feel like that we are right inside a cozy richly decorated tent hung with brilliant carpets. The rock ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of Buddhist images following the natural contours of the rock, with its gold sheen illuminating the caves.
King Valagambahu (104-76 BC)Recent archeological discoveries have confirmed that Golden Dambulla Rock Temple caves had been a location of human habitation even during pre-historic period of Lanka. The legends would carry us back to the period of King Devanampiya Tissa (307- 267 BC). The history of the ancient island records that in 89 BC caves were converted to a Buddhist monasteries by King Valagambahu, nephew of the hero of the nation, King Duttha Gamini. King Valgambahu was driven from his throne by marauding Dravidian invaders from South India during the 1st century BC. The king found sanctuary therein for long 14 years & upon regaining his kingdom, following great battles against the marauding Dravidian Invaders from Southern India, had the famous rock temple built in gratitude along with great Abhayagiri dagoba at Anuradhapura. It was a common practice of the Buddhist monks to retire into solitary sanctuaries away from human habitation to immerse in study & meditation. The natural caves were used as the residence of the monks. Golden Dambulla Rock Temple is one of most famous & most adored ancient Buddhist sanctuaries of Sri Lanka.
Further embellishmentsThe cave temples were restored & re-decorated by later kings of the Polonnaruwa. King Nissankamalla (1198-1206AD) left his mark by having the statues restored & murals repainted. The gilding of interior of the caves & statues with gold paint earned the title "Rangiri" meaning Golden Rock in Sinhalese. Even to date the gold sheen all over the ceilings, walls & statues illuminate the interior of the rock temple. Once again during the era of the kingdom of Kandy, King Senarat (1604-1633 AD) & then again King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1746-1778 AD) restored & remodeled the Golden Dambulla Rock Temple.
150 serene statues of Buddhist OrderWithin these caves, one of the best preserved ancient edifices in Sri Lanka, is housed a collection of 150 serene statues of Buddhist Order & the island's history.
The first cave named "Devaraja Viharaya" houses a 14m long Buddha statue depicting the final extinction. It was carved out of sold rock. By the head of Buddha are Ananda, Buddhas shadowlike disciple, God Vishnu & God Maha Sumana Saman. The cave was named Devaraja meaning the Lord of Gods in honor of god Vishnu.
The second & the largest cave, "Maharaja Vihara", meaning "The Temple of Great Kings" in Sinhalese was named after King Valagambahu & King Nissankamalla whose statues are contained there among 16 standing & 40 seated statues of Buddha. Also on display are the statues of Hindu god Vishnu &
The third cave, the Maha Alut Vihara is of paintings on ceiling & walls in Kandyan tradition commissioned during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha, the famous Buddhist revivalist. In addition to 50 Buddha statues, there is also a statue of a king. The fourth & fifth caves are smaller & inferior to the other caves.
Dambulla districtHistorically, Dambulla has been a refuge, a monastery and an agricultural district. Geographically Dambulla is the center of the island. Culturally, Dambulla while being the home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ran Giri Dambulu (Sinhala: golden rock cave Dambulla) Buddhist temple, is also located in the close proximity of Sri Lanka Holidays Sigriya Lion Rock Citadel, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today Dambulla is a Sri Lanka Holidays cultural attraction, an agricultural district and a transportation hub of the island.
Until the end of the Second World War, Dambulla district had been mostly overtaken by the Evergreen Monsoon Dry Forest which spread over the great north central plains of Sri Lanka. Following the independence of Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, from the British colonialist in the year 1948, the wooded jungle, which had been an undeclared sanctuary to herds of wild elephants was mostly cleared for the cultivation of rice. Since then, the paddy fields have been irrigated by the ancient irrigation reservoir called Kandalama wewa, one of the most scenic man-made lakes of Sri Lanka.
The most prominent man-made constructions on the banks of Kandalama lake are eco-oriented green hotel of Kandalama Heritance (rooms: 152; area: 230 acre Kandalama estate) designed by Geoffrey Bawa and Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium: (seating capacity: 30,000)
Dambulla ArboretumDambulla Arboretum (area: 7.5 acres; year 1963) located in Dambulla is a living museum of Sri Lanka trees. Dambulla Arboretum was developed by F. H. (Sam) Popham, a former tea planter of Ceylon, resident and self-styled Hermit of Dambulla, following his retirement from the Smithsonian Ceylon Flora project. Dambulla Arboretum had been Sri Lankas only dry-zone (rainfall: 1270-1900 mm) arboretum until the development of Mirijjawila Dry-zone botanical gardens (area:300 acres; year: 2010) in Hambantota district (arid: rainfall 890-1270 mm).
Three wet-zone (rainfall:1900-4000 mm) botanical gardens of Sri Lanka, namely Peradeniya Botanical Gardens at Kandy, Hakgala Botanical Gardens at Nuwara Eliya and Senarathgoda Botanical Gardens (area: ; year: 1876) at Gampaha are enriched with floras different from those of Dambulla and Mirijjawila.
F. Raymond Foseberg (Botanist Emeritus, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Insitution, Washington, U.S.A encapsulated the effort of Sam Popham: this has been a strictly one-man effort, motivated only by love of trees. It could serve as an example worthy of emulation practically everywhere except in the Arctic, Antarctic, and extreme deserts of our Earth.
With its sheer diversity of trees, Dambulla Arboretum is a valuable reserve of Sri Lanka and in a broader scale, the world at large. Dambulla Arboretum is based on the concept of preserving the details of the habitat in contrast to the regular biodiversity concept of grand strategies in ensuring of the diversity of such essential areas maintained in millenniums to come.
Quote F. H. (Sam) Popham "...But you can't eat trees," said the young Belgiun, so I walked him out of the woodland shade into the strong sunlight of the adjacent grassland, and went on talking until his companions pleaded to return to the shelter of trees. Unquote F. H. (Sam) Popham, Dambulla, July 1992.
A brief catalougue of the Dambulla Arboretumbotanical name; commercial name; vernacular name in Sinhala ; industrial use in general; timber density in Lbs/Cubic ft.
Diospyros ebenum or Ceylon ebony or kalu-wara: creative woodwork; 80
Chloroxylon Swietenia or Satinwood or buruta: creative woodwork; 62
Manilkara hexandra or palu; heavy construction; 72
Mesua ferrea or Ceylon Ironwood or na: heavy construction; 70
Artocarpus heterophyllus or Jak or kos: building construction; 44
Chukrasia tabularis or Chittagong wood or hulan-hik: creative woodwork; 50
Vitex altissima or Milla: building construction; 60
Cassia siamea or Siam Cassia or wa: creative woodwork; 59
Berrya cordifolia or Trincomalee-wood or hal-Milla: heavy construction; 60
Tamarindus indica or Tamarind or siyambala; creative woodwork; 80