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The Dambulla Cave Temple is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka with colourful cave paintings and large Buddha statues. The city is situated north of Matale district, 148 km North-East bound from Colombo, and 72 km North of Kandy at an altitude of 341 m from mean sea level.
Other major attraction of the area is the Sigiriya Rock fortress, the Rangiri-Dambulu International Cricket Stadium, the largest rose quartz mountain range in South Asia, and the Iron wood forest, or Na Uyana Aranya. The Ibbankatuwa prehistoric burial site near Dambulla cave temple complexes is the latest archaeological site of significant historical importance found in Dambulla, which is located within 3 km (1.9 mi) of the cave temples and proves of indigenous civilizations in the island long before the arrival of the Indians.
The area is thought to be inhabited from as early as the 7th to 3rd century BC. Statues and paintings in these caves date back to the 1st century BC. But the paintings and statues were repaired and repainted in the 11th, 12th, and 18th century AD. The story states that the caves provided sanctuary to King Walagamba in his 14-year-old exile by the meditating priests occupying the area and once the kind was reinstated, he proceeded to build a large cave temple in gratitude to the Monks as it was already established as one of the largest and most important monasteries at the time.
The rock towers 160 m (520 ft) over the surrounding plains and there are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain reliegous and royal statues and rich colourful paintings. The murals cover an area of 2,100 sq. meters. The ceilings inside the caves are painted with intricate patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock. There are images of the Lord Buddha and his life, bodhisattvas, as well as various gods and goddesses.
The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and lasts the best-preserved ancient mansion in Sri Lanka. UNESCO labelled this massive Cave Temple Complex as a World Heritage under the name of Golden Temple of Dambulla in 1991.