One hundred meters from our roadside hotel is one of the entrances to the Dambulla Cave Temple, home of four giant reclining Buddhas. Unbeknownst to us it is neither the main entrance, nor is it the ticket-selling entrance. If you come in from the Golden Temple (see below), and make your way up, up, up the hill, you’ll arrive at a fork in the road. There, if you’re lucky, someone will ask if you have a ticket and then direct you to the ticket office.
If you aren’t lucky, however, you’ll walk all the way up to the temple in the blazing sun and then you’ll go aaaallllllll the way down the other side of the hill. The ticket office is inexplicably in the valley between the two main roads, close to neither.
We were “lucky” at the halfway point, so we went out the back gate and down a short stretch of road to the ticket office. Being eager to run whenever and wherever I can fit it in, I offered to run down and buy tickets. Smart and considerate, right?
It turns out that the entrance is also down at the ticket office, and everyone tells you you should start there. Now here’s the part that cracked me up: There’s a tuk-tuk driver that spends all day just driving people up and down that hill between the back gate and the ticket office. He does it for only 100 rupees ($0.90 CAD) so back I went in the tuk-tuk to get the family.
Looking back on it now, it made absolutely no difference which way we went in; either way it’s steps, steps, steps. At least going in the “front way” on the back side of the hill was in the shade.
Caves full of Buddhas
At the Cave Temple, there are five caves filled with Buddhas of all styles and sizes. There are giant, reclining ones, seated ones, standing ones… really there’s a Buddha for every home, mood, or need.
All flippancy aside, it is an amazing place where you can’t help but be in awe of the time, dedication, and centuries of work it must have taken to create it. The ceilings are all painted with beautiful pictures, and if you look carefully, even the back sides of outcroppings and the underside of overhangs are covered.
Now for the photos:
The Golden Temple
That is the biggest Buddha I’ve ever seen! Seriously, even bigger than the one we saw in Kamakura, Japan. The 33 m high gold-plated brick statue is right beside the road and totally mind-boggling. It sits on top of a Buddhist museum with an grinning demon face for an entrance.
Veeerrrry impressive, but we were there for less than fifteen minutes at the end of our day; we had to go eat, and everyone was fading fast.