Underneath the gigantic Dambulla rock, immortalized by the illustrious singing duo Chitra and P L A Somapala with their perennial song ‘Dambulu Gale‘, is the largest and best preserved temple complex in Sri Lanka, the Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya.
The Rock is more than 1.5km around its base and 550km high and according to historical records, the caves underneath were the refuge of King Walagamba (Vattagamini Abhaya), when he was in exile for 14 years. He had the magnificent rock temple built once he regained the throne at Anuradhapura in the 1st century BC. The site has been renovated several times in the 11th, 12th and 18th centuries.
The caves house a mixture of remarkable religious and secular paintings and sculpture, including a 15m long sculpture of the dying Buddha in Cave 1, dating back to the 15th century. The largest and the most impressive is Cave 2, housing over 150 statues, highlighting the Mahayana influences on Buddhism in Sri Lanka, through the introduction of Hindu deities such as Vishnu and Ganesh.
The city of Dambulla, designated a World Heritage site in 1991, is situated in the Matale district in the Central Province, 148km north-east of Colombo and 72km north of Kandy. The history of the city is traced back to more than 10,000 years, with excavations revealing prehistoric ways of life. Human remains, stone and bone tools, ancient food containers and a replica of a furnace excavated from the site, could be seen at the Sigiriya Museum. Dambulla was also known for the production and distribution of iron, from as way back as the 9th century BC.
Among the many historic attractions in Dambulla is the famous Rose Quartz Mountain Range or Namal Uyana. The site has been declared a human sanctuary by King Dappula in 10th century AD, as indicated on an inscription to the entrance to the Namal Uyana. Situated deep in the jungle, the Iron Wood Forest (Na) and the Rose Quartz Mountain Range is considered as one of the oldest and largest gardens in South Asia. Historical records say that trees planted by those who sought sanctuary at this site had subsequently turned it in to a vast extent of Iron Wood forest.
The seven mountains are situated 180 to 300 meters above sea level and according to archaeological research findings, the pink quartz has a history of more than 550 million years.
To a visitor to Namal Uyana, rose pink mixed with the white mist gives a stunning appearance, differentiating these mountains from the rest. Exploring the mountains and its environs is certainly an amazing experience.