Showing posts with label Golden Dambulla Rock Temple (Rangiri Dambulu Temple). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Golden Dambulla Rock Temple (Rangiri Dambulu Temple). Show all posts

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Golden Dambulla Rock Temple (Rangiri Dambulu Temple) Sri Lanka

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 embellishments

The 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 Order

Within 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 &

God Maha Sumana Saman

. Throughout the entire span of rock ceiling & entire width of the rock walls are the finest Buddhist murals in Sri Lanka. Also painted are the epochal events of the glorious history of Sri Lanka. The duel between the hero of the nation, King Dutugamunu & marauding Dravidian invader Elara is graphically depicted herein with paramount importance. The Buddha statue hewn out of the rock on the left side of the room is flanked by wooden figures of the Bodhisattvas, Maitreya to the left & Avalokiteshvara or Natha to the right. There is also a mini dagoba & a spring which drips its water from a crack in the ceiling, into a huge metal pot which never overflows. Most possibly excess water is being controlled by an underground channel below the rock floor on which the pot is fixed. Or it could simply be, that the water evaporates at such a rapid rate in the dry zone, there is no chance of overflow at all. Perhaps it cannot be explained.

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 district

Historically, 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 Arboretum

Dambulla 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.