The Dambulla rock monastery just outside the town of the same name, and is famous for the beautiful murals. It is UNESCO world heritage. The monastery is on a rock 160 meters high overlooking the prairie, and what views are the five most spectacular caves. But there are more than 80 around the main monastery, with Buddha statues and paintings. More than 150 statues in the five caves. Small Hindu temples have also been installed to honor the god Vishnu and Ganesh, the Buddhists worship too. Over 2500 years ago that the Sinhalese lived and prayed in these caves. What you see now dates from the first century BC. The paintings are well preserved, and the temple is still used today as a place of worship.
Dambulla Temple consists of five caves turned into small chapels of Buddha worship. The second cave is the biggest cave and it is called the Cave of the great kings. There are 16 important standing Buddha statues and 14 important statues that are standing. There are also plenty of smaller statues within the cave. The pilgrims would leave offerings of fresh flowers and food, and sometimes also leave a small statue of Buddha or Vishnu, the Hindu god. The ceiling of the cave is covered with murals depicting the life of Buddha, and date from the eighteenth century. Men have used the cave since 2700 years ago. It is part of the UNESCO world heritage. You can find some small seats to enjoy some peace in this incredibly impressive place.
The third monastery cave of Dambulla is less impressive than the second, but it's paintings are very fine. They say it's the new great monastery because the paintings are more recent and came into use later than the first two caves. The wall and ceiling paintings are typical of the Kandy art and date back to the mid eighteenth century. They depict classical Buddhist scenes but in a new modern style. There are about 50 statues of Buddha, and King Sri Rajasinha, who ruled Kandy in 1750. The caves are an UNESCO World Heritage site. $10 to enter and isn't included in the $50 cultural pass.
Similar to the first painted caves, the Deraniyagala caves are on the itinerary on the descent from the ancient imperial city of Sigiriya. They are not as impressive as the first ones because the paintings have not survived so well. It was Dr. Deraniyagala who discovered and investigated them, giving rise to their name. You can see some faces, if you look closely, representing the king's wives. The caves were even more damaged by all the sun they get, while the main cave paintings are sheltered from the sun and the rain, and are more cared for. This cave was an old hermit retreat, but in the 5th century BC, this place was built in the capital of the island.
The bastion of Utrecht still carries its original Dutch name, paying homage to the colonial era when the Dutch ruled the city of Galle. The stronghold, which is similar to a stonghold within the protective walls of the city, was previously known as the crescent. It watched over the army of Galle, together with the bastion of the Moon, the Sun and the Stars. In 1760, a total of 30 commanders and 220 soldiers with 15 guns looked out to sea in case of an attack. About two of centuries ago, the bastion Galle lighthouse was constructed, aiming also at protecting the national vessels against approaching pirate ships. As the fort was declared a UNESCO world heritage site 20 years ago, the bastion, in addition to the town walls, has benefited from an extensive renovation project and is now very well preserved.
The fourth Dambulla cave temple is one of the smallest. It looks a bit like the 80 other caves, farther from the five main caves. When we wanted to go it had closed as they do several times a day to make their ritual offerings without having tourists taking pictures. You have to cover your shoulders and knees before entering, and you cannot take a picture with Buddha, where you turn your back. The fervor of the place is very intense, but people respect foreigners ve do not say anything, even if thy feel very offended. The cave has several representations of Buddha, sitting and lying, and beautiful frescoes on the ceiling.
Matara's name during the Portuguese colonization was Maturai, which meant the great fortress. There are two forts in Matara, the Star Fort is visited as a museum, and has been renovated, while the Dutch fort is a place where Dutch people still live, it's not a monument where people visit to learn about its history. The Star Fort was built by the Dutch during colonization, and it retains its star shape today. The construction ended in 1765. Nilwala River is nearby, but you almost don't notice it because it's pretty low. The roof of the fort was covered with sheets to facilitate its discretion, but now that's been replaced by a tiled roof. The letters VOC that are on the central door refer to the company that operated in the colonial city. There's another inscription, "1765," which refers to its opening date. The weapons have inscriptions in Dutch.
When you get to the top of the giant rock of Sigiriya, the view is breathtaking, as you can see the meadows and the royal gardens below. The first thing you notice is the importance given to water. There are remains of tanks, pools, fountains. The gardens are arranged symmetrically. The rock served as protection because invaders could be seen very easily. You could only get there by bridges. Then you were in these gardens, as a reward for having spent the most difficult stages.
This masterpiece is located next to the palace of Mahasena, in the ruins of Anuradhapura. It depicts Buddha in the state of Samadhi, a state of advanced meditation. They say it dates back to the third or fourth century. The Buddha is protected by a concrete roof so that it doesn't get damaged. Around there are souvenir stalls. The features of the Buddha are very fine, and the artwork is also a sacred place. You have to remove your shoes to enter the premises and go decently dressed. The statue is a model of concentration that helped the Indian leader Nehru withstand years in prison during British colonization. He had a photo of this Buddha and they say that it allowed him to stay calm.
Muthiyangana Devale is a Buddhist temple situated in the center of Badulla. The Buddhists visit the whole island on a pilgrimage, because they think it was visited by Buddha during one of his trips to the island. One of his disciples wanted to construct a temple in memory of this visit, and Buddha dropped a few drops of sweat, which became pearls, which people say are locked in the main temple. The temple was built by King Devanampiya, and it is very large, with several places of worship. It is one of 16 major temples of the island.
Next to the city of Wellawaya are the ruins of Buduruwagala, being a fundamental junction in the south of the island. You leave with a tuk tuk from the station, this costs more or less 400Rs and there they will wait for you while you visit.The entrance cost is 200Rs which is for "the conservation of the site" and it is the monks who will charge you which I found strange, as it is assumed that Buddhist monks cannot touch mone. There are about 10km from Wellawaya, up a trail of dirt from the main road from Matara to Wellawaya. The place itself is beautiful, it is an ancient Buddhist temple, with seven statues of the Buddha and other gods. They are carved in the rock, and date from the tenth century. The sites name means stone buddha. Unfortunately there is little of the colors that adorned the gods. But it is a nice place and very few people.
In addition to Vishnu and Kataragama, Natha Devale is one of the main temples of Kandy. You can see both Buddhists and Hindus inside worshiping the gods. Part of the temple is built inside a sacred tree where there are small alters where people leave little offerings like flowers or small Buddha statues. During Kandy´s reign as the capital of the island, Natha was one of the most important gods, and is believed to have appeared in various forms in different places on the island. Natha Temple is next to the temple of the tooth and when we went during the Esala Perahera festival, the most important annual pilgrimage, people were sleeping in the temple waiting for the procession at night. The temple elephants were also there, preparing for the parade.