Dambulla: Royal Rock Temple


So what does all this have to do with the pix we’re seeing, you ask? Sigiriya was developed, most likely as a Buddhist retreat and monastery (an alternate, mostly discredited theory says it was a fortress), by King Kasyapa in the late 5th Century AD. He’s the guy who kicked his older brother over to south India, whence he later returned with those aforementioned south Indian mercenaries. (Does that mean we can blame the current troubles all on him??) The caves at Dambulla were already occupied by Buddhist monks, but they became a major religious and cultural site after a king took refuge there around 90BC while evading south Indian invaders. After he returned to power, he expressed his gratitude by turning the caves into the rock temples you see in these pictures. Of course, later kings added embellishments of their own, but the roots go back pretty far.

Polonnaruwa, which I visited after Sigiriya and Dambulla and before Kandy, was initially founded by the south Indian Chola dynasty. In 1070, Sinhalese king Vijayabahu I drove the Cholas off the island and retained Polonnaruwa as his capital. It reached its peak under Parakramabahu I (1153-86), and then started a decline under his successor, Nissanka Malla (1187-96), who seems to have bankrupted the treasury trying to compete with the glory of his predecessor. It’s fitting that, after Polonnaruwa, I decided to hop down to Kandy, since that was the final base of power for Sinahlese kings in Sri Lanka.

Enjoy the pictures. It’s a gorgeous island, with amazing history. If only it could really know a prolonged period of peace without communal violence, it would be simply amazing. As it is, it’s a bit confusing to my emotions, I must admit. Ah well.

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