Dambulla complex of temple caves (UNESCO heritage) has a mixture of religious and secular painting and sculpture. Located at the centre of the island, 148km from Colombo, and on the main route north to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the cave temples are masterpieces of Buddhist art. Each is filled with murals depicting scenes from the Buddha´s life, and gilded statues of the Buddha in various poses.
In the 1st century BC, the caves provided refuge to a king who fled a South Indian invasion. On reclaiming his throne, the grateful king had temples constructed in the caves that had sheltered him. These were embellished by subsequent rules, especially during the Kandyan period in the 17th and 18th centuries. Altogether, there are five caves. There are several reclining Buddha's, including the 15m long sculpture of the dying Buddha. The frescoes on the walls and ceiling from the 15th-18th centuries; the ceiling frescoes show scenes from the Buddha's life and Sinhalese history.
The spiritual energy at Dambulla is palpable and the Buddhist art on display is unparalleled in Sri Lanka. An added bonus is the majestic view from the top of the rock.