“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” -Buddha
The Golden Temple Dambulla was glistening under the summer sun greeted us. It shines through that it is even difficult to gaze at. Indeed, it was one great day exploring the Dambulla Cave Temple and Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Sri Lanka.
These two archaeological and historical sites are UNESCO World Heritage of Sri Lanka.
Dambulla is around 72 kms away from Kandy where I stayed. Supposedly, I will go by myself but later on, I changed my mind after receiving the instructions, directions and routes to take. For sure, I will be lost. With the couple from Czech Republic, we availed the tour from the hostel.
Dambulla Cave Temple has five famous cave temples on a single huge overhanging rock and some of the caves have been dated since the 1st BC. Inside the caves are Buddha statues and murals.
But these caves are hidden somewhere. The Golden Temple Dambulla was there to take our attention with the huge Golden Buddha Statue seated above the Temple. We visited the inside, took a walk in every hall and it was a museum with displays of Buddha.
We have already wandered but I haven’t seen any cave. Maybe, that was all for Golden Temple Dambulla, I thought.
The sun was up. It was really hot when we went out from the museum. We headed to the other side with an open area and took the stairs going up. I have no idea what or where we are up to. Many other people both locals and tourist are coming and going too, some are even bringing flowers.
Under the heat of the sun, we followed the crowd going to the uphill passing by some who are selling lotus flowers, water and some sliced mango and guava.
Offering flowers is not a must but what a beautiful gesture it is even if you are not a Buddhist.
I can still remember that one guy whom we met carrying a bunch of flowers. He was in a hurry running down thru the steps while we are going up. I thought he’s selling the flowers. But, no. He was handing it to everybody that he met. He was telling it’s free. He was not even a local. By his looks, he is a European with his day backpack.
We’re lucky; we have flowers to offer.
We kept on walking, holding the delicate flowers in our hands.
I couldn’t wait to see what’s waiting for us, I just prayed that it worth to be hiking under the sun. It was still set of concrete stairs leading us to a semi-arid desert mountain. We were panting and sweating until few friends welcomed us.
Monkeys were just around running from here and there. Climbing and hiding from the few grown trees in the area. Some are even courageous that they will block you from passing the stairs. Some even love selfie. And even one monkey didn’t stop to scare the Czech lady till he got the flowers she’s holding.
Finally, we reached our destination.
It has been a form of respect to remove footwear when entering Buddhist temples. I am even luckier because I was allowed to keep my socks. We left our footwear right before we entered the door. And we were running from the short distance from the entrance to the caves. Why? The ground was so hot that it seems to burn the soles and instep of our feet. It’s worth it. It really was.
We entered the first cave; the place was very silent and solemn. One lady was there praying. Remember that I have few flowers in my hand? I requested our driver to take a photo of me offering the flowers to the seated Buddha. (It was crazy, I know.) That was supposedly my most favorite picture from the 1st cave.
But after few minutes, one guy approached me telling it was not allowed. I was afraid. I wasn’t aware of the rules, to be honest. I thought he will confiscate the phone I used to take the photo but he asked me to come to one office. I followed him and they asked me to unlock the phone, I did. What can I do?
One by one they checked the photos. And from there, they told me to delete that perfect picture. All I can do is to take one last look, capture it in my memory and press delete. And let go. Lesson learned.
We continued to the second to fifth cave. Each cave is of different sizes. It is difficult to put into words how it is inside the caves. It was like you were put in an unfamiliar place during an ancient time. It was a little dark but enough to see the place. Hundreds of Buddha statues are inside. There are statues of standing Buddha, meditating Buddha, sitting Buddha, reclining Buddha and even sleeping Buddha.
Inside the caves are also murals and frescoes painted on the ceiling depicting Buddha’s life. They are beautiful intricate part of the caves. But I have to admit that I have limited understanding of Buddhism and all I can do is to appreciate and pay respect to this wonderful conservation of Buddhist faith.
If ever you’ll be in Sri Lanka soon, explore the hidden gem uphill from the Golden Temple Dambulla.