Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple – World Cultural Heritage in Sri Lanka

A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with five shrines, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. Buddhist frescoes (2,100 m2) are of particular importance, as are 157 statues.

Accreditation year: 1991
Criteria: (i)(vi)
Central Province, Matale . District

Outstanding global value

Located in central Sri Lanka, Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple is a living Buddhist site centered on a series of five cave temples. Home to forest-dwelling Buddhist monks since the 3rd century BC, these natural caves have been transformed continuously throughout history into one of the major Buddhist complexes. most prominent in South and Southeast Asia, demonstrating innovative approaches to interior layout and decoration. In keeping with the long tradition associated with lively Buddhist ritual practices and ongoing royal patronage, the cave temples have undergone several renovations and refurbishments prior to their availability. the interior form as it is today in the 18th century. The vast interior spaces of the cave temples are not separated, but are spatially distinguished by the deliberate and subtle arrangement of the work. multicolored sculptures of exceptional craftsmanship and decorated with vibrant murals. This spatial hierarchy and purposeful interior layout devoid of physical division leads devotees systematically through spaces from one ceremonial function to the next. . The site is notable in the Buddhist world for its association with the tradition of continuously practicing Buddhist rituals and pilgrimages for more than two millennia.

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Criterion (i): Dambulla Monastery is an outstanding example of the art and religious expression of Sri Lanka and South and Southeast Asia. The cave temple, painted surfaces and statues are unique in terms of scale and level of preservation. The monastery includes important masterpieces of 18th century art in the Kandy school of Sri Lanka.

Criterion (vi): Dambulla is an important temple in the Buddhist religion in Sri Lanka, notable for its association with the long and extensive tradition of living Buddhist ritual practices and pilgrimage for more than two millennia.


Heritage includes all the elements and components related to the various creative aspects needed to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the heritage, such as a multicolored statue cast in stucco or earth. clay or carved from live rock in cave shrines, murals, and interior arrangements. The physical structure of these elements is in good condition and has been preserved to show this value. The property is not currently subject to any adverse effects of developments or other pressures.


The overall form and design as well as the material and material of the frescoes covering the interior surfaces of the cave shrines and the carved and cut stone statues in the caves have been preserved. No interventions were made to change the overall form and design of the space inside the cave, or the placement and placement of the sculptures and paintings in relation to the interior layout. of them. The interior spaces are still being used by pilgrims for Buddhist ceremonies, thus maintaining the original use and function as well as the spirit and feel of their inner spaces.

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Protection and management requirements

Property owned by the Asgiriya Monastery of Buddhist monks, has been declared a Protected Monument under the legal protection of the Government of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archeology, which administers the Ordinance. Antiquities 1940 (revised 1998) at the national level. Tampering with the property is not allowed without the permission of the Department of Archeology. The preservation and monitoring of colorful paintings and objects is the responsibility of the Department of Archeology. Monks conduct daily rituals and are responsible for the upkeep, protection and general upkeep of the property. Part of the gate collection from foreign tourists visiting the property is used by monks for these purposes. The area extending to the edge of the entire outcrop has been designated a buffer zone under the supervision of the Department of Archeology. The property’s religious character was further protected by declaring the entire area around the outcrop a sacred area by the National Bureau of Physical Planning.

The main challenges ahead are preserving the paintings, dealing with the carrying capacity due to the increased number of pilgrimages mainly during religious festivals, and achieving better results in their conservation and regular maintenance. . Maintaining the site’s Outstanding Universal Value over time will require taking measures to enhance heritage management, conservation and presentation. These include the preparation of a heritage management framework, a master development plan, a visitor management plan, and the establishment of a regular monitoring regime.

Map of Rangiri Dambulla . Cave Temple

Video of Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple

See also: UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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