Dambulla – The History of the City

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Dambulla is a large town, situated in the Matale District, Central Province of Sri Lanka, 148 km north-east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. Due to its location at a major junction, it has become the centre of vegetable distribution in the country.

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Major attractions of the area include the largest and best preserved cave temple complexes of Sri Lanka, and also the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, famous for being built in just 167 days.  The area also boasts the largest rose quartz mountain range in South Asia, and the Iron wood forest, or Na Uyana Aranya.

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The Ibbankatuwa prehistoric burial site near Dambulla cave temple complexes is the latest archaeological site of significant historical importance found in the area, which is located within 3 kilometers of the cave temples, providing evidence of the presence of indigenous civilizations long before the arrival of Indian influence on the island nation.

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The area is thought to have been inhabited from as early as the 7th to the 3rd Century BC. Statues and paintings in these caves date back to the 1st century BC. But the paintings and statues were repaired and repainted in the 11th, 12th, and 18th century AD. The caves in the city provided refuge to King Valagamba (also called Vattagamani Abhaya) in his 14 year long exile from the Anuradhapura kingdom. Buddhist monks meditating in the caves of Dambulla at that time provided the exiled king protection from his enemies. When King Valagamba returned to the throne at Anuradhapura kingdom in the 1st century BC, he had a magnificent rock temple built at Dambulla in gratitude to the monks in Dambulla.

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At the Ibbankatuwa Prehistoric burial site near Dambulla, prehistoric (2700 years old) human skeletons were found, showing evidence of civilization in this area long before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Evidence of ancient people thriving on agriculture has been detected in this area for over 2700 years according to archaeological findings. (750 BC).

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