Dambulla is sited on a gigantic rock which towers more than 160m above the surrounding land. The Rock is more the 1.5km around its base and summit is at 550km. The caves were the refuge of King Walagamba (Vattagamini Abhaya)
When he was exile for 14 years. When he return to the throne at Anuradhapura in the 1st century BC, he had magnificent rock temple built at Dambulla.
The site has being repaired and repainted several times in the 11th, 12th and 18th centuries.
Dambulla was designated a World Heritage site in 1991. The caves has a mixture of religious and secular painting and sculpture. There are several reclining Buddha's, including the 15m long sculpture of the dying Buddha in Cave 1. 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. Cave 2 is the largest and most impressive, containing over 150 statues, illustrating the Mahayana influences on Buddhism at the time through introducing Hindu deities such a s Vishnu and Ganesh.
A new large white Buddha (similar to the ones in Kandy and Mihintale) is planned for Dambulla. There is little evidence of monks who are housed in monasteries in the valley below where there is a monks' school