A golden statue glimmers against the imposing rock, which conceals beneath it the living testimony to a faith that withstood the adversity and test of time. A sacred pilgrimage site for followers of Buddhism for no less than 22 centuries this astounding cave complex with its five sanctuaries is the largest and the best preserved cave monastery in the island. Already established as important monasteries as far back as the 3rd century BC, these caves were protected and enhanced by successive kings and by the 11th century regarded as a place of great religious significance – and continues to be so today. Intricate murals undimmed by time cover the interior walls and ceiling – an area of 2,100 sq metres, and the 157 impressive statues of Lord Buddha, ancient kings, gods and goddesses bear witness to the devotion and skill of ancient artisans, whose creations can still evoke breathless admiration.

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