The Golden Temple, more commonly known as the Dambulla Caves, is made up of 5 caves, filled with wall paintings & sculptures dated back about 2000 years ago. While part of the paintings and sculptures were touched up, many are still in their original state. I guess, it's these untouched aspects that creates the sense of time and value of this place. The work by people of the past is remarkable!
This is one of the sacred places where we see people don in white streaming in to worship at the "modern" building, which is currently in use for rituals and worship.
The caves are actually at the back of the modern facade that requires some effort to climb. When arrived, all are to remove our footware, which I think it's not about keeping the place clean, I vaguely recall (reading from somewhere long long ago) it symbolizes equality, all worshippers are equal before the eyes of Buddha.
We are greeted by a bodhi tree that's more than 2000 years ago. According to the guide, a bodhi tree has to be planted at the site before the temple is built. The sight of the colorful prayer flags reminded me of a common sight in Bhutan, where the locals believe that the wind will send their prayers and would be heard.
Some interesting points that the guide shared with us:
1. In each cave, we find a gigantic lying Buddha statue and they were carved out from the cave stone. It's amazing work! There are also statues of smaller sizes carved out from sones and wood, and were covered with clay to give the colours on the statues.
2. The various positions of the hand and arm means different things. E.g. Right palm facing out is the blessing position, Right palm facing left is the teaching position.
3. All Buddha statues, no matter what state or position always have the eyes open, at varying degrees.
4. The position of the first toes when both legs are placed in the sleeping Buddha will tell us if it's in the sleeping or dead position. (Aligned neatly: sleeping position)
5. The feet of the Buddha were flat, and he did not have lines on his palm or foot surface, but lotus symbols, that was why one of the wiseman foresaw that the young prince would change the world.
Here's a text sculpture in Pali, a "transitional" language from Sanskrit to today's Singhalese language.