vrijdag 6 april 2012

Sri Lanka, Golden Temple of Dambulla

A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100 m2 ) are of particular importance, as are the 157 statues.



The ensemble of Dambulla is an outstanding example of the religious art and expression of Sri Lanka and South and South-East Asia. The excavated shrine-caves, their painted surfaces and statuary are unique in scale and degree of preservation. The monastery includes significant masterpieces of 18th century art, in the Sri Lankan school of Kandy.
The rock of Dambulla is the centre of a Buddhist cave-temple complex established in the 3rd century BC and occupied continuously until today. Its location has marked a transportation node between the Eastern and Western Dry Zones and between the Dry Zones and the central mountains throughout the history of Sri Lanka. The cave-temple complex is established on an inselberg or erosional remnant of importance in the study of the island's geological history. The site also includes evidence of human occupation going back to the prehistoric period, including the megalithic cemetery at Ibbankatuwa.
The site has been in continuous use for over 22 centuries, when it was occupied by a Buddhist monastic establishment, following the arrival of Buddhism on the island. Remains of 80 rock-shelter residences established at that time on the site have been identified. Most probably in the 1st century BC, the uppermost group of shelters on Dambulla's south face was transformed into shrines. These transformations continued and were intensified between the 5th and 13th centuries: cave-temples were extended into the sheltering rock, and brick walls constructed to screen the caves. By the end of the 12th century, with the introduction by King Nissanka Malla of sculpture to the caves on the upper terrace, echoing the rock carving that had preceded it, the caves assumed their present general forms and layout.
The next major phase of development took place in the 18th century when, following a long-standing tradition, the upper terrace was restored and refurbished. All the painted surfaces within the caves were painted or overpainted in a style characteristic of the Kandy school of the late 18th century. At that time, the modest Buddhist figures in the caves were repainted, maintaining original details and iconography; the fronting screen walls were rebuilt and roofed to form an outer veranda. Throughout the 19th century, following the loss of royal patronage in 1815, periodic repainting of sculptures and deteriorating surfaces continued. In 1915, thanks to the efforts of a local donor, cave No 5 was entirely repainted. In the 1930s, the veranda was rebuilt incorporating a mixture of European and Asian detailing, and the complex's entrance porch was reconstructed in a conjectural 18th century style.
This cultural landscape is an extraordinary and unique complex: the cave-temple, rock paintings in five caves and 157 statues of various sizes. Dambulla bears witness in its richly layered composite nature to the use of the entire site for close to four millennia. The larger site incorporates a set of individual units reflecting all phases of site development from the megalithic period to the present day, including a monastic chapter house, bo-tree temple, dagoba and the earliest known village revealed by archaeological research in Sri Lanka. Those are located within a site of considerable natural beauty and power.
Particular care has been taken in developing approaches to conservation which are in tune with the site's qualities, and the capacities of available conservators. One of the site's distinguishing characteristics is the regular renewal of decorated surfaces over time; conservation measures devoted to stripping back layers of later painting on wall surfaces or sculpture to reveal earlier images, would be ignoring the worth of the ongoing tradition which has regularly ensured complete repainting of surfaces.
As well, the physical nature of the cave setting, with its latent moisture and migrating salts problems, has prompted much of the painting 'repair' that has taken place. Equally, limited tests, during conservation efforts, suggest that little earlier work survives, most later overpainting having prompted reinstatement of new base surfaces and obliteration of the old. The Jeevan Naide family, charged with care of the wall paintings since early in the 18th century BC, is still employed, working with ola leaf manuscripts which provide a clear idea of the complex layout and associated painting techniques. Technical missions to the site in 1990 and 1991, working with local apprentices and the Jeevan Naide family, brought science and tradition together in treatment of the site.

Historical Description

The rock of Dambulla is the centre of a Buddhist cave-temple complex established in the 3rd century B.C. and occupied continuously to this day. Its location has marked a transportation node between the Eastern and Western Dry Zones and between the Dry Zones and the central mountains throughout the history of Sri Lanka. The cave-temple complex is established on an inselberg or erosional remnant of importance in the study of the island's geological history. The 25 hectare site proposed for inscription also includes evidence of human occupation going back to the prehistoric period, including the recently excavated megalithic cemetery at Ibbankatuwa.
The site has been in continuous use for over 22 centuries, when it was occupied by a Buddhist monastic establishment, following the arrival of Buddhism on the island. Remains of 80 rock shelter residences established at that time on the site have been identified. Likely in the 1st century B.C., the uppermost group of shelters on Dambulla's South face were transformed into shrines. These transformations continued and were intensified between the 5th and 13th centuries: cave-temples were extended into the sheltering rock, and brickwalls constructed to screen the caves. By the end of the 12th century, with the introduction by King Nissanka Malla of sculpture to the caves on the upper terrace, echoing the rock carving that had preceded it, the caves assumed their present general forms and layout.
The next major phase of development took place in the 18th century when following a long-standing tradition, the upper terrace was restored and refurbished. All of the painted surfaces within the caves were painted or overpainted in a style characteristic of the Kandy school of the late 18th century. At that time, the modest Buddhist figures in the caves were repainted, maintaining original details and iconography; the fronting screen walls were rebuilt and roofed to form an outer veranda. Throughout the 19th century, following the loss of royal patronage in 1815, periodic repainting of sculptures and deteriorating surfaces continued. In 1915, thanks to the efforts of a local donor, cave no5 was entirely repainted. And in the 1930's, the veranda was rebuilt incorporating a mixture of European and Asian detailing, and the complex's entrance porch was reconstructed in a conjectural 18th c. style.


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