Its the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, the internal area being about 1000 Sq M. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings.
Namely Devaraja lena (#1), Maharaja lena (#2), Maha Aluth Viharaya (#3), Paccima Viharaya (#4) & Devana Aluth Viharaya (#5).These paintings and statues are related to the Buddha and his life as well as history of Sri Lanka. Inscriptions found at the site & documentary evidence testify that these temples were renovated in the 12th, 17th centuries AD. What we see today is the result of a complete restoration & repainting work done in 18th century AD. The temple was named ’Swarnagiri guha’ (Golden Rock Caves) in the 12th century AD after King Nissankamalla painted the standing, sitting and recumbent images of the Buddha in gold (73 statues in all). The area covered by paintings in all caves is over 2000sqm. Largest preserved group of rock & wall paintings in the region after Ajanta in India. Cave #1.14’ rock cut image of the Buddha in Parinibbana Manduka(passing away). The main entrance to cave #2 leads to the main Buddha image & the arch (makara torana) both carved out of the rock. On either side of the image are Maitreya (future Buddha) and god Natha. Behind these are the statues of Saman & Upulwan two guardian deities of Sri Lanka. Also found here are the statues said to be of King Valagamba & Nissankamalla. A characteristic feature is a large vessel kept to collect water dripping through a split in the rock ceiling from ancient times. Artists in a bid to camouflage the situation have painted a river scene here with fish swimming about. There is also a Rock cut stupa surrounded by eight Buddha images. Cave #3. Paintings and images display the 18th century Kandyan art & sculpture. Also found is the statue of Kandyan King Kirti Sri Rjasinghe. Cave #4. Soma chaitya named after wife of King Valagamba, Somawathie. Cave #5. Until the 18th century has been a store house. Converted to a temple by korala of Tholambugolla whose image is also found painted on the front wall. Declared world heritage in 1991.