The golden cave temple or the royal rock temple complex has five separate caves that contain about 157 stunning buddha statues and mural paintings covering 2100 sq meters some of srilankas most important and evocative religious art . Created over 2,000 years ago they have been embellished over centuries by subsequent kings . The early paintings of dambulla are believed by some to belong to the 8th century AC . A sacred pilgrimage site of 22 centuries it is the largest best preserved cave temple in srilanka . The site is insulated and vast in size with its perpendicular height about six hundred feet . Few parts of the complex are covered with wood and the surface is largely bare and black . Dating back to the first century BC , this temple was designated a unesco world heritage site in 1991 .