Ridi Vihara

Top choice in The Ancient Cities

The primary attraction at this Buddhist temple is the golden standing Buddha statue in the main cave called the Pahala Vihara (Lower Temple), which also houses a 9m recumbent Buddha resting on a platform decorated with a series of blue-and-white tiles. The tiles were a gift from the Dutch consul and depict scenes from the Bible, including animals entering Noah's ark two by two.

The next-door Uda Vihara (Upper Temple) was built by Kandyan King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe in the 18th century and features stunningly vibrant murals and carvings painted in yellows, reds and black. Some clever visual tricks were used by the fresco artists; in one case, above the exterior doorway to the right, what appears to be an elephant reveals itself on closer inspection to be a formation of nine maidens. Photos are not allowed inside either of the temples.

Outside the temple complex you can walk past an Indian-looking stone temple up the ceremonial pathway to a renovated dagoba. On the way up, to your right, is an ancient rock inscription.

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