The Archeological Advisory Council, which met yesterday, decided to temporarily close the Dambulla Cave Temple complex to local and foreign tourists, until further notice.
“The Council held an in-depth discussion on the necessity to conserve the paintings and wooden statues of the Dambula Cave Temple. The Council also decided to seek the assistance of local and international experts. Thus, in a bid to conserve the five caves of the temple, it was decided to close these off to local and foreign tourists, until further notice,” the Ministry of Education said in a press release.
During this period, conservation experts of the Central Cultural Fund and the Department of Archeology will be entrusted with conserving the cave paintings.
“Meanwhile, automatic doors, which will calculate and control the number of people that can enter the caves, will also be installed. In addition, a proper lighting system and a CCTV system will also be established. The Central Cultural Fund will bear all the expenses,” it read. The council also decided that to bear all the expenses it had the power to issue tickets to the foreign visitors.
“Discussions will be held with the clergy so that a sum can be allocated for the needs of the temple and the rest can be deposited with the Central Cultural Fund,” it read. Addressing the media recently, on the controversy surrounding the temple, Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said, that the daily income at the Dambulla Cave Temple, from foreign tourists exceeds the sum mentioned in the annual income of the temple by the Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs in the audit reports of the Dambulla Cave Temple.
“The 2015 Audit Report states, that the annual income of the temple was Rs 2,971,000 but we have conducted a study and found that the daily income of the Dambulla Cave Temple is between two to eight million rupees, from tickets issued to foreigners,” he said.
The minister added that until 1996 the tickets were issued by the Central Cultural Fund (CCF). However, severe irregularities have taken place after certain sections of the Buddhist clergy took over the ticketing process.
“The daily income of the temple is between Rs 1 million and 1.5 million according to the most conservative estimate. That means between 1996 and 2016 between Rs 7,300 and 10,095 million had been collected. Thus, I request you to look into the matter,” the Thera said in the letter.