Most Sacred Caves in The World
Dambulla Cave, Sri Lanka
Also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site (1991) in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country. This site is situated 148 km east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. It is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains.There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Lord Buddha and his life. There are total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include two statues of Hindu gods, the god Vishnu and the god Ganesh. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square meters. Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Buddha's first sermon.
Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes.
Corycian Cave, Greece
The Corycian Cave is located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in Greece. In the mythology of the area, it is named after the nymph Corycia; however, its name etymologically derives from korykos, "knapsack". A modern name for the cave in some references is Sarantavli, meaning "forty rooms". This cave was sacred to the Corycian Nymphs and the Muses, and a place of worship for Pan.
Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize
Actun Tunichil Muknal is a cave in Belize, near San Ignacio Cayo, notable as a Maya archaeological site that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. The most famous of the human remains is known as "The Crystal Maiden", the skeleton of a teenage girl, probably a sacrifice victim, whose bones which have been completely calcified by the natural processes of the cave, leaving them with a sparkling crystallized appearance. There are several areas of skeletal remains in the main chamber.
The ceramics at the site are significant partially because they are marked with "kill holes", which indicates they were used for ceremonial purposes. Many of the Mayan artifacts and remains are completely calcified to the cave floor. The Mayans also modified cave formations here. Some to create altars for the offerings, others created silhouettes of faces and animals, some projecting a shadow image in the cave. The cave is extensively decorated with cave formations in the upper passages.
Elephanta Caves, Gharapuri Island, India
A network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally "the city of caves") in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the east of the city of Mumbai (Bombay), in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva.
Longmen Caves, China
Longmen Caves are located 12 km south of present day Luòyáng in Hénán province, China. The grottoes, which overwhelmingly depict Buddhist subjects, are densely dotted along the two mountains: Xiangshan (to the east) and Longmenshan (to the west). The Yi River flows northward between them. For this reason, the area used to be called Yique (The Gate of the Yi River). From north to south, the distance covered by grottoes is about one km. Along with the Mogao Caves and Yungang Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes are one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites in China. There are over 2100 niches, more than 100,000 statues, some 40 pagodas and 3600 tablets and steles in the caves of Guyang, Binyang and Lianhua.
Psychro Minoan Caves, Crete, Greece
Psychro Cave is an ancient Minoan sacred cave in the Lasithi district of eastern Crete. Psychro is associated with the Diktaean Cave, the putative site of Zeus' birth. According to Hesiod, Theogony 477, Rhea gave birth to Zeus in a cave of Mount Aegaeon, near Lyttos; since the late nineteenth century the cave above the modern village of Psychro has been identified with this sanctuary.
The Dictaean cave is famous in Greek mythology as the place where Amalthea, perhaps known in Crete as Dikte, nurtured the infant Zeus with her goat's milk, the mythic connection to the long use as a site of cult attested here by archaeology. The nurse of Zeus, who was charged by Rhea to raise the infant Zeus in secret here, to protect him from his father Cronus (Krónos) is also called the nymph Adrasteia in some contexts.
St. Paul’s Grotto, Malta
Where the saint apparently lived after being shipwrecked on his way to being put on trial in Rome. Pope John Paul II visited this place of pilgrimage in 1990. One can take the underground passage from here to the Wignacourt Museum.