Name: Phrase consists of Sanskrit words – “Sri” means saint and “Lanka” means an island.
Geography: The island of Sri Lanka is the 25th island for his size in the world. It’s located near the south- east coast of the Indian subcontinent underground. Size: 433 km from North to South, 244 km from East to West. Area: 66,000 sq km.
Highest Mountain: Piduruthalagala, rises over Nuwara Eliya at the height of 2524 metres.
There are hundreds of rivers and streams on the island. The largest river is Walawe Ganga, flowing along 860 km, from Adams Peak to Trincomalee.
Capital City: Colombo.
Population: about -19.9 million people, only fourth of them live in towns.
Sinhalese count 72% of the population; the vast majority of them are Buddhists.
Tamil counts 18% of the population, the vast majority of them are Hindus. There are
9% count Muslim population, the descendants of Muslim traders who frequently visited the island.
Literacy Percent: 99%
Official Languages: Sinhala, Tamil and English.
Regime: The Socialist Republic. Elections are held in various districts during the year. President, who is also serving as commander of the army and head of government, is elected every four years.
Voltage: 220 volts
Calling Code: 0094
Climate and seasons are recommended to visit:
Sri Lanka, which lies close to the equator, is characterized by tropical climate.
There are two Monsoons in Sri Lanka. It is between May and August. When the western and southern parts are under the influence of monsoon region’s dry season is from December to March.
From October to January the northern and eastern parts of the island are rainy. Dry season lasts there from May to September. It means that at any given moment there are sunny beaches and places to walk.
The average temperature of beaches is 30-25 degrees, making it possible to travel at the rainy season.
In the highlands of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya the average temperature is 22-16 degrees, and the nights are cold.
Amounts of rainfall in the south reach -3500-4000 mm per year, compared with the dry region that gets “only” 1000 mm per year.
Tropical vegetation accompanies the traveler wherever he goes. The various forms of green, which is the dominant colour on the island, are giving a feeling of natural greenhouse throughout the year.
History – General
Sri Lanka has a long and rich history, local culture and mix of cultures imported by the royal dynasties that ruled the island. The following huge structures were built here: palaces, castles, cities and towns, water systems and huge reserves for the rainfalls – some are still in use. Some of the buildings were abandoned and covered partly by the jungle, and only in the early 20th century began their exposure. Enthusiasts of archeology and ancient cultures will be interested mainly in the cultural triangle that is on the north – east of the island. Sigiriya, Anuradhapura Polonnaruwa tell the stories of the ancient kingdoms.
We’ll try to review the main cornerstones in the history of Sri Lanka, each with a depth of cultural significance.
During the pre-history Sri Lanka was inhabited by tribes of hunters – gatherers, nomads and their economic system was based on a gathering of fruits and vegetables and animal hunting. Some came from the south of India, remains of ancient settlements were found in caves where they lived. Skeletons, simple stone tools and fragments of pottery were found on various sites on the island, usually near major rivers.
Those tribes believed in the power of nature, animals and forest’s spirits. This ancient culture has not preserved documents or writings, but the remains of ancient tribes may be found in “Wadda’s human living in the north of Kandy in some reservations. A number of them preserve an ancient tradition of using herbal medicine and consider themselves to be original inhabitants of Sri Lanka.
In the 6th century BC Wijaya, the son of a king in northern India, landed in Sri Lanka with 700 soldiers after escaping the execution. According to the Sinhalese tradition he reached the shores of the island in the same day when the Buddha reached enlightenment.
Wijaya and his men settled in the Anuradhapura kingdom and established the basis for the first Sinhalese. Later they established a kingdom in the south state, but the Anuradhapura kingdom remained strong and leading kingdom.
The king and his men tipped the huge reservoirs of rainwater such as Tisa wewa and Basawakkulama.
In the 3rd century BC Asoka Indian warlord sent his son, Mahinda, and his daughter to extend the message of Buddhism throughout Sri Lanka.
The first Sinhalese capital
Mahinda’s son converted the King of Anuradhapura into Buddhism. Their meeting held in Mininthalaya and initiated the beginning of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The event is celebrating today at the “Poson” day, the” Poya”(full moon) in June. So, there are thousands of pilgrims coming to Mihinthalaya, climbing on the “Dageba” overlooking the entire area of Anuradhapura.
Twig from tree “Bo”, that according to tradition The Lord Buddha reached enlightenment under it, were planted by the King of Sri Lanka in Anuradhapura and the twigs of it planted in the many hundreds of temples around the island. Leafs of this tree appear on the Sri Lanka’s national flag.
Relationship between the state and the Buddhist religion was tightened when Sinhalese King Walagambah escaped from South Indian and found refuge in a Buddhist monastery in Dambulla. In 90 BC he expressed his gratitude by building the complex of caves in Dambulla. His murals were preserved until today and made it a pilgrimage centre.
Monks of Dambulla recorded Buddhist reporters and traditions and Sri Lanka became the spiritual centre of Buddhist philosophy. Today it influences like a magnet for the faithful from Burma, Thailand and other countries in South – East Asia.
Another source of strengthen the Anuradhapura as the first Sinhalese capital and Buddhist centre was a Buddha’s tooth, that smuggled to it. It’s considered as one of the world’s most important Buddhist remains. Today it is saved by Sinhalese in the tooth temple in Kandy. Anuradhapura is moved to Polonnaruwa as the second capital of Sri Lanka.
There are two important kings related to this chapter of the local history. First Parakramabahu, reigned from 1186 to 1153, a period when North Island was ruled by Tamil. Parakramabahu made out trips occupation of southern India, developed the city’s huge buildings and water reservoirs surrounding it.
His successor, Nissanka (1196-1187), developed and strengthened the giant structures, but the kings who came after were unable to maintain the integrity of the kingdom. Diseases spread; Polonnaruwa became abandoned and overgrown by the jungle, waiting patiently for the archaeologists of the early twentieth century.
North Island was a Tamil kingdom at that time served as a centre of maritime trade for spices, pearls and goods. Until the 15th century the kingdom was a Tamil cultural centre, but the situation was about to change when the various European Nations began to take an interest of Sri Lanka.
After a period of Polonnaruwa, from 1400 to 1253, it moved the capital to five different cities.
The Portuguese arrived to the island in 1505. Lawrence de Almeida made an agreement with Kotte ruler, giving him a monopoly of the spice trade demanded on European markets. Relationship with the Tamils was less friendly. The Portuguese, who were trying to spread Christianity on the island, encountered local resistances. Tamils did not hesitate to pillage and massacre the missionaries again and again. But they did not prevent the Portuguese to take precedence over the spice and trade routes, especially in the coastal area, at the time when Kandy remained under the Sinhalese control. Due to the Portuguese, the names like Perera, Fernando etc were spread around the coastal area. Remains of Portuguese communities that still live on the island are Burghers. The Europeans that until today are still a part of the local population.
The Portuguese brought slaves from Africa called the “Kapiri” that gave a lot to the Sri Lanka’s music “Baila”, which consists of African sounds and drums.
Kandy Kingdom, led by King Rajasinghe, saw Dutch invasion as a good opportunity to get rid of the Portuguese domination. Rajasinghe granted monopoly on the spice trade and commodity traders to the Dutch, in return for autonomy and preservation of Sinhalese culture.
In 1658 the Dutch controlled most of the island and tried to encourage the Dutch for settlement at the island. The “Burgher Dutch” group is a remnant of this settlement.
The Dutch have developed the trade channels, which brought from their homeland, leaving for Sri Lanka a system of canals (mainly west coast) that are used to transfer cinnamon, spices and other goods to the port and from there to Europe.
However the Dutch who ruled the island for 140 years, could not take over the Sinhalese kingdom and the region of Kandy gained autonomy.
As part of its struggle with France for control of Indian Ocean trade routes, Britain was next and last occupier as Sri Lanka.
British Navy began using Trincomalee main port (port is the world’s largest natural deep).
In 1802 Sri Lanka becomes a British colony; in 1815 the British become the first European nation that took over the surveillance of the Kandy and the highlands.
In 1832 British started to develop the mountainous region around Nuwara Eliya. Fertile land, water and climate conditions fit perfectly for the coffee growing, which later was replaced by tea and rubber groves in the coastal area.
British were assisted by Tamils workers that were brought to the plantations from the South Indian. At that time the community groves reach about 85,000 people. This is one of two concentrations of Tamils in the country.
British bequeathed to Sri Lanka, like the other colonies, a private education system, railways stations, tea plantations and culture of tea (Ceylon tea), and of course the sport, cricket.
The English language has become the second language spoken in Sri Lanka after it broke free from British rule.
With the awakening for independence in India, Sri Lanka became an independent member in the Commonwealth and in February 1948 the first independent government was formed after the British high commissioner left the island.