Sunset over palm trees, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Island, in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 12th April 2010
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Sri Lanka's History Goes Back a Long Way

  • Sri Lanka's documented history spans 3,000 years, but early human remains found on the island of Sri Lanka date back an astonishingt38,000 years ago (Balangoda Man).
  • Pali chronicles like the Mahavamsa, Deepavamsa, and the Culavamsa. describe the history of Sri Lanka since the establishment of the Kingdom of Tambapanni in the sixth century BC by the earliest ancestors of the Sinhalese. The first Sri Lankan ruler of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, Pandukabhaya, is recorded in the fourth century BC. Buddhism was introduced in the third century BC by Arhath Mahinda (son of the Indian emperor Ashoka).
  • The island was divided into numerous kingdoms over the following centuries, (between CE 993–1077 united under Chola rule). Sri Lanka was ruled by 181 monarchs from the so-called Anuradhapura to Kandy periods.

Who Colonised Sri Lanka?

  • Colonisation began in the 16th century, with some coastal areas of the country controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Between 1597 and 1658, a substantial part of the island was under Portuguese rule, but the Portuguese lost their possessions to the Dutch in the Eighty Years' War and the island was finally united under British rule in 1815. Not without protest. Armed uprisings against the British took place in 1818 (Uva Rebellion) and 1848 (Matale Rebellion). Independence was finally granted in 1948 but the country remained a Dominion of the British Empire until 1972. It was then known as Ceylon.
  • Sri Lanka's recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war (until 2009) between the Sri Lanka Armed Forces, (on behalf of the Sinhalese majority) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, representing the Tamil minority

Is Sri Lanka a Poor Country?

Levels of extreme poverty run at about 4% of the population, which is low for a developing nation and good when compared with most of Asia.

Sri Lanka - Facts and Factoids

  • Sri Lanka means Resplendent Island. Sri Lanka is also known as the heart of the Indian Ocean, and the teardrop of India, due to its shape, at the foot of the subcontinent.
  • Tea is Sri Lanka’s principal export - it is the fourth largest exporter of tea in the world
  • Cinnamon originated from Sri Lanka. Most of the world’s cinnamon still comes from here
  • Thanks to the many waterfalls and rivers, over 50% of the power for the country is generated by hydropower
  • Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to democratically elect a woman as the head of government - Simiravo Bandaranaike in 1960

What to See and Do in Sri Lanka?

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