Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), is an island country in South Asia near south-east India. Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest.
Sri Lanka’s documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II. Sri Lanka was known from the beginning of British colonial rule until 1972 as Ceylon (/sᵻˈlɒnˌ seɪ-ˌ siː-/). Sri Lanka’s recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively ended when the Sri Lankan military defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.
A diverse and multicultural country, Sri Lanka is home to many religions, ethnic groups, and languages. In addition to the majority Sinhalese, it is home to large groups of Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils, Moors, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage, and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC.
Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a semi-presidential system. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.
Sri Lanka has had a long history of international engagement, as a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Along with the Maldives, Sri Lanka is one of the two countries in South Asia that are currently rated among high human development on the Human Development Index.
Good To Know
Food & Festivals
Dishes include rice and curry, pittu, kiribath, wholemeal roti, string hoppers, wattalapam (a rich pudding of Malay origin made of coconut milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs, and spices including cinnamon and nutmeg), kottu, and hoppers. Jackfruit may sometimes replace rice. Traditionally food is served on a plantain leaf or lotus leaf.
Middle Eastern influences and practices are found in traditional Moor dishes, while Dutch and Portuguese influences are found with the island’s Burgher community preserving their culture through traditional dishes such as Lamprais (rice cooked in stock and baked in a banana leaf), Breudher (Dutch Holiday Biscuit), and Bolo Fiado (Portuguese-style layer cake).
In April, Sri Lankans celebrate the Buddhist and Hindu new year festival. Esala Perahera is a symbolic Buddhist festival consisting of dances and decorated elephants held in Kandy in July and August. Fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances are integral parts of the festival. Christians celebrate Christmas on 25 December to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Tamils celebrate Thai Pongal and Maha Shivaratri, and Muslims celebrate Hajj and Ramadan.