About Sri Lanka

Location

See Detailed Map of Sri Lanka @Google map

Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean just below the Southern tip of India, and lying North of the equator.

Climate

Sri Lanka enjoys a tropical climate. There are no seasonal variations. The bi-annual monsoon rains provide the only seasons. Colombo and the South West experience rain from April to May and September to October. The East coast gets its share of rainfall from November to January. Being closer to the equator, the temperature is high throughout the year. The average temperature in Colombo is 27 degrees centigrade (80 degrees Fahrenheit). This was accompanied by high levels of humidity. However, in the different parts of the island, the temperature and the climate vary according to the terrain. The higher you go, the cooler it gets. In the mountainous regions of Nuwara Eliya, the temperature averages 16 degrees centigrade (61 degrees Fahrenheit).

History

The chronicled history of Sri Lanka dates back to over 2,500 years. It had established trade and cultural links with many ancient civilizations. Throughout history, it was known by different names. To the Greeks it was Taprobane, to the Arabs it was Serendib, to the Portuguese it was Ceilao, to the Dutch it was Zeylan, and to the British it was Ceylon. Sri Lanka was the ancient name meaning “The Resplendent Isle”.

People

The population number approximately 19 million. This multi-ethnic population comprises:

Sinhalese – 72% Tamils – 19% Muslims – 8% Burghers (descendants of Dutch and Portuguese) – 1%

Religion

The four major religions are: Buddhism – followed by 69% of the population Hinduism – followed by 13% of the population, Islam – followed by 8% of the population Christianity – followed by 7% of the population
Literacy rate - 94% Life expectancy -78 years

Languages -The most commonly spoken languages in Sri Lanka are Sinhala, Tamil and English

Currency – The Sri Lankan Rupee (Rs.) is divided into 100 cents. The coins and notes fall into the following denominations:

Coins: 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, 1 Rupee, 2 Rupees, 5 Rupees, 10 Rupees

Notes: 10 Rupees, 20 Rupees, 50 Rupees, 100 Rupees, 500 Rupees, 1,000 Rupees, 2,000 Rupees

* Please note that 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents and 10 cents coins are barely in circulation today.

Economy- Sri Lanka is mainly an agricultural country. The chief crop is rice with which the country is almost self-sufficient. Tea, rubber and coconut are also important agricultural crops, with tea being a major foreign exchange earner. In addition, other crops of importance are cocoa and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and cloves. Fruit and vegetables, native to both tropical and temperate regions, grow well in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is also a major exporter in precious and semi-precious gemstones. Within the last, few years remittances from Sri Lankans employed abroad have contributed a large share of foreign exchange earnings

The last three decades have seen tourism emerge as an important industry. There has also been a rapid growth in manufacturing industries, which offer a wide range of export goods such as petroleum products, leather goods, ready-made garments and electronic equipment.

History

Recent excavations show that even during the Neolithic Age, there were food gatherers and rice cultivators in Sri Lanka. Very little is known of this period; documented history began with the arrival of the Aryans from North India. The Aryans introduced use of iron and an advanced form of agriculture and irrigation. They also introduced the art of government. Of the Aryan settlements, Anuradhapura grew into a powerful kingdom under the rule of king Pandukabhaya. According to traditional history, he accepted as the founder of Anuradhapura.

During the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa, a descendent of Pandukabhaya, Arahat Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka of India, introduced Buddhism in 247 B.C. This is the most important event in Sri Lankan history as it set the country on the road to cultural greatness. As a new civilization, flourished Sri Lanka became rich and prosperous.

In the mid-2nd century B.C. a large part of north Sri Lanka came under the rule of an invader from South India. From the beginning of the Christian era and up to the end of the 4th century A.D., Sri Lanka had governed by an unbroken dynasty called Lambakarna, which paid great attention to the development of irrigation. A great king of this dynasty, Mahasen (3rd century A.D.) started the construction of large `tanks’ or irrigation reservoirs. Another great `tank’ builder was Dhatusena, who was put to death by his son Kasyapa who made Sigiriya a royal city with his fortress capital on the summit of the rock.
Because of invasions from South India, the kingdom of Anuradhapura fell by the end of the 10th century A.D. Vijayabahu 1 repulsed the invaders and established his capital at Polonnaruwa in the 11th century A.D. Other great kings of Polonnaruwa were Parakrama Bahu the Great and Nissanka Malla both of whom adorned the city with numerous buildings of architectural beauty. Invasion was intermittent and the capital was moved constantly until the Portuguese arrived in 1505, when the chief city was established at Kotte, in the western lowlands. The Portuguese came to trade in spices but stayed to rule until 1656 in the coastal regions, as did the Dutch thereafter. Dutch rule lasted from 1656 to 1796, in which year the British displaced them. During this period, the highland Kingdom, with its capital in Kandy, retained its independence despite repeated assaults by foreign powers who ruled the rest of the country. In 1815, the kingdom of Kandy ceded to the British and thus they established their rule over the whole island. Modern communications, western medical services, education in English, as well as the plantation industry (first coffee then tea, rubber and coconut) developed during British rule. By a process of peaceful, constitutional evolution, Sri Lanka won back her independence in 1948 and is now a sovereign republic, with membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations Organization.