Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, or as it is officially known as the Democratic Socilaist Republic of Sri Lanka, is a small, island nation, located off of the southern tip of India in the Indian Ocean. It is considered part of Southeastern Asia with its location, and although it does not actually touch any other countries, its closest neighbors are India and the Maldives directly to the southwest.


The island of Sri Lanka is located right on the Indian tectonic plate. This is a minor plate but it also points to why the island has moved away from the Indian mainland over the past several hundred thousand years. It is found in the Indian Ocean directly southwest of the Bay of Bengal and is separated from India by the Palk Straight and the Gulf of Mannar. While a land bridge once existed between India and Sri Lanka, it is now just a shallow chain of limestone, just slightly remaining above sea level. The last reported account of an individual traveling by foot from the two land masses occurred in 1480 AD, although cyclones have increased the depth of the channel, making this no longer possible.

The island, for the most part, is rather flat, with some costal plains, although there are mountains in the southern region of the island. The highest point, known as Pidurutalalagala sits at 8,281 feet above sea level. The climate for most of the year is tropical, which is due to the warm ocean winds that comes to the island. The temperature ranges from around 62.6 degrees in the highlands to 91.4 degrees in the lower, flat lands. However, the average temperature of the island throughout the year is 82.4 to 87.8 degrees. The rainfall of the island nation does change throughout the year, depending on the monsoon season. During the wet season, the island is going to receive, on average, around 98.4 inches of rain. However, the dry zone of the country, which spans from the northern tip to the southeastern area (running down the east coast and located west of the mountain range) receives only around 47 inches of rain annually.


By Uwe Dedering (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons Sri Lanka recently changes its name, as it was known as Ceylon up until 1972, and while it utilized this specific name for a long period of time, it does have a rather long and colorful history. The history of Sri Lanka dates back all the way to almost 500,000 years, including the Paleolithic period. At this time, the island was attached to India, although it did break off and slowly drift off from the Indian mainland. Human settlements have dated back to 37,000 years ago, with cabe paintings found throughout the region, along with the remains of modern humans, dating back to the same general time period.

Sri Lanka also seems to domesticate dogs far ahead of the rest of modern civilization, as depictions of dogs for assistance with agriculture and cattle have been seen on the painted walls from the same time period. While only basic information about these individuals is known, it is believed that these individuals were ancestors of a group of people known as the Vedda. There are currently a small number of the Vedda still living in Sri Lanka, as the numbers have been numbered at around 2,500.

While the natural residents of Sri Lanka is not widely known, it does have an important history for visitors and explorers. Around the time of 543 BC, Vijaya, an important kin of the time, landed, along with around 700 followers and soldiers. The group, which traveled with eight large vessels, traveled 860 miles to the coast of Sri Lanka from West Bengal. When he arrived, he founded the Kingdom of Tambapanni. Vijaya became the first monarch of Sri Lanka, although since his time there have been a total of 189 monarchs to rule Sri Lanka.

The dynasty history continued from 543 BC to 1815 AD, when the British Empire claimed it at its own and incorporated it into its expansive empire. However, during the early years of the Sri Lanka dynasty, the kingdom moved its capital inland, in order to protect the capital from potential assaults. The kingdom moved from Mannar to Anuradhapura and remained there for 1,400 years. Around 250 BC though, Buddhism reached Sri Lanka from the India mainland. This helped develop not only religion in the country but it also increased arts throughout the island as artists and sculptors utilized the large rock placements throughout the island to carve statues to Buddha and other religious individuals.

While the Sri Lanka island remained in tack the the majority of its early existence, it did experience a foreign invasion around the time of 205 BC. The invasion came from a Chloa king who eventually ruled the country for 44 years. Eventually though, the son of a southern regional king eventually rose up and defeated the Chola invaders and rebuilt the capital. The country did undergo around eight additional attacks from outside dynasties, all of which were located inside of the Indian mainland, although Sri Lanka did turn these away and defend its island nation.

As the nation continued to progress, it became the first in many different elements throughout Asia and even the rest of the world. While not directly new to Europe, it did become the very best Asian nation to have a female ruler. The rule was rather short lived though, as it only lasted from 47 to 42 BC.

At the time of 993 AD, the Anuradhapura Kingdom fell to an invading Chlora emperor. This marked the beginning of the medieval time in Sri Lanka. The invasion, which came with a second invasion in 1017, ended two dynasties inside of the island, although Chola was eventually forced out in 1070, returning the country to a unified nation again. The continual and easy to overthrow invaders pointed to two important attributes of the island nation. The first was the citizen's desire to remain independent from the Indian emperors who were invading. The second also showed the difficulty of receiving reinforcements from the mainland after an uprising starts, as it can take an extended period of time for the mainland to receive word of an attack and send troops by sea. This could be the difference in sustaining the new empire inside of the island nation or losing it to the people of the island.

After Sri Lanka merged again into an individual nation again, it saw a substantial increase in its power. Starting around 1153 AD, the new leader increased the financial reserves, built new infrastructure services throughout the nation which included dams and canals and also built the Parakrama Samudra, which at the time served as one of the largest irrigation structures in the entire world. However, once the rule died in 1186, Sri Lanka eventually started to lose its power and the nation once again fell to an invading ruler in 1215 AD. The invasion, however, went on to destroy much of what had been built up, reducing the power of the nation and rendering all of the previous upgrades useless. Sri Lanka remained in a downward spiral until around the 16th century, when Lourenco de Almedia, a Portuguese explorer and soldier arrived. just over a decade later, in 1517, Portugal built a fort in Colombo and eventually started to expand their control over the region. Eventually, in 1619, the Sri Lanka kingdom came to an end and the Portuguese rose to power.

Around 20 years later, in 1638, the new king of the island signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Company in order to defeat the Portuguese who remained on the island, which became part of the Dutch and Portuguese War, which eventually led to the victory of the Dutch and the removal of the Portuguese from Sri Lanka. Colonization continued throughout the next several centuries, and upon the breakout of the Napoleonic Wars, England eventually took over a costal area inside of the island around 1796. About twenty years later, England took complete control of the island and started to modernize the country as well.

After England turned Sri Lanka into a colony, it started to greatly reform the nation and added liberal political statures to the country and implemented new laws to the region. It also started a new legislature and financial department, which started to look at ways to improve the financial standing of the island. With these experiments, the country started to expand its coffee and tea planting capabilities. However, with more and more British residents moving to Sri Lanka, it started a new cast system, which led to former British residents receiving improved treatment over local residents of the island. Over the next four decades, the long-time residents of the island nation started to demand more and more representation though, and by 1937, the minority group required a 50-50 representation in the government council. By the time of World War II, the British had to devote most of its attention on the expanding war, so it did not meet the deadline of the 50-50 representation.

At the conclusion of the Second World War, the local residents demanded the increased representation on February 4, 1948. While the transfer of power took a considerable amount of time to complete, as the British Navy did not leave its station on Sri Lanka until 1956. With the transfer of power though it did not leave the nation running smoothly. Many did not like the new ruler and looked for ways to impart their own desire on the government. The first leader implemented many new rules that were not popular for the local residents, and it eventually lead to the leader's assassination in 1959. The widow of the prime minister took over in 1960, and survived an attempted coup two years later. She eventually won her second term and created an alliance with the Soviet Union, although the nation eventually turned to a republic form of government in 1972, which is the point of time where the nation changed its nation from Ceylon to Sri Lanka.

In the most recent history of Sri Lanka, the island suffered substantial death totals in 2004 after a tsunami killed over 35,000 individuals. During this same time, it marked the continual fighting between the current government and a group known as LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam). This conflict, over 20 years, resulted in almost 100,000 people dying. Since 2006 though, a ceasefire was called and it has since become one of the fastest growing economies found anywhere in the world.


While the nation is newer, when compared to Europe and even North America, it is actually the oldest democracy in all of South Asia. The Donoughmore Commission was created in 1931 and it was the first non-white country to provide a single vote per single individual, regardless of their stature, wealth and other financial and regional elements of the individual. The government is considered a democratic republic and also a unitary state, which means the island is governed by a semi-presidential system which utilizes both presidential and parliament systems. The parliament system is used go govern the region, although the president has more power than a traditional prime minster might have in a typical European nation. There are three different branches of government inside of the country. The first is the executive, or president, which is the head of state and global representative of the nation. He is also the commander of the armed forces and is elected every six-years. However, the president is responsible to the parliament. The second branch is legislative, or the parliament of the nation. There are 225 members in the legislature branch. Lastly, there is a judicial branch, which acts as the nation's supreme court.

The country itself is broken up into nine different administrative sections. The northern tip of the island is the Northern Province. Just south of this is the North Central Province, with the North Western Province making up the remainder of the northern region of the island. the Eastern Province takes up all of the east coast with the Southern Province sitting at the southern basin of the island. Western Province is sandwiched between North Western and Souther with the Central Province and Sabaragamuwa Province taking up the central location right under North Central. Lastly, the Uva Province is located next to Eastern and over the Southern Province. In terms of population, the Western province is the largest in terms of population, with nearly 6 million residents. It features Colombo as its capital, which is the largest city in the country at just under 800,000 residents.

External Relations

Sri Lanka is part of the United Nations as it entered the group in 1955. It is a member of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Colombo Plan and Asian Development Bank. It is also a founding member of the NAM, or Non-Aligned Movement, which allows it to remain independent while still working closely with India. The country has a yearly capital of about $65 billion US. It makes a majority of its income off of tea, as it is the second largest tea exporter in the world.

20 million individuals call Sri Lanka home, and it is continuing to grow, as there are 17.6 births per 1,000 people while the death rate is only 6.2. This means almost three individuals are being born for every one person who dies. 70 percent of the residents are Buddhist, with 12 percent Hindu, another 10 percent Muslim and about 7.4 percent of the population considered Christian. Religion is a very important element to daily life inside of the nation, with 99 percent of all residents considering religion an essential part of their lives.


While one of the newest nations on the globe, it is also one of the most educated. 92.5 percent of all individuals inside of the island nation are literate with a youth literacy rate standing at 98 percent. Primary school enrollment sits at 99 percent and computer literacy rates are 35 percent. There is a mandated, nine year compulsory school system which is free to all residents. The educational system has been in place since 1945. However, education after the mandated nine years does lag, as only about 5.1 percent of residents move on towards higher education after graduation.


Cricket is the most watched sport inside of Sri Lanka, although volleyball is the national sport. Other popular sports throughout the country include rugby, soccer and tennis. The Sri Lanka national cricket team actually won the 1996 Cricket World Cup. Colleges throughout the country offer sporting events and these become some of the most watched sporting events in the entire country. This allows the country to enjoy a wide number of sports, despite having the small amount of land. The nation is also developing an extended water sports offering to its residents and the rest of the world visitors.

Islands | Travel | Sri Lanka

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