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Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Sinhalese: , Tamil: ??????; known as Ceylon before 1972) is an island nation in South Asia, located about 31 kilometres (19.3 mi) off the southern coast of India. Popularly referred to as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean,[2] it is home to around twenty million people.

Because of its location in the path of major sea routes, Sri Lanka is a strategic naval link between West Asia and South East Asia, and has been a center of Buddhist religion and culture from ancient times. Today, the country is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation, with nearly a third of the population following faiths other than Buddhism, notably Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. The Sinhalese community forms the majority of the population, with Tamils, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island, forming the largest ethnic minority. Other communities include the Muslim Moors and Malays and the Burghers.

Famous for the production and export of tea, coffee, rubber and coconuts, Sri Lanka boasts a progressive and modern industrial economy and the highest per capita income in South Asia. The natural beauty of Sri Lanka's tropical forests, beaches and landscape, as well as its rich cultural heritage, make it a world famous tourist destination.

After over two thousand years of rule by local kingdoms, parts of Sri Lanka were colonized by Portugal and the Netherlands beginning in the 16th century, before the control of the entire country was ceded to the British Empire in 1815. During World War II, Sri Lanka served as an important base for Allied forces in the fight against the Japanese Empire.[3] A nationalist political movement arose in the country in the early 20th century with the aim of obtaining political independence, which was eventually granted by the British after peaceful negotiations in 1948.

Contents [hide]
1 Name
2 History
3 Geography and climate
4 Flora and fauna
5 Government and politics
6 Provinces and districts
7 Economy
8 Transport
9 Military
10 Human rights
11 Demographics
12 Culture and arts
12.1 Traditional food
12.2 Festivals
12.3 Cinema
12.4 Music
13 Religions
14 Media
15 Education
16 Sports
17 See also
18 References
19 Further reading
20 External links


Name
Main article: Names of Sri Lanka
In ancient times, Sri Lanka was known by a variety of names: ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobane[4] and Arabs referred to it as Serendib (the origin of the word "serendipity").[5] Ceilão was the name given to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese when they arrived on the island in 1505,[6] which was transliterated into English as Ceylon.[7] In 1972, the official name of the country was changed to "Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka" (in Sinhala sri la?ka, IPA: [???i?'la?ka?]; whereas the island itself is referred to as ????? la?kava, IPA: [la?'ka???], in Tamil ?????? ila?kai, i'la?gai). In 1978 it was changed to "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka".[8]

The current name is derived from Sanskrit word la?ka, meaning "resplendent land",[9] which was also the name of the island as described in the ancient Indian epics Mahabharata and the Ramayana.


History
Main article: History of Sri Lanka

Landing of King Vijaya depicted in an Ajanta fresco.History of Sri Lanka
series
Prehistory of Sri Lanka
Early Sri Lankan History
Kings of Sri Lanka
European occupation of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka independence struggle
Independence of Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan civil war
Paleolithic human settlements have been discovered at excavations in several cave sites in the Western Plains region and the South-western face of the Central Hills region. Anthropologists believe that some discovered burial rites and certain decorative artifacts exhibit similarities between the first inhabitants of the island and the early inhabitants of Southern India. Recent bioanthropological studies have however dismissed these links, and have placed the origin of the people to the northern parts of India. One of the first written references to the island is found in the Indian epic Ramayana, which described the emperor Ravana as monarch of the powerful kingdom of Lanka, which was created by the divine sculptor Vishwakarma for Kubera, the treasurer of the Gods.[10] English historian James Emerson Tennent also theorized Galle, a southern city in Sri Lanka, was the ancient seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon is said to have drawn ivory, peacocks and other valuables. The main written accounts of the country's history are the Buddhist chronicles of Mahavansa and Dipavamsa.

The earliest-known inhabitants of the island now known as Sri Lanka were probably the ancestors of the Wanniyala-Aetto people, also known as Veddahs and numbering roughly 3,000. Linguistic analysis has found a correlation of the Sinhalese language with the languages of the Sindh and Gujarat, although most historians believe that the Sinhala community emerged well after the assimilation of various ethnic groups. From the ancient period date some remarkable archaeological sites including the ruins of Sigiriya, the so-called "Fortress in the Sky", and huge public works. Among the latter are large "tanks" or reservoirs, important for conserving water in a climate that alternates rainy seasons with dry times, and elaborate aqueducts, some with a slope as finely calibrated as one inch to the mile. Ancient Sri Lanka was also the first in the world to have established a dedicated hospital in Mihintale in the 4th century BCE. Ancient Sri Lanka was also the world's leading exporter of cinnamon, which was exported to Egypt as early as 1400 BCE. Sri Lanka was also the first Asian nation to have a female ruler in Queen Anula (47–42 BC)


Sri Lankan coin, 1st century CE.Since ancient times Sri Lanka was ruled by monarchs, most notably of the Sinha royal dynasty that lasted over 2000 years. The island was also infrequently invaded by South Indian kingdoms and parts of the island were ruled intermittently by the Chola dynasty, the Pandya dynasty, the Chera dynasty and the Pallava dynasty. The island was also invaded by the kingdoms of Kalinga (modern Orissa) and those from the Malay Peninsula. Buddhism arrived from India in the 3rd century BCE, brought by Bhikkhu Mahinda, who is believed to have been the son of Mauryan emperor Ashoka. Mahinda's mission won over the Sinhalese monarch Devanampiyatissa of Mihintale, who embraced the faith and propagated it throughout the Sinhalese population. The Buddhist kingdoms of Sri Lanka would maintain a large number of Buddhist schools and monasteries, and support the propagation of Buddhism into Southeast Asia.

Sri Lanka had always been an important port and trading post in the ancient world, and was increasingly frequented by merchant ships from the Middle East, Persia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia. The islands were known to the first European explorers of South Asia and settled by many groups of Arab and Malay merchants. A Portuguese colonial mission arrived on the island in 1505 headed by the Lourenço de Almeida the son of Francisco de Almeida. At that point the island consisted of three kingdoms, namely Kandy in the central hills, Kotte at the Western coast, and Yarlpanam (Anglicised Jaffna) in the north. The Dutch arrived in the 17th century. Although much of the island came under the domain of European powers, the interior, hilly region of the island remained independent, with its capital in Kandy. The British East India Company established control of the island in 1796, declaring it a crown colony in 1802, although the island would not be officially connected with British India. The fall of the kingdom of Kandy in 1815 unified the island under British rule.


Sigiriya Rock Fortress.European colonists established a series of tea, cinnamon, rubber, sugar, coffee and indigo plantations. The British also brought a large number of indentured workers from Tamil Nadu to work in the plantation economy. The city of Colombo was established as the administrative centre, and the British established modern schools, colleges, roads and churches that brought Western-style education and culture to the native people. Increasing grievances over the denial of civil rights, mistreatment and abuse of natives by colonial authorities gave rise to a struggle for independence in the 1930s, when the Youth Leagues opposed the "Ministers' Memorandum," which asked the colonial authority to increase the powers of the board of ministers without granting popular representation or civil freedoms. Buddhist scholars and the Teetotalist Movement also played a vital role in this time. During World War II, the island served as an important Allied military base. A large segment of the British and American fleet were deployed on the island, as were tens of thousands of soldiers committed to the war against Japan in Southeast Asia.

Following the war, popular pressure for independence intensified. On February 4, 1948 the country won its independence as the Commonwealth of Ceylon. Don Stephen Senanayake became the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. On July 21, 1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike took office as prime minister, and became the first female head of government in post-colonial Asia and the first female prime minister in the world. In 1972, the country became a republic within the Commonwealth, and the name was changed to Sri Lanka. The island enjoyed good relations with the United Kingdom and had the British Royal Navy stationed at Trincomalee.

Since 1983, there has been on-and-off civil war, predominantly between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), a separatist militant organization who fight to create an independent state named Tamil Eelam in the North and East of the island.


Geography and climate
Main article: Geography of Sri Lanka

Main cities in Sri Lanka.The island of Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean, to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. It is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait.[11] According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge to the Indian mainland, known as Rama's Bridge, was constructed during the time of Rama by the vanara architect Nala. Often referred to as Adam's Bridge, it now amounts to only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level.[11] According to colonial British reports, this is a natural causeway which was formerly complete, but was breached by a violent storm in 1480.[12] The width of the Palk Strait is small enough for the coast of Sri Lanka to be visible from the furthest point near the Indian town of Rameswaram.[citation needed] The tear drop shaped island consists mostly of flat-to-rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part. Amongst these are Sri Pada (Adams Peak) and the highest point Pidurutalagala, at 2,524 meters (8,281 ft). The Mahaweli ganga (Mahaweli river) and other major rivers provide fresh water to the population.[13]


Topographical map of Sri Lanka.Sri Lanka's climate can be described as tropical, and quite hot. Its position between 5 and 10 north latitude endows the country with a warm climate, moderated by ocean winds and considerable moisture.[14] The mean temperature ranges from a low of 16 °C (61 °F) in Nuwara Eliya in the Central Highlands (where frost may occur for several days in the winter) to a high of 32 °C (90 °F) in Trincomalee on the northeast coast (where temperatures may reach 38 °C (100 °F)). The average yearly temperature for the country as a whole ranges from 28° to 30 °C (82–86 °F). Day and night temperatures may vary by 4 to 7 °C (7–13 °F). In January, the coolest month, many people wear coats and sweaters in the highlands and elsewhere. May, the hottest period, precedes the summer monsoon rains. The rainfall pattern is influenced by the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, which encounter the slopes of the Central Highlands, they unload heavy rains on the mountain slopes and the southwestern sector of the island. Some of the windward slopes receive up to 2,500 millimetres (98 in) of rain per month, but the leeward slopes in the east and northeast receive little rain. Periodic squalls occur and sometimes tropical cyclones bring overcast skies and rains to the southwest, northeast, and eastern parts of the island. Between December to March, monsoon winds come from the northeast, bringing moisture from the Bay of Bengal. Humidity is typically higher in the southwest and mountainous areas and depends on the seasonal patterns of rainfall. At Colombo, for example, daytime humidity stays above 70% all year, rising to almost 90 percent during the monsoon season in June. Anuradhapura experiences a daytime low of 60% during the monsoon month of March, but a high of 79% during the November and December rains. In the highlands, Kandy's daytime humidity usually ranges between 70 and 79%.


Flora and fauna

Mountain forests in Sri Lanka.Main article: Ecology of Sri Lanka
The mountains and the southwestern part of the country, known as the "wet zone," receive ample rainfall (an annual average of 2500 millimetres). Most of the southeast, east, and northern parts of the country comprise the "dry zone," which receives between 1200 and 1900 mm (47–75 in) of rain annually. Much of the rain in these areas falls from October to January; during the rest of the year there is very little precipitation, and all living creatures must conserve precious moisture. The arid northwest and southeast coasts receive the least amount of rain — 600 to 1200 mm (24–47 in) per year — However, though many say that there are no really dry areas in Sri Lanka, there are many pockets of very dry and abandoned areas where there is little to no rainwater. Varieties of flowering acacias are well adapted to the arid conditions and flourish on the Jaffna Peninsula. Among the trees of the dry-land forests are some valuable species, such as satinwood, ebony, ironwood, and mahogany and teak. In the wet zone, the dominant vegetation of the lowlands is a tropical evergreen forest, with tall trees, broad foliage, and a dense undergrowth of vines and creepers.

Subtropical evergreen forests resembling those of temperate climates flourish in the higher altitudes. Forests at one time covered nearly the entire island, but by the late 20th century lands classified as forests and forest reserves covered around one-third of the land.[15] As the area covered by forests declined, thereby threatening various species of wildlife, Sri Lanka became the first country in the world to establish a wildlife sanctuary.[16] Among them, the Ruhunu National Park in the southeast protects herds of elephant, deer, and peacocks, and the Wilpattu National Park in the northwest preserves the habitats of many water birds, such as storks, pelicans, ibis, and spoonbills. During the Mahaweli Ganga Program of the 1970s and 1980s in northern Sri Lanka, the government set aside four areas of land totaling 1,900 km² (730 sq mi) as national parks. The island has three biosphere reserves, Hurulu, Sinharaja, and the Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya.

The national flower of Sri Lanka is Nil Manel (Nymphaea stelleta),[17] the national tree is Na (Mesua nagassarium)[18] and the national bird is the Sri Lanka Junglefowl, which is endemic to the country.[19]


Government and politics

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, Colombo.Main article: Politics of Sri Lanka
The Constitution of Sri Lanka establishes a democratic, socialist republic in Sri Lanka, which is also a unitary state. The government is a mixture of the presidential system and the parliamentary system. The President of Sri Lanka is the head of state, the commander in chief of the armed forces, as well as head of government, and is popularly elected for a six-year term. In the exercise of duties, the President is responsible to the Parliament of Sri Lanka, which is a unicameral 225-member legislature. The President appoints and heads a cabinet of ministers composed of elected members of parliament. The President's deputy is the Prime Minister, who leads the ruling party in parliament and shares many executive responsibilities, mainly in domestic affairs.

Members of parliament are elected by universal (adult) suffrage based on a modified proportional representation system by district to a six-year term. The primary modification is that, the party that receives the largest number of valid votes in each constituency gains a unique "bonus seat." The president may summon, suspend, or end a legislative session and dissolve Parliament any time after it has served for one year. The parliament reserves the power to make all laws. On July 1, 1960 the people of Sri Lanka elected the first-ever female head of government in Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga served multiple terms as prime minister and as president from 1999 to 2005. The current president and prime minister, both of whom took office on November 21, 2005, are Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ratnasiri Wickremanayake respectively.

Sri Lanka has enjoyed the longest period of continuous multi-party democracy with universal suffrage in a non-western country (since 1931). Politics in Sri Lanka are controlled by rival coalitions led by the left-wing Sri Lanka Freedom Party, headed by President Rajapaksa, the comparatively right-wing United National Party led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Marxist-Nationalist JVP. There are also many smaller Buddhist, socialist and Tamil nationalist political parties that oppose the separatism of the LTTE but demand regional autonomy and increased civil rights. Since 1948, Sri Lanka has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. It is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Colombo Plan, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Through the Cold War-era, Sri Lanka followed a foreign policy of non-alignment but has remained closer to the United States and Western Europe. The military of Sri Lanka comprises the Sri Lankan Army, the Sri Lankan Navy and the Sri Lankan Air Force. These are administered by the Ministry of Defence. Since the 1980s, the army has led the government response against the Marxist militants of the JVP and now the LTTE militant forces. Sri Lanka receives considerable military assistance from Pakistan and China [20].

Sri Lanka is considered one of the "world's most politically unstable countries" by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank [2]. The Economist labels Sri Lanka a "flawed democracy" in its 2006 rankings [3] and Foreign Policy ranks Sri Lanka 25th (Alert Category) in its Failed States Index [4] for 2007. However, Sri Lanka, according to the US State Department in 2005, was classified a "stable democracy" amidst a ceasefire period of the the long running civil war [5].

See also: Foreign relations of Sri Lanka and Military of Sri Lanka

Provinces and districts

Provinces of Sri LankaMain articles: Provinces of Sri Lanka, Districts of Sri Lanka, and Divisional Secretariats of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is divided into 9 provinces[21] and 25 districts.[22] Each province is administered by a directly-elected provincial council:

Province Capital Districts
1 Central Kandy Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya
2 North Central Anuradhapura Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa
3 Northern Jaffna Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullativu, Alambil
4 Eastern Trincomalee Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee
5 North Western Kurunegala Kurunagala, Puttalam
6 Southern Galle Galle, Hambanthota, Mathara
7 Uva Badulla Badulla, Monaragala
8 Sabaragamuwa Ratnapura Kegalle, Rathnapura
9 Western Colombo Colombo, Gampaha, Kaluthara

The districts are further subdivided into divisional secretariats, and these in turn to Grama Sevaka divisions.


Economy

The World Trade Centre in Colombo.
Sri Lanka's well-known export, Ceylon tea (black)Main article: Economy of Sri Lanka
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Sri Lanka became a plantation economy, famous for its production and export of cinnamon, rubber and Ceylon tea, which remains a trademark national export. The development of modern ports under British rule raised the strategic importance of the island as a centre of trade. During World War II, the island hosted important military installations and Allied forces. However, the plantation economy aggravated poverty and economic inequality. From 1948 to 1977 socialism strongly influenced the government's economic policies. Colonial plantations were dismantled, industries were nationalised and a welfare state established. While the standard of living and literacy improved significantly, the nation's economy suffered from inefficiency, slow growth and lack of foreign investment.

From 1977 the UNP government began incorporating privatisation, deregulation and promotion of private enterprise. While the production and export of tea, rubber, coffee, sugar and other agricultural commodities remains important, the nation has moved steadily towards an industrialised economy with the development of food processing, textiles, telecommunications and finance. By 1996 plantation crops made up only 20% of export, and further declined to 16.8% in 2005 (compared with 93% in 1970), while textiles and garments have reached 63%. The GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.5% during the early 1990s, until a drought and a deteriorating security situation lowered growth to 3.8% in 1996. The economy rebounded in 1997-2000, with average growth of 5.3%. The year of 2001 saw the first recession in the country's history, as a result of power shortages, budgetary problems, the global slowdown, and continuing civil strife. Signs of recovery appeared after the 2002 ceasefire. The Colombo Stock Exchange reported the highest growth in the world for 2003, and today Sri Lanka has the highest per capita income in South Asia.


Arugam Point at the Arugam Bay beach a tourist attractive place.In April 2004, there was a sharp reversal in economic policy after the government headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe of the United National Party was defeated by a coalition made up of Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the leftist-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna called the United People's Freedom Alliance. The new government stopped the privatization of state enterprises and reforms of state utilities such as power and petroleum, and embarked on a subsidy program called the Rata Perata economic program. Its main theme to support the rural and suburban SMEs and protect the domestic economy from external influences, such as oil prices, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

See also: Tea industry of Sri Lanka and Tourism in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, with an income per head of $1,350, still lags behind some of its neighbors including Maldives and Mauritius but is ahead of its giant neighbor India. Its economy grew by an average of 5% during the 1990s during the 'War for Peace' era. According to the Sri Lankan central bank statistics, the economy was estimated to have grown by 7% last year, although inflation had reached 20%. It should be noted that Sri Lanka's central bank statistics have been called into question over allegations of political interference and institutional decay [6]. Parts of Sri Lanka, particularly the South and East coast, were devastated by the 2004 Asian Tsunami. The economy was briefly buoyed by an influx of foreign aid and tourists, but this was disrupted with the reemergence of the civil war resulting in increased lawlessness in the country [7] and a sharp decline in tourism [8][9].


Transport
Main article: Transport in Sri Lanka

Colombo-Galle Face GreenMost Sri Lankan cities and towns are connected by the Sri Lanka Railways, the state-run national railway operator. The first railway line was inaugurated on April 26, 1867, linking Colombo with Kandy. The total length of Sri Lankan roads exceeds 11,000 kilometres (6,840 mi), with a vast majority of them being paved. The government has launched several highway projects to bolster the economy and national transport system, including the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway, the Colombo-Kandy (Kadugannawa) Expressway, the Colombo-Padeniya Expressway and the Outer Circular Highway to ease Colombo's traffic congestion. There are also plans to build a major bridge connecting Jaffna to the Indian city of Chennai.

The Ceylon Transport Board is the state-run agency responsible for operating public bus services across the island. Sri Lanka also maintains 430 kilometres (270 mi) of inland waterways. It has three deep-water ports at Colombo, Trincomalee and Galle. There is also a smaller, shallower harbour at Kankesanturai, north of Jaffna. There are twelve paved airports and two unpaved airstrips in the country. SriLankan Airlines is the official national carrier, partly owned and operated by Emirates Airline. It was voted the best airline in South Asia by Skytrax. SriLankan Air Taxi is the smaller, domestic arm of the national carrier, while Expo Aviation and Lankair are private airline companies. The Bandaranaike International Airport is the country's only international airport, located in Katunayaka, 22 kilometres (14 mi) north of Colombo.


Military
Main article: Military of Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan soldiers have taken part in many wars throughout its history, including the Boer War and both World Wars (under the command of the British at the time). In the course of the civil war, the military has been transformed from a ceremonial force to a modern army. Since 2004, Sri Lankan troops have been a part of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti, which is the country's first major overseas mission.

The military of Sri Lanka is organized into three branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force. Since independence, its primary mission has been the targeting of armed groups within the country, most notably engaging in a 25 year long war with the LTTE. The LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by 32 countries (see list).


Human rights
Main article: Human rights in Sri Lanka
Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka has come under criticism by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch,[10] as well as the United States Department of State[23] and the European Union,[24] have expressed concern about the state of human rights in Sri Lanka. Both the government of Sri Lanka and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are accused of violating human rights. In its 2007 report, however, they stated that "escalating political killings, child recruitment, abductions and armed clashes created a climate of fear in the east, spreading to the north by the end of the year", whilst also outlining concerns with violence against women, the death penalty and "numerous reports of torture in police custody". However, the report also stated that the ceasefire between government and LTTE remained in place despite numerous violations.[25]


Demographics

Population growth in Sri Lanka.Main article: Demographics of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is the 53rd most populated nation in the world, with an annual population growth rate of 0.79%. Sri Lanka has a birth rate of 15.63 births per 1,000 people and a death rate of 6.49 deaths per 1,000 people. Population density is the greatest in western Sri Lanka, especially in and around Colombo. There is a small population on the island of the Wanniyala-Aetto people, also known as Veddahs. These are believed to be the oldest and indigenous ethnic group to inhabit the island. The Sinhalese people form the largest ethnic group in the nation, composing approximately 81.9% of the total population. Tamils are concentrated in the North, East, Central and Western provinces of the country. Tamils who were brought as indentured labourers from India by British colonists to work on estate plantations, nearly 50% of whom were repatriated following independence in 1948,[26][page # needed] are called "Indian Origin" Tamils. They are distinguished from the native Tamil population that has resided in Sri Lanka since ancient times. According to 2001 census data Indian Tamils makeup 5.1% of the Sri Lankan population and, Sri Lankan Tamils 4.3%. Though this figure only accounted for Sri Lankan Tamils in government-controlled areas, not accounting for those in rebel-held territories. There is a significant population (8.0%) of Moors, who trace their lineage to Arab traders and immigrants from the Middle East. Their presence is concentrated in the cities and the central and eastern provinces. There are also small ethnic groups such as the Burghers (of mixed European descent) and Malays from Southeast Asia.


The Buddha statue at Mihintale.Sinhalese and Tamil are the two official languages of Sri Lanka. English is spoken by approximately 10% of the population, and is widely used for education, scientific and commercial purposes. Members of the Burgher community speak variant forms of Portuguese Creole and Dutch with varying proficiency, while members of the Malay community speak a form of creole Malay that is unique to the island. Sri Lanka also enjoys significant religious diversity. Approximately 69% of Sri Lankans are adherents of Buddhism.[27][28] Theravada Buddhism is the predominant school, with distinctive sects such as Ramanna Nikaya, Amarapura Nikaya and Siam Nikaya being widely followed. Buddhism in Sri Lanka has been deeply influenced by indigenous faiths and traditions, as well as the influences of prevailing Buddhist schools in South East Asia. The ancient and famous Sri Dalada Maligawa or "Temple of the Tooth" is the principal Buddhist Temple in Sri Lanka, and by tradition houses the Tooth of Buddha. It is visited every year by millions of pilgrims. There are many other famous religious institutions in Sri Lanka that attract many visitors daily. Hinduism is practiced by 7.9% of the population, mainly from the Tamil community. Christianity is practiced by 7% of the population, especially by Burgher people though most Christians are Sinhalese or Tamils. While most Sri Lankan Christians are Catholics, there are also significant numbers who adhere to Dutch Reformed Church and the Anglican Communion. Islam in Sri Lanka is practiced by 8.5% of the population and its adherents are almost entirely Moors and Malays.

See also: Religion in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Buddhism, Hinduism in Sri Lanka, and Islam in Sri Lanka

Culture and arts

Hoppers, a Sri Lankan delicacy.Main article: Culture of Sri Lanka
The island is the home of two main traditional cultures: the Sinhalese (centered in the ancient cities of Kandy and Anuradhapura) and the Tamil (centered in the city of Jaffna). In more recent times a British colonial culture was added, and lately Sri Lanka, particularly in the urban areas, has experienced a dramatic makeover in the western mold. Until recently, for example, most Sri Lankans, certainly those in the villages, have eaten traditional food, engaged in traditional crafts and expressed themselves through traditional arts. But economic growth and intense economic competition in developed countries has spilled over to most of Sri Lanka, producing changes that might variously be identified as progress, westernisation or a loss of identity and assimilation.


Traditional food

kavadi by Hindu Devotess at Vavuniya
Elephants at the Esala Perahera.Sri Lankans have added western influences to the customary diet such as rice and curry, pittu (mixture of fresh rice meal, very lightly roasted and mixed with fresh grated coconut, then steamed in a bamboo mould). Kiribath (cooked in thick coconut cream for this unsweetened rice-pudding which is accompanied by a sharp chili relish called "lunumiris"), wattalapam (rich pudding of Malay origin made of coconut milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs, and various spices including cinnamon cloves and nutmeg), kottu, and hoppers ("appa"), batter cooked rapidly in a hot curved pan, accompanied by eggs, milk or savouries. Sri Lankan food also has Dutch and Portuguese influences, with the island's Burgher community preserving this culture through traditional favourites such as Lamprais (rice cooked in stock and baked in a banana leaf), Breudher (Dutch Christmas cake) and Bolo Fiado (Portuguese-style layer cake).


Festivals
Main article Sri Lankan festivals

Every year on or about April 13th Sinhala and Tamil people celebrate Sinhala and Tamil New Year Festival, and Muslims celebrate Ramasan. Esala Perahera (A-suh-luh peh-ruh-ha-ruh) is the grand festival of Esala held in Sri Lanka. It is very grand with elegant costumes. Happening in July or August in Kandy, it has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka. It is a Buddhist festival consisting of dances and richly-decorated elephants. There are fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances. The elephants are usually adorned with lavish garments. The festival ends with the traditional 'diya-kepeema'. The elephant is paraded around the city bearing the tooth of Buddha. However the new year for tamils have been established as being on January 14th from this year.


Cinema

Kadawunu Poronduwa 1947Sri Lankan cinema in past years has featured subjects such as family relationships, love stories and the years of conflict between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels. Many films are in the Sinhalese language and the Sri Lankan cinematic style is similar to Indian cinema.

The first film to be produced and shown in Sri Lanka was Kadawunu Poronduwa (The Broken Promise) which was released in 1947. The first colour film of Sri Lanka was Ran Muthu Doova.

Afterwards there were many Sinhalese movies produced in Sri Lanka and some of them, such as Nidhanaya, received several international film awards. The most influential filmmaker in the history of Sri Lankan cinema is Lester James Peiris who has directed many movies of excellent quality which led to global acclaim. His latest film, 'Wekanda Walawwa' (Mansion by the Lake) became the first movie to be submitted from Sri Lanka for the Best Foreign Language film award at the Academy Awards. In 2005 the director Vimukthi Jayasundara became the first Sri Lankan to win the prestigious Camera d’Or award for Best First Film, or any award for that matter, at the Cannes Film Festival for his Sinhalese language film Sulanga Enu Pinisa (The Forsaken Land). Controversial filmmaker Asoka Handagama's films are considered by many in the Sri Lankan film world to be the best films of honest response to the ethnic conflict currently raging in the country. Prasanna Vithanage is one of Sri Lanka's most notable filmmakers. His films have won many awards, both local and international. Recent releases like 'Sooriya Arana', 'Samanala thatu', and 'Hiripoda wessa' have attracted Sri Lankans to cinemas. Sri Lankan films are usually in the Sinhalese language. Tamil language movies are also filmed in Sri Lanka but they are not part of Kollywood which is Indian Tamil cinema. However some Kollywood films are based in Sri Lanka as well.


Music
The earliest music came from the theater at a time when the traditional open-air drama (referred to in Sinhala as Kolam, Sokari and Nadagam). In 1903 the first music album, Nurthi, was released through Radio Ceylon. Also Vernon Corea introduced Sri Lankan music in the English Service of Radio Ceylon.

In the early 1960s, Indian music in films greatly influenced Sri Lankan music and later Sri Lankan stars like Sunil Shantha found greater popularity among Indian people. By 1963, Radio Ceylon had more Indian listeners than Sri Lankan ones. The notable songwriters Mahagama Sekara and Ananda Samarakoon made a Sri Lankan music revolution. At the peak of this revolution, musicians such as W. D. Amaradeva, H.R. Jothipala, Milton Mallawarachchi, M.S. Fernando, Annesley Malewana and Clarence Wijewardene did great work.

See also: Ceylon tea (black), Cuisine of Sri Lanka, Dances of Sri Lanka, Fashion Industry of Sri Lanka, Cinema of Sri Lanka, and Music of Sri Lanka

Religions

Buddhism is followed by over 70% of the population
The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, Jaffna is an important place for Hindus in Sri LankaMain article: Religion in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a multi ethnic and multi religious population. Buddhism constitutes the religious faith of about 70% of the population of the island,[29] most of whom follow the Theravada school of Buddhism.[30] According to traditional Sri Lankan chronicles, Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 2nd century BCE by Venerable Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Ashoka, during the reign of Sri Lanka's King Devanampiyatissa.[30] During this time, a sapling of the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment was brought to Sri Lanka and the first monasteries were established under the sponsorship of the Sri Lankan king. The Pali Canon (Thripitakaya), having previously been preserved as an oral tradition, was first committed to writing in Sri Lanka around 30 BC.[31]

Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation,[30] with the Sangha having existed in a largely unbroken lineage since its introduction in the 2nd century BCE. During periods of decline, the Sri Lankan monastic lineage was revived through contact with Thailand and Burma.[31] Periods of Mahayana influence, as well as official neglect under colonial rule, created great challenges for Theravada Buddhist institutions in Sri Lanka, but repeated revivals and resurgences — most recently in the 19th century — have kept the Theravada tradition alive for over 2000 years.


The Jami Ul Alfar mosque in Colombo. Islam was brought to Sri Lanka by Arab MerchantsFollowers of Islam comprise approximately eight percent of the population,[29] having been brought to the island by Arab traders over the course of many centuries.[32] Hinduism was primarily established in Sri Lanka by migrants and often invaders from southern India,[33] and Hindus now constitute seven percent of the population, mostly of the Shaivite school.[29] European colonists introduced Christianity to the country in the 16th century,[34] and the religion has been adopted by around six percent of the population.[29] There also was a small population of Zoroastrian immigrants from India (Parsis) who settled in Ceylon during the period of British rule. As a result of emigration, few remain, yet they have played a significant role in the growth of the country. The former finance minister of Sri Lanka, Nariman Choksy, was a Parsi. Other famous Parsi families in Sri Lanka include the Captain family and the Pestongee family.

Religion plays an important part in the life and culture of Sri Lankans. The Buddhist majority observe Poya Days, once per month according to the Lunar calendar. The Hindus and Muslims also observe their own holidays. There are many Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and many mosques, Hindu temples and churches across the island, especially in areas where respective communities are concentrated. Buddhists are distributed across most parts of the island except in the north. Hindus are concentrated in north, east, and central high lands. Christians, particularly Roman Catholics are mainly concentrated along the western coastal belt. Muslims are concentrated in several pockets along the coast and in interior. All religious communities are represented in western province and in other urban centers in sizable numbers.


Media
Main article: Media in Sri Lanka
See also: List of newspapers in Sri Lanka and List of television networks in Sri Lanka
The national radio station, Radio Ceylon is the oldest-running radio station in Asia.[35][36] It was established in 1923 by Edward Harper just three years after broadcasting was launched in Europe.[37] It remains one of the most popular stations in Asia, with its programming reaching neighboring Asian nations. The station is managed by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and broadcasts services in Sinhalese, Tamil, English and Hindi. Since the 1980s, a large number of private radio stations have also being introduced, and they have gained commercial popularity and success. Broadcast television was introduced to the country in 1979 when the Independent Television Network was launched. Initially all Television stations were state controlled, but private television networks began broadcasts in 1992.[38] Global television networks from India, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States are also widely popular, and cable and satellite television is gaining in popularity with Sri Lanka's middle-class. Popular publications include the English language Daily Mirror and The Sunday Observer and The Sunday Times, Divayina, Lankadeepa and Lakbima in Sinhalese and the Tamil publications Dinakaran and Uthayan.


Education

University of Colombo Sri Lanka.
University of Kelaniya Sri Lanka.Main article: Education in Sri Lanka
With a literacy rate of 92%, and 83% of the total population having had Secondary Education,[39] Sri Lanka has one of the most literate populations amongst developing nations.[40] An education system which dictates 9 years of Compulsory Schooling for every child is in place, with 99% of the children entering the first grade.[39] A free education system initiated in 1945[41] by Dr. C. W. W. Kannangara, a former minister of education, has greatly contributed to this. Mr. Kannangara led the establishment of the Madhya Maha Vidyalayas (Great Central Schools) in different parts of the country in order to provide education to Sri Lanka's rural population. In 1942 a special education committee proposed extensive reforms to establish an efficient and quality education system for the people. In recent decades, a large number of private and international schools have been established across the nation. The International Baccalaureate and General Certificate of Secondary Education are popular education programmes.

Most secondary schools in Sri Lanka provide education from grades 1 to 13 in the same institution. Students sit for the GCE Ordinary Level Examination (O/Levels) in grade 11 and the GCE Advanced Level Examination (A/levels) in grade 13. These schools are modelled on British colleges and universities. A majority of them are public, but a number of private schools do exist. While most reputed schools centered around large cities are usually single-sex institutions, rural schools tend to be coeducational.

See also: List of schools in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Institute of Information TechnologySri Lanka has a around 16 public universities. They include the University of Colombo, the University of Kelaniya, the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, the University of Moratuwa, the University of Peradeniya, the University of Jaffna, the University of Ruhuna, the Eastern University of Sri Lanka, the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka and the Uva Wellassa University of Sri Lanka. However the lack of space in these institutions and the unwillingness to establish private universities has led to a large number of students been denied entry into formal universities. As a result, a number of public and private institutions have emerged, which provide specialised education in a variety of fields, such as computer science, business administration and arts. These include the government owned Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology and the Institute of Technological Studies.

See also: Universities in Sri Lanka

Sports

A Test match between Sri Lanka and England at the SCC Ground, Colombo, March 2001.While the national sport in Sri Lanka is volleyball,[42] by far the most popular sport in the country is cricket.[42] Rugby also enjoys extensive popularity, as do aquatic sports, athletics, Football (soccer) and tennis. Sri Lanka's schools and colleges regularly organize sports and athletics teams, competing on provincial and national levels. The Sri Lankan cricket team achieved considerable success beginning in the 1990s, rising from underdog status to winning the 1996 World Cup,[43] as well as the Asia Cup in 1996 and 2004. Sri Lanka remains one of the leading cricketing nations in the world, with the national team reaching the finals of Cricket World Cup 2007, where they lost to Australia.[44]

Sri Lanka has a large number of sports stadiums, including the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, the R. Premadasa Stadium and the Rangiri Dumbulla Stadium in Dambulla as well as the Galle International Stadium. The country co-hosted the 1996 Cricket World Cup with India and Pakistan, and has hosted the Asia Cup tournament on numerous occasions. It will also co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Aquatic sports such as boating, surfing, swimming and scuba diving on the coast, the beaches and backwaters attract a large number of Sri Lankans and foreign tourists.