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General Information about Sri Lanka

Brief History

The history of Sri Lanka stretches back over 2500 years, its very beginnings are lost in myth and legend, and the arrival of Prince Vijaya an exile from North India with his entourage of seven hundred followers. However, the earliest recorded civilization dates back to 380 BC, when Anuradhapura (206 km from Colombo ) was established as the first capital city. Following the advent of Buddhism in the3rd Century BC, a civilization rich in Indo Aryan culture took root. It produced the great cities with their dagobas which compare, and even exceed in size, the pyramids of Egypt , palaces and pleasure gardens, a rich art and architecture and the gigantic irrigation works, many of which are still in use today.

With invasion from neighbouring South India, the base of power shifted to Polonnaruwa (101 km South East of Anuradhapura) and other cities such as Dambadeniya , Kurunegala, Kotte and Kandy . In the 16 th Century the island had its first recorded encounter with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505. What followed was a period of nearly five hundred years during which the island came under the control and influence of the Portuguese, Dutch and British.

While the Portuguese and Dutch ruled over the maritime regions for about 150 years each, the British established complete control over the island with the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. They too ruled for nearly 150 years before the country regained independence in 1948.

The impact of many cultures over the centuries, from South Indian to the Moorish and that of the western colonisers, have resulted in the country's culture being enriched by a rich diversity, much of which is in evidence today.

The island's economy, has traditionally been based on agriculture, with rice as the main food crop. Spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and pepper have been age old exports, as were gems and even peacocks and elephants. With western commercial influence, rice gave way to cash crops until the British made tea the base of the economy.

The new thrust in the economy is on export – led industry. Agriculture is now being revived. Non – traditional exports such as garment , seafood, foliage, cut flowers and tropical fish and value added agro-industries have in recent years contributed to the economic advance of Sri Lanka .

The people of Sri Lanka are of diverse races and faiths. The majority are Sinhalese who are mainly Buddhists, while among minorities the Tamils, mainly Hindus are the largest, followed by the Moors who follow Islam, and a sharply declining number of Burghers, descended from the Portuguese and Dutch, who are Christians. There is also a considerable population of Christians among the Sinhalese and Tamils.

The country was the first in South Asia to move away from a State-centred economic structure and embrace a private-sector led market oriented economy. The opportunities are many for foreign investment, with almost all exchange controls relaxed and many incentives given for foreign investment. Free Trade Zones, repatriation of profit, widespread education, a sophisticated middle class and a newly emerging capital market, have made Sri Lanka most attractive to foreign investors in the past decade.

Although well on the road to modernization, the country and its people still cherish most of their traditional values and take pride in their rich culture. An aspect which continues to attract visitors from abroad, as much as the beauty and diversity of scenery is the warmth and friendship of the people.



An island of approx. 65,610 Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of the coast of India . It lies between 5° 55' and 9° 55' north of the equator and between the eastern longitudes 79° 42' and 81° 52'.

The coastline gives way to lowland plains, growing rice and coconut. In the mid country rubber vies with gems, while green carpets of tea clothe the central mountain ranges reaching heights of some 2,432.



Warm and fine year round. Average temperatures around 27 C in Colombo going down as the land rises to the hill country to as low as 10 C. The island has two wet seasons between May and July in the south-west and December / January in the north east.

Climatically Sri Lanka has no off season. Bright sunny warm days are the rule and are common even during the wet season. Sea temperatures as a rule remain around 27° C.


Nearly 19 million, 74% Sinhalese, 18% Tamils, 8% Moors, Malays, Burghers. Literacy rate average 80%- one of the highest in Asia


Communication is rarely a problem because English is widely spoken in all parts of the country. Place names and sign boards are in the national languages and often in English. Official languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English. National languages – Sinhala and Tamil.


Predominantly Buddhism but also Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.


Sri Lanka 's standard time is 6 hours ahead of Greenwich.


Filtered water and mineral waters as well as bottled drinking water are available. The yellow king coconut is a popular thirst quencher, and of course, the most popular drink is a hot cup of tea.





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