& Physical Features
an island in the Indian Ocean is located to the south of the Indian subcontinent.
It lies between 5O 55' and 9O 55' north of the equator and between the
eastern longitudes 79O 42' and 81O 52'. The total land area is 65,610 sq.
km. and is astonishingly varied. A length of 445 km. and breadth of 225
km. encompasse beautiful tropical beaches, verdant vegetation, ancient
monuments and a thousand delights to please all tastes. The relief features
of the island consist of a mountainous mass somewhat south of the centre,
with height exceeding 2,500 metres, surrounded by broad plains. Palm fringed
beaches surround the island and the sea temperature rarely falls below
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 the 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 is accepted as the founder of Anuradhapura. During
the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa, a descendent of Pandukabhaya, Buddhism
was introduced in 247 B.C. by Arahat Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka
of India. This is the most important event in Sri Lankan history as it
set the country on the road to cultural greatness. As a new civilisation
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 was 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. As a
result 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 they were displaced
by the British. 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
was 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 Organisation.
Sinhala and Tamil
are official languages in Sri Lanka. Sinhala, a language of Indo-Aryan
origin is the language of the majority. English is widely spoken and understood.
Place names and sign-boards on buses and trains are usually in all three
languages. Sri Lanka is a land of religious freedom and tolerance. Wherever
you travel you will come across a Buddhist Temple or Dagaba, a Hindu Kovil,
a Christian Church or a Mosque, each with its own distinctive architecture
The Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka is a free, independent and sovereign nation. A system
of administration through provincial councils was introduced in 1988. Legislative
power is exercised by Parliament, elected by universal franchise on a proportional
representation basis. Executive power of the people, including defence,
is exercised by the President, who is also elected by the people.
Page Maintained by: Ramesh
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