Oh, glorious little Sri Lanka. The pearl of the Indian Ocean is not only admired for its tea, spices and incredible sights but also for its rich culture and heritage. Lankans have been through quite their fair share so here’s a little FYI session that will no doubt fill you in on all the juicy bits before your great vacation to the tropics!
Sri Lanka has been given many a name throughout its history, from ‘Tambapanni’ to ‘Taprobane’. The more prominent ones, however, include Serendib, a name used by the Persian and Arabian merchants. Ceylon was the name used during the British rule and for labelling its famous tea and many other products. It stayed in place for many decades after the country’s independence from the British until 1972, when the name ‘Sri Lanka’ was settled on. When translated directly, it means ‘Resplendent Island’.
Lanka has a rich and dramatic past that accounts for much of the diversity you’ll encounter today. It was colonized three times! First, from 1517 to 1638, the Portuguese ruled over the Lankan lands. The Kandyan King (ruler of an independent monarchy) eventually reached out to the Dutch for help which led to the exhaustive Dutch-Portuguese war. Upon the victory of the Dutch, they laid claim to a portion of the land, leaving the Kandyan King to his Kingdom. Side note- the descendants of the Dutch are called Burghers in today’s community. Then came the third colonization- the British invasion in 1796. In 1948, the island was finally granted independence but you still see the cultures of these three colonizers living on.
There are three official languages spoken on the island- Sinhala, Tamil, and English. The main language is Sinhala but nearly all have a basic understanding of English. The nation is also home to four religions- The Buddhists, Hinduists, Muslims, and Christians. The island is well known for its ancient religious sites that any tourist must see during their tours of Sri Lanka before they leave.
Sri Lanka is close to having the most number of public holidays in the world since it has followers of all four major religions. Contributing vastly to the number of holidays is the local’s monthly celebration of the full moon (commonly known as Poya).
The First Female Prime Minister
It’s a definite score for female representation in Sri Lanka, given the fact that their first female prime minister was the first across the entire world! The late Sirimavo Bandaranaike served for 3 terms, beginning in July 1960. Her party was first founded by her husband, who was murdered by a monk. After which, she took control of the reigns.
Sri Lanka has a booming gem business, having easily mined sapphires and rubies since ancient times. The mines in Ratnapura too can be visited, where there have been reports of special finds!
Despite their fair share of endurance, the Lankan people are a loving, friendly sort that takes immense pride in their culture and history.