The Sri Lanka Portal

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Sri Lanka (UK: /sri ˈlæŋkə, ʃr -/, US: /- ˈlɑːŋkə/ (listen); Sinhala: ශ්‍රී ලංකා, romanized: Śrī Laṅkā (IPA: [ʃriː laŋkaː]); Tamil: இலங்கை, romanized: Ilaṅkai (IPA: [ilaŋɡaj])), formerly known as Ceylon and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia. It lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, and southeast of the Arabian Sea; it is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Sri Lanka shares a maritime border with India and Maldives. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is its legislative capital, and Colombo is its largest city and financial centre.

Sri Lanka has a population of around 22 million (2020) and is a multinational state, home to diverse cultures, languages, and ethnicities. The Sinhalese are the majority of the nation's population. The Tamils, who are a large minority group, have also played an influential role in the island's history. Other long established groups include the Moors, the Burghers, the Malays, the Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda.

Sri Lanka's documented history goes back 3,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements that dates back at least 125,000 years. The earliest known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, known collectively as the Pāli canon, date to the fourth Buddhist council, which took place in 29 BCE. Also called the Teardrop of India, or the Granary of the East, Sri Lanka's geographic location and deep harbours have made it of great strategic importance, from the earliest days of the ancient Silk Road trade route to today's so-called maritime Silk Road. Because its location made it a major trading hub, it was already known to both Far Easterners and Europeans as long ago as the Anuradhapura period (377 BC–1017 AD). During a period of great political crisis in the Kingdom of Kotte, the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka and sought to control the island's maritime trade, with a part of Sri Lanka subsequently becoming a Portuguese possession. After the Sinhalese-Portuguese war, the Dutch and the Kingdom of Kandy took control of those areas. The Dutch possessions were then taken by the British, who later extended their control over the whole island, colonising it from 1815 to 1948. A national movement for political independence arose in the early 20th century, and in 1948, Ceylon became a dominion. The dominion was succeeded by the republic named Sri Lanka in 1972. Sri Lanka's more recent history was marred by a 26-year civil war, which began in 1983 and ended decisively in 2009, when the Sri Lanka Armed Forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. (Full article...)

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The Battle of Vijithapura was a decisive battle fought in the campaign carried out by Sri Lankan king Dutthagamani against the invading South Indian king Ellalan. The battle is documented in detail in the ancient chronicles of the country. However, they only provide the viewpoint of Dutthagamani and his army, and details are scarce on Elara's side.

After launching a campaign to regain the country from Elara, Dutthagamani captured a number of his strongholds before coming to the fortified city of Vijithapura. A four-month siege ensued, followed by a large assault where Dutthagamani's champions and royal elephant played a major part. The chronicles focus a lot on these ten champions, and vividly describe some unusual "tests" that Dutthagamani carried out to find out their skills. (Full article...)
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Relief of Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa.jpg
The statue in Polonnaruwa traditionally held to be of Parākramabāhu the Great

Parākramabāhu I (Sinhala: මහා පරාක්‍රමබාහු, c. 1123–1186), or Parakramabahu the Great, was the king of Polonnaruwa from 1153 to 1186. He oversaw the expansion and beautification of his capital, constructed extensive irrigation systems, reorganised the country's army, reformed Buddhist practices, encouraged the arts and undertook military campaigns in South India and Burma. The adage "Not even a little water that comes from the rain must not flow into the ocean without being made useful to man" is one of his most famous utterances.

In 1140, Parakramabahu following the death of his uncle, Kitti Sri Megha, Prince of Dakkinadesa, ascended the throne of Dakkhinadesa. Over the next decade, improved both Dakkhinadesi infrastructure and military. Following a protracted civil war, he secured power over the entire island around 1153 and remained in this position until his death in 1186. During Parākramabāhu's reign, he launched a punitive campaign against the kings of Burma, aided the Pandyan dynasty against the Chola dynasty in southern India and maintained extensive trade relations with China, Angkor, and countries in the Middle East. Within the island, he consecrated religious monuments, built hospitals, social welfare units, canals and large reservoirs, such as the Sea of Parakrama. (Full article...)

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Tea plantation, Sri Lanka.jpg

Photo credit:Bernard Gagnon
Sri Lanka is renowned for its high-quality tea.

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