Sri Lanka - History
Archaeologists have discovered Paleolithic human settlements in caves in the western plain regions and the southwestern face of the Central Hills located in Sri Lanka. While some archaeologists have found similarities between what was found in Sri Lanka and with what has been found in southern India, others have dismissed this and instead liken the findings to those that have been uncovered in northern parts of India. Regardless of similarities to other nations, ancient Sri Lanka was quite exceptional in its own right. It is believed that Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to have dedicated hospitals dating back to the fourth century BC. They were also the world’s largest exporters of cinnamon and were the first Asian nation to have a female leader, Queen Anula who reigned from 47-42 BC.
For the most part, Sri Lanka was ruled by monarchs with the Sinha Dynasty lasting for over 2,000 years. At times, parts of the country were ruled by the Chola Dynasty, the Pandya Dynasty, the Chera Dynasty and the Pallava Dynasty. Sri Lanka was also invaded by South Indian kingdoms various times throughout its history. Buddhism first arrived in Sri Lanka in the third century BC from India. This new religion was immediately accepted by the monarchy and they helped spread it around the country. Various Buddhist schools and monasteries were set up which helped the religion spread not only within the country, but through Southeast Asia also.
Sri Lanka became a popular trading post amongst merchants in the Middle East, Persia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as parts of Southeast Asia. With the success of the trade in Sri Lanka, it is not surprising that western interest began at the beginning of the 16th century. The Portuguese were the first to arrive in 1505 on a colonial mission. They found a country that was divided into three kingdoms: Kandy in the central hills, Kotte on the western coast and Yarlpanam (Jaftna) to the north. By the 17th century, the Dutch had arrived and much of the country came under European control, except for the hilly region which remained independent.
By the end of the 18th century, the British East India Company arrived and declared Sri Lanka a crown colony in 1802. When the Kandy Kingdom finally fell in 1815, it meant that the entire island was unified under British rule. The British capitalised on Sri Lanka’s natural resources and set up tea, rubber and cinnamon plantations and brought in immigrants to work them.
The 1930s saw the beginnings of an independence movement as a result of poor treatment at the hands of the British. Colonial authorities ignored civil rights and the native population was often mistreated or abused. During the Second World War, Sri Lanka served as an important Allied military base, however, after the war, nationalist sentiments only intensified. On 4 February 1948, Sri Lanka was granted independence as the Commonwealth of Ceylon and Don Stephen Senanayake became the country’s first Prime Minister. In July 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first female Prime Minister in the world and in 1972, the country became a republic within a commonwealth and the name was changed to Sri Lanka.
Beginning in 1983, Sri Lanka was embroiled in on-and-off civil wars between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, more commonly known as the Tamil Tigers. The Tamil Tigers were a separatist militant terrorist group who fought to establish an independent state in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
The Sri Lankan Civil War was a period of twenty-five years that caused a great deal of hardships for the population as well as the deaths of an estimated 80,000-100,000 people. In 2009, the government announced that the leader of the Tamil Tigers had been killed and declared the end of war. Travel restrictions were removed in August 2010 which allowed tourists to travel throughout the country for the first time since the 1990s. With its incredible history, coupled with perfect beaches, Sri Lanka has become a favourite holiday hotspot.
Sri Lanka Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy to navigate travel information section dedicated to Sri Lanka.
Learn about the history and culture of Sri Lanka, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Sri Lanka's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Sri Lanka for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Sri Lanka tours today!
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