Sri Lanka is an island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia; known until 1972 as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest.
Sri Lanka has a documented history that spans over 3000 years. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II. Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to many religions, ethnicities and languages. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Moors, Indian Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage, and the first known Buddhist writings were composed on the island. The country’s recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively but controversially ended in a military victory in 2009.
The culture of Sri Lanka dates back over 2500 years. It is influenced primarily by Buddhism and Hinduism. According to Islamic folklore, Adam and Eve were offered refuge on the island as solace for their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The island is the home to two main traditional cultures: the Sinhalese (centred in the ancient cities of Kandy and Anuradhapura) and the Tamil (centred in the city of Jaffna). In more recent times, the British colonial culture has also influenced the locals. Sri Lanka claims a democratic tradition matched by fewother developing countries.
The first Tamil immigration was probably around the 3rd century BC. Tamils co-existed with the Sinhalese people since then, and the early mixing rendered the two ethnic groups almost physically indistinct. Ancient Sri Lanka is marked for its genius in hydraulic engineering and architecture. The rich cultural traditions shared by all Sri Lankan cultures is the basis of the country’s long life expectancy, advanced health standards and high literacy rate.