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Sri Lanka: The Island of the Lion Men

January 20, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Formerly called Ceylon, in Arabic Serendib, Sri Lanka is known as the island of the Singalese or lion men, which is shaped in the form of a pearl and 65,607 square kilometers big. Connected with the Indian Sub-continent through the so-called Adam’s Bridge, these islands were built by the army of the monkey king Hanuman according to the Ramayana Epos, while in the interior there are the mountains of Pidurutalagala with over 2,500 meters high and Adam’s Peak, which has a footprint of the Buddha (Buddhism), Shiva (Hinduism) or Adam (Islam). There are a lot of plantations with tea, cacao, and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and also pepper. Rice is the most important plant, while cattle, buffalos, pigs and goats are the livestock. Elephants live in the jungles, while the sea offers fishes, corals and pearls. The location of Ratnapura is well-known, where rubies, cat’s eyes, topaz, amethyst, and moonstone will be found.

The main population of 21,444,000 are the Singalese (75%), the Tamils (15%) from Southern India in the northern part of the island and the primitive Wedda (some 2,000), who live in the eastern part of the island. Also, there are Muslim traders (9%) from Arabia or India, while Eurasian people came from Portuguese and Dutch (Burghers), who married native women. The Singalese speak an Indo-Arian language. The native chronicles like the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa from the 4th and 5th centuries in Pali report that a prince from Bengal, named Vijaya, came to Sri Lanka and settled down there after the death of the Buddha (543 B.C.), but only in the 3rd century B.C. Sri Lanka became a Buddhist country, when Mahinda, a son of King Ashoka, could convert the native King Devanampiyatissa from Anuradhapura towards the teachings of the Buddha.

Later the Dravidian Tamils came to Sri Lanka, while the Wedda still believe in ancestor and spirit worship. In the 10th century appeared the Cholas from South India and it was up to King Parakramabahu (1153-1186) to repulse the foreign enemies from Polonnaruva. In the 13th century the last invasions of the Tamils happened to build up around the present-day frontiers. Around 1500 the Portuguese and later the Dutch attacked the island to take over the valuable spice trade. In the years of 1795-96, the English occupied the island and made it a crown colony in 1802. An independence movement lasted until 1948 like in India. Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka, while Galle is an old port, which Zheng He from China had already visited in the beginning of the 15th century. In the hill town of Kandy, the last royal city of Sri Lanka before the British came, a sacred tooth of Buddha is venerated. Once in a year in July or August, there is the colorful festival of Aesala Perahaera, where elephants play an important role to bring abundant rain to the whole country.

Next to Sri Lanka are the 26 coral atolls of the Maldives, which have some 90,000 Muslims to be ruled by a sultan in Male. Further north there are the 14 small atolls of the Indian Laccadive Islands, which are also inhabited by Muslims owning coconut trees and boats.

Recommended bibliography:

  • Codrington, H.W. (1926). A Short History of Ceylon. London: Macmillan & Co. ISBN 978-0-8369-5596-5. OCLC 2154168.
  • Geiger, Wilhelm (1912): Dipavamsa. 3rd Print 2007. Buddhist Cultural Centre, Sri Lanka.
  • Lord Holden (1939). Ceylon. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
  • Nubin, Walter (2002). Sri Lanka: Current issues and historical background. Nova Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59033-573-4.
  • “Theri Sanghamitta and the Bodhi Tree” (PDF). Paw, Maung.
  • De Silva, K. M. (1981). A history of Sri Lanka. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-04320-6.

Written by :Reinhard Hohler,

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