Sri Lanka-

Travel,History,People,Culture,Physical features,Tea and food.

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Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is an island nation situated in the Indian Ocean, closer to the southern tip of Peninsular India and separated from it by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar. The Palk Strait is a shallow sea about 15 fathoms deep. The width of the Palk Strait at the narrowest point where Adam's bridge is situated is only about 20 miles(32km).The total area of the island is 25,332 sq miles, which is approximately 65,610 sq km. The Island is located between latitudes 5 deg 55'N and 9 deg 51'N and longitudes 79 deg 41'E and 81 deg 53'E.The maximum length of the Island is 268 miles (432 km) and it's maximum width 139 miles(224 km).

The civilization, culture and economy of the country has been influenced by two main factors since ancient times.

(1)The proximity of the Island to the Indian Sub-continent which promoted close cultural and economic contacts between the two countries. In fact, the Sinhalese who constitute the major ethnic community in Sri Lanka, are of Indian descent, and their language Sinhala is of Indo-Aryan origin. Buddhism, the main religion of the Sinhalese was introduced into the Island from India between the 3rd and 2nd century B.C.

(2)The situation of Sri Lanka at the crossroads of the great sea-routes, past and present, between Europe and the Middle East on one side and the Far East and Australia on the other, had made Sri Lanka an important port of call and an emporium of the sea-borne trade between the West and the East since ancient times. Thus Sri Lanka was exposed to cultural and economic influences of other civilizations such as Greek, Roman, Arab, Chinese etc. and was eventually colonized by three Western Nations, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.

Sri Lanka-History

Sri Lanka has a recorded history of over 2,500 years, but recently discovered evidence may take it's history several millennia backwards. Two distinct features of the ancient Sri Lankan civilization are:-
(1)The preservation of the orthodox school of Buddhism ,since the time it was introduced into Sri Lanka between the 3rd and 2nd century B.C.
(2)The development of ancient engineering skills that led to the establishment of a highly sophisticated irrigation system consisting of hundreds of large irrigation tanks interconnected by a network of channels, in the dry zone of the country, where the main population centers were situated in ancient times.

After a period of Foreign subjugation by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, that lasted almost 450 years, Sri Lanka was finally granted independence by the British in the year 1948.The administrative capital of Sri Lanka which was situated in the port city of Galle during the Portuguese and Dutch Periods was gradually shifted to Colombo by the British, towards the end of the 19th Century. Thus Colombo developed as the main urban centre, during the British period and still remains the Commercial Capital of Sri Lanka. However, the Administrative Capital of Sri Lanka was shifted in the early nineteen eighties to the ancient Capital City of Kotte or Sri Jayewardene Pura which lies in the outskirts of Colombo. An ultra modern parliamentary complex has been constructed in Kotte, and Government administrative offices are also being shifted to this city.

Sri Lanka-Physical features and Climate

The country has a great diversity in it's physical features and landscape, with palm fringed beaches and a beautiful and picturesque mountainous region with great scenic attractions and panoramic views. The climate likewise is also of great diversity with hot arid and semi-arid regions, moderately hot and wet low-country regions, moderately cool and wet mountainous regions, and much colder and wet mountainous regions, all of which can be experienced within a 24-hour journey driving from the west to the east or vice-versa through the South-central hilly region of the country.

Sri Lanka-Travel and Tourism

Thus Sri Lanka has become a popular travel and tourist destination in the south-Asia region, as it fulfils all the conditions for an ideal tourist destination, such as:

(i) Warm and sunny palm fringed beaches in the south-western, north-eastern and eastern costal regions, with suitable hotel accommodation catering to all classes of tourists.

(ii) The south-central hills, the home of the famous Sri Lanka tea (Ceylon tea), with its cool climate and extensive, breath-taking, panoramic views, with mountain slopes covered with greenery, consisting of montane vegetation and also large tracts of neatly laid out tea bushes. Besides this, the rivers and streams flowing in the valleys, and several cascading waterfalls enhance the beauty of the scenery. One could experience all this by taking a journey by train to any one of the hill stations such as Nuwara-eliya, Bandarawela or Badulla.

(iii) The ancient ruins of Sri Lanka, representing an ancient civilization that is more than 2500years old. The ruins consist of Buddhist temples and Dagobas, Buddha statutes, ancient palaces of Kings, rock fortresses, frescoes etc. Most of these ruins have been restored by the Archaeological Department. The ruins are scattered in many parts of the Island, but are mainly concentrated in the north-central Province, in ancient towns such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

(iv) A sophisticated ancient irrigation system consisting of vast tanks and an intricate system of irrigation channels, which has marvelled  modern scientists and engineers, is found in the north-central Province, and is now fully restored and functional. Thus two features
of ancient Sri Lankan history, the ruins and the irrigation system, have become popular tourist attractions.

(v) The Country's rich cultural and artistic traditions have a great potential for attracting tourists. The versatile dance traditions are World renowned, so are the sculptures, wood carvings and other handicrafts of Sri Lanka.

(vi) Sri Lanka tea (Ceylon tea) with its characteristic rich flavor has an international fame. Likewise Sri Lanka food with its hot spicy dishes are also becoming popular.

(vii) The World-renowned Sri Lankan gemstones and hand crafted jewelry is another major tourist attraction. Tourists can visit and see for themselves all aspects of the gem and jewelry trade in Sri Lanka such as gem mining, gem cutting and polishing, manufacture of handcrafted jewelry etc, and could also make purchases if they so desire.

Sri Lanka-People and Culture

Sri Lanka is a cosmopolitan country with great ethnic and religious diversity, with several ethnic groups and followers of the four main religions of the world - Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity -who had been living together side by side for centuries in perfect peace and harmony in many parts of the country, until the recent political upheavals in the North and East where a section of the Tamil ethnic group has been demanding for a separate State.

Sri Lanka is a densely populated country with a mean population density of 260 people per square kilometer. A great majority of the people live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture for a living. Thus Sri Lanka has become an exception among the developing countries, where the general rule is rural to urban drift with all it's attendant problems.


Sri Lanka-Welfare State

Sri Lanka can also boast of a fairly high standard of living compared to most other developing countries. A free education system introduced 59 years ago at the time the country gained independence has almost wiped out illiteracy in the country. Sri Lanka has the second highest rate of literacy in Asia, after Japan. Likewise a free health service which too has been in operation since independence, and lays more emphasis on preventive health care, has dramatically increased the life expectancy of it's people to around 75 years. The maternity and infant mortality rates too have decreased, and are comparable with rates found in the developed world. Sri Lanka is perhaps the only country in the world where heart bye-pass surgeries are performed in Government Hospitals entirely free of charge.


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