Sri Lanka is a small island with lots of diversity. It has beautiful pristine beaches, wonderful wildlife, ancient ruins and world-famous tea gardens.
In simple words, we can say that this tiny island has a lot to offer. Short distances make it even easier to discover the nation of smiling people.
Here are some interesting facts about Sri Lanka which will make you pack your bags and rush straight to this wonderful island.
Fact #1 Different Names of Sri Lanka during Different Eras
Sri Lanka has a very rich culture and history which dates back almost 3000 years. It was known by different names during different times of its history. In Sanskrit, it means ‘resplendent island’
It finds its earliest mention in the Hindu mythological epic Ramayana. It is referred to as ‘Lanka’ the kingdom of King Ravana.
Legendary Prince Vijaya who reigned Sri Lanka from 543–505 BCE named it Tambapanni. He was the first recorded king and is mentioned in the Mahavamsa and the Pali chronicles.
Ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobanā and Persians and Arabs called it Sarandib.
In Tamil, it is known as Eelam.
When the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505 they called it Ceilão and the British finally called it Ceylon.
In 1972, it was officially changed to “Republic of Sri Lanka” and later in 1978 it was again changed to “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”
Sri Lanka is often known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ and ‘Teardrop of India’ due to its shape.
Fact #2 Sri Lanka Flag – Lion Flag
The Sri Lankan flag is called the Lion flag or Sinha flag. It is the only flag in the world which recognises all different religious groups in the country.
The lion in the flag represents the bravery of the Sri Lankans and the sword of the lion called Kastane sword represents the sovereignty of the nation.
The four bo-leaves (bodhi tree or peepal tree) at the corner of the flag represent Buddhism and its four virtues – Kindness, Friendliness, Happiness and Equanimity.
Saffron and Green stripes in the flag represent Tamil and Muslim ethnicities. The maroon background represents Sinhalese ethnicity and the yellow border of the flag represents the unity of Sri Lankans.
Fact #3 Sri Lanka Tea
Sri Lanka is one of the leading exporters of tea in the world. The climate of the central highlands of the country is favourable for the production of high-quality tea.
Tea accounts for 2% of GDP and is one of the main sources of foreign exchange.
Tea was first introduced in Sri Lanka in 1867 by James Taylor. He was a British national and arrived there in 1852. He settled down in the Loolecondera estate in Kandy.
During the early 1800s, the Sri Lankans had only knowledge of coffee and the entire plantations were dedicated to producing coffee beans. But in 1870 coffee plantations were completely destroyed by coffee leaf disease and all planters switched to tea plantations.
Fact #4 Sri Lanka Gems
Sri Lanka is famous for its gems and is rightly known as Ratna-Dweepa which means Gem Island. Sri Lankan gems history is very old. Legendary merchant traveller Marco Polo wrote about Sri Lanka that it had the best sapphires, topazes, amethysts, and other gems in the world.
Even during the 4th and 5th centuries, Persian and Arab traders used to come to Sri Lanka for gems trade.
Ratnapura meaning the city of gems is the main centre for gems trade in Sri Lanka. The blue Sapphires from Sri Lanka are called Ceylon Sapphires.
As compared to blue Sapphires from other countries these Ceylon sapphires are unique in colour, clarity and lustre. They are of very high quality and very much in demand throughout the world.
Facts #5 Adams Peak or Sri Pada
Adam’s Peak is located in the central Sri Lanka. It is a tall conical mountain and its height is 2243 m. Adam’s Peak is a sacred mountain and is also known as Sri Pada which means ‘the sacred footprint’.
Buddhists believe that the footprint is of Buddha’s left foot. Buddha left the footprint as a symbol of worship at the request of the Buddhist God Saman.
Hindus consider it as the footprint of Lord Shiva. They associate Adam’s peak with Mount Trikuta which is mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana as the capital of Ravana’s kingdom.
Muslims believe that it is the place where Adam set his foot upon his fall from paradise.
Fact #6 Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
A very interesting fact about Sri Lanka is that there is an orphanage for elephants. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was established in 1975 by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation. It was opened with an aim to provide food, shelter and care to young elephants abandoned by their mothers.
It is a 25-acre coconut plantation close to the Maya Oye River. Elephants are set to roam freely as a herd in the day and in the night they are chained in their shelters individually.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a very famous tourist attraction and is visited by many local and foreign tourists. It is really incredible to watch elephants taking a bath in the river and tourists love to watch them.
Fact #7 Temple of Tooth – Buddhist Temple
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is a Buddhist temple in Kandy. It has a relic of the tooth of Lord Buddha. The temple is located in the royal complex of the former kingdom of Kandy. It’s an ancient belief that whoever holds the sacred relic holds the governance of the country.
Many devotees and tourists visit the sacred temple every day. The tooth of Buddha is not actually displayed; it is kept in a dagoba (stupa). It is a series of six dagoba caskets of reducing sizes and the smallest one has the sacred tooth relic.
Rituals and Puja (prayers) are performed three times daily and on Wednesdays, symbolic bathing of the relic is done with holy water and flowers. This ritual is called Nanumura Mangallaya. The holy water is believed to possess healing powers and is distributed among the devotees.
Fact #8 Sri Lanka Food
Sri Lankan cuisine is unique and is influenced by Portuguese, Dutch, British, south Indians and even by Arab and Persian traders. Sri Lanka recipes are not only mouth-watering but aromatic and healthy also.
Rice and Curry are the staple foods. Coconut milk and spices are extensively used in most of the Sri Lankan cuisines.
Hoppers, String Hoppers, kottu, and Lamprais are very popular dishes among the locals and are also enjoyed by tourists.
Sri Lankan food is very spicy and is among the spiciest foods in the world. Wattalapan is one of the famous desserts. Cured and treacle is also eaten as a dessert.
Arrack made from coconut and toddy made from palm tree sap are famous liquors among Sri Lankans.
Fact #9 Sri Lanka Heritage Sites
Sri Lanka is a small island blessed with rich culture and history. It has so many ruins, temples, monuments, and viewpoints which are rare and distinctive.
It has a total of 8 UNESCO heritage sites. Six of them are cultural sites- Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Kandy, Cave Temple Dambulla, and Galle Fort and two of them are National Sites – Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
Fact #10 Pre-History and History of Sri Lanka
Archaeological evidence in Sri Lanka suggests that it was inhabited 37,000 years ago and the pre-history dates back to 125,000 years and possibly even as far back as 500,000 years; the period spans the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and early Iron Ages. The ancestors of the Vedda people were likely the early inhabitants of Sri Lanka.
Sinhalese history starts with the arrival of Legendary Prince Vijaya in 543 BCE. He came to Sri Lanka with his 700 followers after being expelled from the Vanga Kingdom and established the Kingdom of Tambapanni near present-day Mannar.
Buddhism in Sri Lanka was brought by Mahinda (Mahindra in Sanskrit) the son of Ashoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire in 250 BCE.
In 205 BCE Chola King Elara invaded Sri Lanka and ruled the island for 44 years. He brought Hinduism with him to Sri Lanka.
In 1505 Portuguese traders came to Sri Lanka and took control of trade and made a port at Colombo. They brought missionaries with them and converted a small number of Sri Lankans to Catholicism.
The Dutch defeated and expelled the Portuguese from Sri Lanka and took control in their hands. Burgher people an ethnic group emerged in Sri Lanka due to Dutch rule. In 1815 British took control and made Sri Lanka its colony.
Finally, after more than a century, Sri Lanka gained independence from the British on 2nd February 1948.
Some More Random Facts about Sri Lanka
- Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the administrative capital of Sri Lanka and Colombo is the commercial capital. Colombo is the largest city in Sri Lanka and Sri Jayawardenepura is a suburb of Colombo.
- Anuradhapura was the capital of ancient Sri Lanka during the Anuradhapura Kingdom Era.
- In 1960, Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first female prime minister of Sri Lanka. She was the first female to become a prime minister in the world. She served for three terms.
- Sri Lankan Ironwood or Na Tree is the national tree, the Water Lily or Nil Mahanel is the national flower, and Sri Lankan junglefowl is the national bird of Sri Lanka.
- A very bizarre and interesting fact about Sri Lanka is that in most of the country, nodding your head up and down means yes, and moving it back and forth means no. It is the complete opposite in Sri Lanka.
- The National sport of Sri Lanka is volleyball but the most followed and popular sport is cricket.
- There are many waterfalls in Sri Lanka and most of its electricity is produced by hydro energy.
- The literacy rate in Sri Lanka is 92% which puts it in the top spot in South Asia.
- In the early 4th century, Ancient Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to establish a dedicated hospital in Mihintale.
- Cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka and was discovered by the Egyptians. It was also the leading exporter of cinnamon in the ancient world.