There are two major ethnic groups that comprise most of the Sri Lankan population. The Sinhalese is the largest ethnic group and they originally take root in India. The Tamil is the second largest group that hails from the Indian Tamil region.
As of 2007, the island’s population is estimated to be 20.9 million people with an estimated growth rate of 1% per year. The people use the Sri Lankan rupee as their monetary unit. The majority of Sri Lankans speak Sinhala, which happens to be one of the national languages and is also considered the “official” language. Another national language is Tamil. English is also used by the people but, is most often used in government.
In regards to religion, around 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhists, while the remaining percentage is divided into Islamic, Christianity, and Hinduism. According to surveys, around 92% of the people from Sri Lanka are literate and 10% of them speak English fluently.
Due to its location, Sri Lanka has a climate that is both tropical and warm. The temperatures of the country range from 16 degrees Celsius to as high as 33 degrees Celsius. During winter, the central highlands of Sri Lanka experience frost for several days. Especially during January, people in Sri Lanka wear coats because of the cold climate. Conversely, May is said to be the hottest month of the year.
The whole island of Sri Lanka showcases natural and lush beauty. The mountains of the country as well as the southwestern area experience heavy rain fall and is appropriately called the “wet zone”. This is where the lush tropical forests are mostly found. The remainder of the island is called the “dry zone” since very little rain falls in these areas.
The history of Sri Lanka involves a lot of complexities. Even in the name, the country went through many other names before it settled on the name Sri Lanka. In ancient times, the country was called Taprobane by the Greek geographers. To the Arabs, the country was named Serendib, a word that many believe to be the root word for “serendipity”. When the Portuguese arrived in 1505, it was dubbed Ceilao. When the English came, it was changed to Ceylon, until it was finally changed to its present name in 1972.
Located just off the coast of the southeast tip of India, Sri Lanka has always been one of the most important ports in connecting the West and South East parts of Asia. This is why there is no surprise that the history of Sri Lanka contains records of being ruled not just by one country, but by many.
Before other nations tried their hands in controlling the country, Sri Lanka had been ruled by its local ethnic groups. The present major ethnic groups, the Tamils and Sinhalese, mostly fought for control over the whole island country and, in those days, the Tamils generally ruled the northern part of the island while the Sinhalese generally ruled the southern part.
After two thousand years of feuds between the local groups, the Portuguese governed the country until the Dutch India Company arrived and replaced them. In 1796, the British fought for and took control of the island country and in 1802, Sri Lanka became an English Crown colony. Under the English rule, the Tamils and Sinhalese briefly united and pressured England to give up their hold on Sri Lanka. In 1948, the small island finally became a self-governing country.
Sri Lanka has a lot of national and zoological parks that give tourists a chance to enjoy its natural beauty and varied wildlife. For those interested in antiquities and history, the National Museum is a must stop. For those who love to shop, the Pettah is a street shopping area where anybody can find and buy just about anything at very reasonable prices.
At night, Sri Lanka comes even more alive as its clubs and disco bars open. Clubs such as Cascades and Library give visitors places to dance the night away, while bars such as Clancy’s and the White Horse are available for those interested only in laid environments. Karaoke bars and casinos, including the Bellagio Casino, are for anybody who wants to sing or try their luck at the gambling tables.
Thru its inhabitants, Sri Lanka is home to two cultures: the Sinhalese and the Tamil. With the colonial rulings, the local culture was given a Westernized twist. In fact, many towns on the island country have a rather Western-urban take to them. Every July or August, Sri Lankans have the Esala Perahera festival. This is the grandest festival in the country, since it is also a Buddhist occasion, where dances and richly decorated elephants are paraded throughout the cities.
Every year, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year festival is held around April 13. During this time, the Muslims also celebrate Ramadan.
Sri Lanka’s cuisine mostly includes rice and curry as main dishes and is usually served for lunch and dinner, although there are times when it is also served during breakfast.
Roti is an alternative to rice. It is a flatbread made of dough and is sometimes used to accompany curry. Polrotti is another kind of bread and is a slight variation of Roti. It is made of flour mixed with coconut flakes and water. Hoppers is another substitute for rice and is often served during breakfast and dinner.