Official Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Established: 4 February 1948 (Independence from the United Kingdom), 22 May 1972 (Republic)
Population: 21,803,000 (2019 estimate)
Religion: 70.2% Buddhism, 12.6% Hinduism, 9.7% Islam, 7.4% Christianity
Language(s): Sinhala, Tamil, English
Capital: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (legislative), Colombo (executive and judicial)
Order of Visit: Fifty Sixth
First Visit: 26 July 2016
Last Visit: 12 August 2016
Duration: 18 Days
– Anuradhapura: The Anuradhapura Stupas, The sights from the top of Mihintale.
– Colombo: Exploring a working gem mine, visiting Independence Square, the beautiful Gangaramaya Temple, walking around the Galle Face.
– Dambadeniya: Views from the former rock fortress of Yapahuwa, the school children ceremony at Dalada Maligawa Temple.
– Galle: Exploring the Galle Fort, the beautiful cricket ground.
– Giritale: Polonnaruwa Ruins, Dambulla Rock Temple, Kayanwala village (including canoe trip), and Herbs and Spices Garden (including back massage), exploring the Sigiriya ‘Lion Rock’ Fortress.
– Hikkaduwa: Relaxing and exploring the Hikkaduwa Beach, undertaking a Mangrove Safari, visiting a Turtle Sanctuary, learning at the Tsunami Museum, surviving and later benefiting from a Sri Lankan Full Body Massage.
–Kandy: Watching Elephants enjoy themselves at Pinnawala, learning about tea at the Geragama Tea Factory, visiting the famous Temple of the Tooth, enjoying the Cultural Show seeing different dance styles of Sri Lanka and fire eaters and fire walkers.
– Mirissa: Whale and Turtle Watching.
– Negombro: Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara better known as the Kelaniya Temple), Dehiwala Zoological Gardens, Hamilton Canal Tour.
– Nuwara Eliya: Scenic Train Trip, enjoying the ‘Little England’ feel.
– Udawalawe: supporting the Baby Elephant Sanctuary, enjoying a Udawalawe National Park Safari.
Places Visited: Anuradhapura, Colombo, Dambadeniya, Galle, Giritale, Hikkaduwa, Kandy, Mirissa, Negombro, Nuwara Eliya, Udawalawe
Sri Lanka Journal Entries
History and Geography
Covering 65,610 square kilometres Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal and southeast of the Arabian Sea.
Sri Lanka’s documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements dating back at least 125,000 years. During the protohistoric period (1000–500 BC) Sri Lanka was culturally united with southern India, and shared the same megalithic burials, pottery, iron technology, and farming techniques.
Sinhalese history traditionally starts in 543 BCE with the arrival of Prince Vijaya, a semi-legendary prince who sailed with 700 followers to Sri Lanka, after being expelled from Vanga Kingdom (present-day Bengal). He established the Kingdom of Tambapanni.
The Anuradhapura period (377 BCE – 1017 AD) began with the establishment of the Anuradhapura Kingdom in 380 BC. In 250 BCE, Mahinda, a bhikkhu and the son of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka arrived in Mihintale carrying the message of Buddhism. His mission won over the monarch, who embraced the faith and propagated it throughout the Sinhalese population. Succeeding kingdoms of Sri Lanka would maintain many Buddhist schools and monasteries.
Sri Lanka was the first Asian country known to have a female ruler: Anula of Anuradhapura (r. 47–42 BC). Sri Lankan monarchs undertook some remarkable construction projects such as Sigiriya, the so-called “Fortress in the Sky”, built during the reign of Kashyapa I of Anuradhapura, who ruled between 477 and 495.
The early modern period of Sri Lanka begins with the arrival of Portuguese soldier and explorer Lourenço de Almeida, in 1505. In 1517, the Portuguese built a fort at the port city of Colombo and gradually extended their control over the coastal areas. In 1592, after decades of intermittent warfare with the Portuguese, Vimaladharmasuriya I moved his kingdom to the inland city of Kandy, a location he thought more secure from attack.
During the reign of the Rajasinha II, Dutch explorers arrived on the island. In 1638, the king signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Company to get rid of the Portuguese who ruled most of the coastal areas. The following Dutch–Portuguese War resulted in a Dutch victory, with Colombo falling into Dutch hands by 1656. The Dutch remained in the areas they had captured, thereby violating the treaty they had signed in 1638.
During the Napoleonic Wars, fearing that French control of the Netherlands might deliver Sri Lanka to the French, Great Britain occupied the coastal areas of the island (which they called Ceylon) with little difficulty in 1796.
On 14 February 1815, Kandy was occupied by the British ending Sri Lanka’s independence. Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last native monarch of Sri Lanka, was exiled to India. The Kandyan Convention formally ceded the entire country to the British Empire.
The beginning of the modern period of Sri Lanka is marked by the Colebrooke-Cameron reforms of 1833. They introduced a utilitarian and liberal political culture to the country based on the rule of law and amalgamated the Kandyan and maritime provinces as a single unit of government. An executive council and a legislative council were established, later becoming the foundation of a representative legislature.
By the end of the 19th century, a new educated social class transcending race and caste arose through British attempts to staff the Ceylon Civil Service and the legal, educational, engineering, and medical professions with natives. The first two decades in the 20th century are noted by the unique harmony among Sinhalese and Tamil political leadership, which has since been lost.
The Soulbury constitution ushered in dominion status, with independence proclaimed on 4 February 1948. D. S. Senanayake became the first Prime Minister of Ceylon. The British Royal Navy remained stationed at Trincomalee until 1956.
In 1971, Ceylon experienced a Marxist insurrection, which was quickly suppressed. In 1972, the country became a republic named Sri Lanka, repudiating its dominion status. Prolonged minority grievances and the use of communal emotionalism as an election campaign weapon by both Sinhalese and Tamil leaders abetted a fledgling Tamil militancy in the north during the 1970s.
Beginning in 1983, ethnic tensions were manifested in an on-and-off insurgency against the government leading to undeclared civil war in the country. In 2009, under the Presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lanka Armed Forces defeated the Tamil Tigers and re-established control of the entire country by the Sri Lankan Government.
What I experienced
This was an amazing more length visit to Sri Lanka covering a range of activities from landscapes, wildlife, temples, and locals. The real highlight was observing elephants in different locations in particular at watching them enjoy themselves at Pinnawala in a river, the baby elephants being hand fed at Udawalawe and roaming in the National Park.
Being a Buddhist nation ancient Temples and Stupas are going to be highlights on any visit to Sri Lanka which I thoroughly enjoyed in particular the Anuradhapura temples. But you will also find that a lot of these temples and stupas are on mountains or hills which offer great views in particular Dambulla Rock Temple and the Sigiriya ‘Lion Rock’ Fortress.
Sri Lanka also reinvigorated my desire to go on Safari in Africa and to see the different in wildlife and environments.
I would strongly recommend this trip, Sri Lankans are a very friendly people and as a tourist you are treated well without too much harassment. You might struggle with the heat and humidity, I did, you might also struggle walking bare footed at the various temples, but in the end a trip to Sri Lanka is a great experience and well worth visiting.