25+ Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka

  1. Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia in the Indian Ocean. The Palk Strait separates Sri Lanka from the Indian subcontinent, while it shares maritime borders with India and Maldives.
  2. Nearly 75% of Sri Lankans have Sinhalese ethnicity. Tamils and Muslims (descendants of Arab traders) are minority ethnic groups.
  3. The majority of the population (70%) follows Buddhism. The remaining are the followers of Hinduism (12.6%), Islam (9.7%), and Christianity (7.6%).
  4. Adam’s Peak in southwestern Sri Lanka is sacred for four religions due to a “sacred footprint” (Sri Pada). Buddhists, Hindus, some Christians, and Muslims believe this footprint belongs to Buddha, Shiva, St. Thomas, and Adam, respectively.
  5. Sri Lanka separated from mainland India more than 5 million years ago. The initial human settlements appeared here between 75,000 and 125,000 years ago.
  6. The Veddas are the aboriginal people of Sri Lanka, present before the 6th Century BC. Today, they comprise less than 1% of the country’s population and live in scattered places in some central and eastern parts of the island.  
  7. The oldest tree ever planted by humans is present in Sri Lanka. This fig tree is around 2,300 years old. (Source)
  8. The Minneriya Lake in Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park hosts the single-largest gathering of Asian elephants. These elephants gather in large numbers around this lake between July and September. (Source)
  9. Adam’s bridge is a 30-mile-long chain of limestone shoals between Sri Lanka and India. It acted as a land corridor between the two countries before its destruction by a cyclone in 1480. Its seabed is so low that even ships cannot pass through it. 
    Satellite image of Adam's Bridge between Sri Lanka and India
    Ships cannot pass through Adam's Bridge due to its low seabed

  10. The Portuguese started their influence in Sri Lanka during the 16th Century. They took advantage of internal conflicts and controlled a large part of Sri Lanka by the end of the 16th Century.
  11. The Dutch started collaborating with Sinhalese during the 17th Century and initiated their campaigns against the Portuguese. They were able to defeat the Portuguese in 1658 and become the new rulers of the island country.
  12. British seized Ceylon from the Dutch in 1796, and it became a crown colony in 1802. They took control of the island after defeating the Kingdom of Kandy in 1815.
  13. Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, which had no rival in the trade of this spice until the 18th Century. It was a reason behind the efforts of colonial empires (Portuguese, Dutch, and British) to control Ceylon.
  14. Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948. The country adopted the name “Sri Lanka” in 1972.
  15. In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first female prime minister. She remained PM of Sri Lanka from 1960-65, 1970-77, and 1994-2000.
  16. Sri Lanka faced two Marxist uprisings in 1971 and 1988-89. The latter lasted longer (more than 33 months) and was far deadlier, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of fighters from both sides. Sri Lanka successfully suppressed both insurgencies with foreign support.
  17. The conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils started when Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) passed the “Sinhala Only Bill” in 1956. This act made Sinhalese the sole official language of the country. Currently, Sinhalese and Tamil are the two official languages of Sri Lanka.
  18. The Sri Lankan Civil War started in July 1983 between the government and a militant Tamil organization LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). LTTE was pursuing the separation of the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka due to atrocities of the majority Sinhalese against Tamils. The war took the lives of more than 50,000 fighters and 100,000 civilians and ended in 2009 with a Sri Lankan victory.
  19. The Sacred City of Kandy is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was the last capital of the Sinhala kings and contains the “Temple of the Tooth Relics,” a holy Buddhist site due to the Presence of Buddha’s teeth.
  20. According to the 2019 UNDP report, Sri Lanka has the highest rank for HDI (human development index) in South Asia. Sri Lanka and Maldives are the only South Asian countries achieving High Human Development. (Source)
  21. The Covid pandemic, the banning of inorganic fertilizers, and other factors caused an unprecedented economic crisis in Sri Lanka in 2019 and beyond. It resulted in the first-ever sovereign default of the country in 2022. Later, large-scale demonstrations caused the removal of the Rajapaksa brothers (the PM and president of Sri Lanka) by July 2022.
  22. More than 80% of Sri Lanka’s land is plain, with an elevation from sea level to 1,000 feet (300 meters). Central Highlands is the only mountainous area in the country’s south-central region. The highest mountain, Pidurutalagala, has an elevation of 8,281 feet (2,524 meters). Central Highlands is Sri Lanka’s one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  23. Tea is by far the largest export of Sri Lanka. The country is the world’s biggest exporter of used rubber tires. (Source)
  24. Sri Lanka is the second-largest tea exporter in the world, behind only China. (Source)
  25. The literacy rate in Sri Lanka is around 92%. It is the highest in South Asia and among the highest in Asia.
  26. Sri Lanka has eight UNESCO world heritage sites, including six natural and two natural sites. (Source)
  27. From 2012 to 2016, Sri Lankan remained top of the countries with the highest searches for “sex.” The country achieved 3rd position in 2019 and 2nd in 2020 for the exact search. (Source)
  28. Sri Lanka was the second-most affected country by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami after Indonesia. It took the lives of more than 35,000 Sri Lankans and displaced more than 510,000.

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