Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon before
1952) is a predominantly Buddhist island nation in
South Asia, located about 31 kilometres (18½ mi)
off the southern coast of India. It is often popularly
referred to as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It is
home to more than 20 million people.
A strategic naval link between West Asia and South
East Asia, Sri Lanka has been an ancient centre of
Buddhist religion and culture. Significant numbers
of people also adhere to Hindu, Christianity, Islam
and indigenous religions. Sinhalese people form a
majority of the population (74%), which also
consists of smaller communities of Tamil, Muslims,
Burghers and indigenous peoples. Famous for the
production and export of tea, coffee, rubber and
coconuts, Sri Lanka also boasts a progressive and
modern industrial economy. The natural beauty of
Sri Lanka's tropical forests, beaches and landscape
and rich cultural heritage make it a famous
destination for tourists worldwide.
After over a thousand years of rule by independent
kingdoms, Sri Lanka was colonised by Portugal and
the Dutch before passing to the control of the
British Empire.During World War II it served as an
important base in the fight against the Japanese. A
nationalist political movement arose in the country
in the early 20th century to obtain political
independence, which was granted in 1948.
Although it enjoyed a stable period of democracy
and economic progress, the nation has been torn by
a bloody civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated
government and Tamil separatists led by the LTTE
who demand an independent Tamil state in
northeastern Sri Lanka. Tsunamis caused by the
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake devastated the
southern and north-eastern part of the nation,
causing the deaths and displacement of a large
segment of the population.
In 1972, the official name of the country was changed to "Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka" (whereas the island itself is referred to as lankāva). In 1978 it was changed to "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka". Prior to 1972, Sri Lanka was known by a variety of names: ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobane, Arabs referred to it as Serendib, Ceilão was the name given to Sri Lanka when the Portuguese arrived on the island, but perhaps the best known is Ceylon. "Sri Lanka" (originally Sanskrit) is translated as "venerable Lanka", "śrī" meaning venerable"
and "lakā" being the ancient name of the island as attested in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Green represents the Islamic minority. Orange stands for the Hindu Tamils. The sword denotes authority. The four pipul leaves symbolize Buddhism.
The National Anthem
"Sri Lanka Matha" is the national anthem of Sri Lanka. The words and music were written by Ananda Samarakoon in 1940 in the Sinhala language, and were officially adopted as the national anthem on November 22, 1951.
Mother Lanka we worship Thee!
Plenteous in prosperity, Thou,
Beauteous in grace and love,
Laden with corn and luscious fruit
And fragrant flowers of radiant hue,
Giver of life and all good things,
Our land of joy and victory,
Receive our grateful praise sublime,
Lanka! we worship Thee.
Thou gavest us Knowledge and Truth,
Thou art our strength and inward faith,
Our light divine and sentient being,
Breath of life and liberation.
Grant us, bondage free, inspiration.
Inspire us for ever.
In wisdom and strength renewed,
Ill-will, hatred, strife all ended,
In love enfolded, a mighty nation
Marching onward, all as one,
Lead us, Mother, to fullest freedom.