Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
ශ්රී ලංකා ප්රජාතාන්ත්රික සමාජවාදී ජනරජය
இலங்கை ஜனநாயக சமத்துவ குடியரசு
|Anthem: "Sri Lanka Matha"
Music (help·info) , Singing (help·info)
|Official language(s)||Sinhala, Tamil|
|Ethnic groups (2001)||≈73.9% Sinhalese,
≈5.2% Indian Tamil,
|Government||Democratic Socialist Republic|
|-||Prime Minister||D. M. Jayaratne|
|Independence||from the United Kingdom|
|-||Dominion (Self rule)||February 4, 1948|
|-||Republic||May 22, 1972|
|-||Total||65,610 km2 (122nd)
25,332 sq mi
|-||2009 estimate||20,238,000 (53rd)|
|-||July 2008 census||21,324,791|
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
|-||Total||$102.537 billion (65th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
|-||Total||$41.979 billion (76th)|
|Gini (1999–00)||33.2 (medium)|
|HDI (2010)||0.658 (medium) (91st)|
|Currency||Sri Lankan Rupee (
|Time zone||Sri Lanka Standard Time Zone (UTC+5:30)|
|Drives on the||left|
The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (commonly known as Sri Lanka (), , or ; Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකා, Tamil: இலங்கை) is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. An island nation in South Asia, it was until 1972 known as Ceylon (, , or ). Sri Lanka is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar, the Palk Strait and lies in the vicinity of India and Maldives.
As a result of its location in the path of major sea routes, Sri Lanka is a strategic naval link between West Asia and South East Asia. It has also been a center of the Buddhist religion and culture from ancient times and is one of the few remaining abodes of Buddhism in South Asia along with Ladakh, Bhutan and the Chittagong hill tracts The Sinhalese community forms the majority of the population; Tamils, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island, form the largest ethnic minority. Other communities include Moors, Burghers, Kaffirs, Malays and the aboriginal Vedda people.
The country is famous for the production and export of tea, coffee, coconuts, rubber and cinnamon, the latter which is native to the country. The natural beauty Sri Lanka has led to the title The Pearl of the Indian Ocean, it is full of lush tropical forests, white beaches and diverse landscape throughout along with a rich biodiversity. The country lays claim to a long and colorful history of over three thousand years, having one of the longest documented histories in the world. Sri Lanka's rich culture can be attributed to the many different communities in the island. Sri Lanka is a founding member state of SAARC and a member United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, G77 and Non-Aligned Movement.
In ancient times, Sri Lanka was known by a variety of names: ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobane () and Arabs referred to it as Serendib (the origin of the word "serendipity"). Ceilão was the name given to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese when they arrived in 1505, which was transliterated into English as Ceylon. As a British crown colony, the island was known as Ceylon, and achieved independence under the name Dominion of Ceylon in 1948.
In Sinhala the country is known as ශ්රී ලංකා śrī laṃkā, , and the island itself as ලංකාව laṃkāva, . In Tamil they are both இலங்கை ilaṅkai, . The name derives from the Sanskrit श्री लंका śrī (venerable) and lankā (island), the name of the island in the ancient Indian epics Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
The name Ceylon is still in use in the names of a number of organisations; in 2011, the Sri Lankan government announced a plan to rename all of those for which it is responsible.
The island of Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean, to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal. It is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge to the Indian mainland, known as Rama's Bridge, was constructed during the time of Rama by the vanara architect Nala. Often referred to as Adam's Bridge, it now amounts to only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level.
According to colonial British reports, this is a natural causeway which was formerly complete, but was breached by a violent storm in 1480. The island consists mostly of flat-to-rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part. Amongst these is the highest point Pidurutalagala, reaching above sea level.
The climate of Sri Lanka can be described as tropical and warm. Its position between 5 and 10 north latitude endows the country with a warm climate moderated by ocean winds and considerable moisture. The mean temperature ranges from about in the Central Highlands, where frost may occur for several days in the winter, to a maximum of approximately in other low-altitude areas. The average yearly temperature ranges from to nearly . Day and night temperatures may vary by to . During the coldest days of January, many people wear coats and sweaters in the highlands and elsewhere.
May, the hottest period, precedes the summer monsoon rains. The rainfall pattern is influenced by monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal: as the winds encounter the mountain slopes of the Central Highlands, they unload heavy rains on the slopes and the southwestern areas of the island. Some of the windward slopes receive up to of rain each month, but the leeward slopes in the east and northeast receive little rain. Periodic squalls occur and sometimes tropical cyclones bring overcast skies and rains to the southwest, northeast, and eastern parts of the island.
Between December and March, monsoon winds come from the northeast, bringing moisture from the Bay of Bengal. Humidity is typically higher in the southwest and mountainous areas and depends on the seasonal patterns of rainfall, and places like Colombo experience daytime humidity above 70% all year round, rising to almost 90% during the monsoon season in June. Anuradhapura experiences a daytime low of 60% during the monsoon month of March, but a high of 79% during the November and December rains. In the highlands, Kandy's daytime humidity usually ranges between 70% and 79%.
The mountains and the southwestern part of the country, known as the "wet zone", receive ample rainfall at an average of . Most of the east, southeast, and northern parts of the country comprise the "dry zone", which receives between and of rain annually. Much of the rain in these areas falls from October to January; during the rest of the year there is very little precipitation. The arid northwest and southeast coasts receive the least amount of rain at to per year.
Varieties of flowering acacias are well adapted to the arid conditions and flourish on the Jaffna Peninsula. Among the trees of the dry-land forests, are some valuable species such as satinwood, ebony, ironwood, mahogany and teak. In the wet zone, the dominant vegetation of the lowlands is a tropical evergreen forest, with tall trees, broad foliage, and a dense undergrowth of vines and creepers. Subtropical evergreen forests resembling those of temperate climates flourish in the higher altitudes. Forests at one time covered nearly the entire island, but by the late 20th century lands classified as forests and forest reserves covered around ⅓ of the land.
The Yala National Park in the southeast protects herds of elephant, deer, and peacocks, and the Wilpattu National Park in the northwest preserves the habitats of many water birds, such as storks, pelicans, ibis, and spoonbills. During the Mahaweli Ganga Program of the 1970s and 1980s in northern Sri Lanka, the government set aside four areas of land totalling as national parks. The island has four biosphere reserves, Bundala, Hurulu Forest Reserve, the Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya, and Sinharaja.
The national flower of Sri Lanka is the Nymphaea stellata (Sinhalese Nil Mahanel), the national tree is the Ironwood (Sinhalese Na), and the national bird is the Sri Lanka Junglefowl, which is endemic to the country.