Official name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, or, in Sinhalese Sri Lankā Prajathanthrika Samajavadi Janarajaya. Sri Lanka changed its name from Ceylon in 1972.
Its proximity to the Indian subcontinent encouraged close cultural interaction between Sri Lanka and India from ancient times. As a crossroad of maritime routes in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has also been exposed to cultural influences from other Asian civilizations.
Sri Lanka, is one of the smallest of the South Asian nations, 29 km southeast of India across the Palk Strait in the Indian Ocean.
Ancient Greek and Roman geographers called it Taprobane. Arab sailors referred to it as Serendib (origin of the word serendipity). The early Europeans in Asia knew it as Zeilan or Seilan, the Portuguese as Ceylao, and the British as Ceylon.
The Island nation has also been referred to as “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean”.
To the left you’ll see a map of Sri Lanka. Click on it to open a larger image. Look for Colombo on the south west coast. That’s pretty much where I am.
Sri Lanka is approximately 83% Sinhalese (predominantly Buddhist), 9% Tamil (predominantly Hindu), 8% Moor (Arabic – predominantly Muslim), and 1% other. And yes, I know that adds up to more than 100%. 6.4% are Catholic (that’s the percentage quoted in the newspapers on the day I’m writing this) and about 1% are other Christian religions. The Christians are partly of Sinhalese and Tamil descent, as well as the other.
Sri Lanka gained independence from British rule in 1948, just two years after Gandhi gained independence for India.
Sri Lanka is densely populated (744.9 persons per square mile, or 287.6 people per square kilometre). The majority of its people are poor (GNP per capita is $850 USD). Literacy rates are high at 90% (Canada is at 96%, India at 52%). The majority of people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood.