Known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a beautiful Island country that has a deep cultural history. The country has also experienced several economic and political crises, but that hasn’t stopped tourists from visiting the tropical nation. Many fun facts about Sri Lanka make it an intriguing destination.
The country is known for its awe-inspiring landscape, beautiful beaches, and tea gardens, but Sri Lanka is much more than that. Here are some interesting Sri Lanka facts that will help you understand the country’s rich history and culture.
Historical Facts About Sri Lanka
The name Sri Lanka might be new, but the Sinhalese and Tamil people have been living in the region for hundreds of years. So it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Sri Lanka is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Here are some historical facts about Sri Lanka.
It Was Previously Known As Ceylon
Sri Lanka was previously known as Ceylon when it was a British colony and then a British dominion. However, the country changed its name to Sri Lanka once it became a republic nation in 1972.
Sri Lanka also has a few interesting nicknames, including the pearl of the Indian Ocean and the teardrop of India. These names were given to it because of its geographical position.
Lipton Tea Was Founded In Sri Lanka
Lipton Tea is one of the most well-known tea brands in the world. The company was founded by a Scottish businessman Thomas Lipton who bought tea gardens in Sri Lanka back in 1890. Lipton became a global brand in the years to come and generated millions in profit.
Tea is a big part of the culture and goes well with many of the traditional Sri Lankan food.
It Has Been Colonized Multiple Times
Sri Lanka was colonized for a total of 443 years. It was first colonized by the Kingdom of Portugal from the year 1505 to 1658. The Dutch took over in 1658, and the country remained a Dutch colony till 1796. The British were the last to colonize Sri Lanka from 1796 to 1948, after which the country gained its independence.
There Was A Civil War In Sri Lanka For over 25 Years
Sri Lanka was embroiled in a civil war from 1983 to 2009. The conflict started as a result of the political differences between the Tamil Population and the Sinhalese population. It escalated with the Tamil population forming militant groups to claim land and independence from the Sinhalese government.
Over 100,000 people lost their lives due to the conflict. A joint military operation in 2009 led to the death of a large number of militants, including the leader of the rebels.
The Country Experienced A Deadly Tsunami in 2004
One of the biggest dangers that island countries like Japan and Sri Lanka face is the threat of Tsunamis. Where Japan is more prone to Tsunamis, Sri Lanka has fortunately only seen four Tsunamis since 1883.
The country saw one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the country in 2004, when around 30,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives due to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
First Female Prime Minister In The World
Sri Lanka holds the honor of having the first female prime minister in the modern world. No other country before Sri Lanka had ever elected a female prime minister. Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, elected its first female prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike back in 1960.
Cultural Facts About Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a unique culture which can be seen in the way people live and interact with each other. Here are some of the top cultural facts about Sri Lanka.
You Shake Your Head To Say “Yes” in Sri Lanka
In most parts of the world, when people shake their heads after they are asked a question, it means ‘No’; however, in Sri Lanka, when you waggle your head, it actually means ‘Yes.’ You need to be astute in differentiating the ‘Yes’ shake and the ‘No’ shake.
Ceylon Cinnamon Is Native To Sri Lanka
Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and is heavily cultivated in the country. Sri Lanka has high-quality cinnamon with a sweet taste and a pleasant scent. It is one of the most popular spices to come from Sri Lanka, and it is exported to other countries as well.
Cinnamon in Ceylon was known as Kwai, and there are records that show that cinnamon could be found growing in Sri Lanka even around 2800 BC. However, when the region was colonized by Portugal, the process of cinnamon cultivation gained more prominence.
Literacy Rate In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s literacy rate is over 92% which is greater than all other countries in South Asia except for Maldives, which has a literacy rate of over 98%.
Sri Lanka Has One Of The Oldest Flags In The World
Denmark holds the record for the oldest national flag in the world. The design of the flag has been in use since 1625.
However, the Kingdom of Kotte (now Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte) used a similar flag to that of modern-day Sri Lanka back in the 15th century, which makes the design of the Sri Lankan flag older than that of Denmark.
One of the more interesting facts about the Sri Lanka flag is that although the Kotte flag wasn’t exactly the same, it had a lion and four leaves which is also seen on Sri Lanka’s flag.
Sri Lanka was colonized for over 400 years, which is why the country stopped using the traditional flag; however, the country adopted its current flag when it became a republic in 1972.
The Largest Producer Of Coconut Arrack
Coconut is a big part of Sri Lankan culture. Sri Lanka is the largest producer of Coconut Arrack. It is an alcoholic drink with rum, cognac, and coconut sap from the coconut flower as its main ingredients.
Sri Lanka is also the largest exporter of coconut arrack, and it is also known for exporting other coconut-related products, including brown fiber, coconut oil, and coconut water.
Coconuts also feature strongly in Sri Lankan desserts and cuisine.
Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka For Kids
Sri Lanka is not a common topic in education if you are not from the region. But it is certainly worth knowing about. Here are some interesting Sri Lanka facts for kids to pique their interest in the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka Is Full Of Gems
Sri Lanka has an abundance of gemstones, including ruby, different types of sapphires, hessonite garnet, alexandrite, almandine, and many others. There are around 200 different varieties of gemstones, and out of those 200, 75 can be found in Sri Lanka.
Ratnapura is one of the major cities in Sri Lanka, and it is known as the gem capital of the country, as most of the gemstones are mined here.
The Country Owns Several Islets
Sri Lanka itself is an island country, but did you know that the region we refer to as Sri Lanka is only part of the country? The country also owns several islets.
Same as the main island, these small islets also have rich and diverse wildlife. So much so that Sri Lankan authorities have designated some of these smaller islands as Wildlife Parks.
Tourism Industry Is Big In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka generates most of its income from textile, agriculture, tea export, and tourism. The Tourism sector is one of the biggest income generators for the country.
In the past few years, the tourism sector has generated billions of dollars for Sri Lanka. In some cases, it has helped Sri Lanka earn over a billion dollars in just one year. This shows the importance of tourism for Sri Lanka’s economy.
Even in the year 2022, when there was political turmoil in the country, the Tourism sector generated $1.1 Billion.
Fun Sri Lanka Facts For Travelers
Every year thousands of people make their way to Sri Lanka to enjoy their holidays. Here is some information about Sri Lanka that will familiarize travelers with the places that are worth visiting in the country.
The Oldest Living Human Planted Tree Is Located In Sri Lanka
Methuselah Tree, which is over 4850 years old, may be the oldest living tree in the world. However, the title for the oldest living human-planted tree goes to Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka.
The tree was grown from a tree cutting of another tree Sri Maha Bodhi located in India. It was the same tree under which Gautama Buddha got enlightenment which is why it is considered a sacred tree in the Buddhist religion.
However, the original tree was destroyed in the time of Emperor Ashoka, and the tree cutting from brought to Sri Lanka in 288 BC, and it has been planted in Sri Lanka ever since.
Whale Watching In Sri Lanka
When it comes to water activities in Sri Lanka, whale watching is right at the top of the list. If you have never seen a blue whale but are really interested in watching one, then Sri Lanka is the place to be.
As it is an island country, it has a long coastline where you can go on a blue whale-watching adventure. Mirissa is located on the southern coast of the country and is one of the best spots for whale watching in Sri Lanka.
Teeth Of Buddha
The majority of the Sri Lankan population follows Buddhism, so it is only fair to have the teeth of Buddha in Sri Lanka.
That said, there have been many conflicting reports about the authenticity of the tooth. Some experts say that the large size of the tooth means that it actually belongs to an animal.
However, Buddhists believe that when Buddha died, his body was created, and one of his disciples took Buddha’s left canine and gave it to the king at that time, and some years later, the tooth was brought to Sri Lanka.
There Are Eight UNESCO Heritage Sites In Sri Lanka
You can find 8 UNESCO heritage sites in Sri Lanka. These include Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Dambulla Golden Temple, Old Fortifications in Galle, and ancient cities, including Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, and Anuradhapura.
Kandy, the cultural capital of the country, is also considered a UNESCO heritage site. It is one of the many things Sri Lanka is famous for.
Adam’s Peak Is A Sacred Mountain
Adam’s Peak is one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka. It is an important site for four different religions, including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism.
A footprint has been preserved on a rock at the peak of this mountain, and Buddhists believe that it is the footprint of Buddha, while Muslims believe it to be the footprint of Adam, hence the name Adam’s Peak.
The Christians also think of it as Adam’s footprint, and some Christians also believe that it is the footprint of St. Thomas. The Hinduism followers believe that it is the footprint of Shiva or Hanuman, two of Hinduism’s gods.
Common Facts About Sri Lanka
These are some of the general facts about Sri Lanka to know about.
Hydropower Is Well Developed
Many countries in South Asia experience different levels of energy crisis. However, Sri Lanka is doing better in this regard. The country uses Hydropower to produce a good amount of electricity. It also relies on other things like coal power plants to generate energy.
The hydropower system in the country is extremely well-developed. Sri Lanka has a large number of waterfalls, which means that it can generate continuous electricity without any problem.
There Are Two Official Languages
Sri Lanka has two official languages including, Sinhalese and Tamil. English is also referred to as a recognized language in the country.
The National Sport Of Sri Lanka
This may come as a surprise to many people, but the national sport of Sri Lanka isn’t cricket or football (which are two of the most popular sports in the country). The national sport of Sri Lanka is actually volleyball.
Other Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka
In addition, there are many fascinating facts on Sri Lanka that makes the country unique.
Sri Lanka Has A Diverse Wildlife
Sri Lanka may be a small island country, but it has a rich diversity when it comes to wildlife. From land animals to fish to exceptionally beautiful flora, the country is home to some of the most exquisite wildlife.
There are several national parks in the country for the preservation of wildlife. You can see a lot of unique species that are native to Sri Lanka. Blue Magpie, Sri Lankan Leopard, and Sri Lankan Junglefowl are some of the species native to Sri Lanka. Cinnamon trees can also be found in abundance in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has Been Inhabited For Hundreds And Thousands Of Years.
The documented history shows that there were people living in the region around 3000 years ago. However, researchers have also found remains of Balangoda Man which were humans that lived during the Mesolithic era. This means that the island was inhabited even 35000 years ago.
Some experts also believe that there is evidence that humans might have lived on the island around 125000 years ago.
Colombo Lotus Tower Is The Tallest Self Supported Structure In South Asia
The Lotus Tower in Colombo is the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia. It is also the 11th tallest tower in the entire Asian continent. The tower is used primarily for observation and communication.
The holding company earns money by leasing the antenna to the broadcaster. Lotus Tower has 13 floors with several amazing tourist spots, including luxury suites for accommodation.
Discovering More Fun Facts About Sri Lanka
These Sri Lanka facts show the diverse nature of the country along with its rich culture and history. There are many more things to learn about this South Asia gem. Make sure to take some time to explore all the amazing things it has to offer. The country will surprise you, as you uncover more interesting facts about Sri Lanka.