Sinhalese people

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Sinhalese people
සිංහල ජනතාව
King of Kandy.svg
Historical flag of the Sinhala Kingdom
Total population
c. 17 million [1]
Regions with significant populations
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka        16.2 million (74.9%)
(2012) [2]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 109,849 (2016) [3]
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom ~100,000 (2010) [4]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States ~41,000 (2016) [5]
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore ~25,000 (2016)[ citation needed ]
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia ~10,000 (2009) [6]
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 9,171 (2018) [7]
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 7,285 (2016) [8]
Flag of India.svg  India ~4,200[ citation needed ]
Hela language (historical)
Predominantly: Dharma Wheel.svg Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
South Asian ethnic groups (especially Bengali People [9] [10] )
Austroasiatic peoples (especially Khmer) [11]

Sinhalese people (Sinhala : සිංහල ජනතාව, romanized: Sinhala Janathāva), are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group of the island of Sri Lanka. They were historically known as Hela people (Sinhala : හෙළ), Ceylonese islanders, and Sinhalese islanders. [12] [13] They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number greater than 16.2 million. [1] [2] The Sinhalese identity is based on language, cultural heritage and nationality. The Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, an insular Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, [14] although a minority of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity and other religions. Since 1815, they were broadly divided into two respective groups: The 'Up-country Sinhalese' in the central mountainous regions, and the 'Low-country Sinhalese' in the coastal regions; although both groups speak the same language, they are distinguished as they observe different cultural customs. [15] [16] According to the Mahavamsa and the Dipavamsa, a 3rd–5th century treatise written in Pali by Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese descend from the Indo-Aryan settlers who came to the island in 543  BCE from Sinhapura, in India, led by Prince Vijaya. [17]



From the Sanskrit word Sinhala, meaning literally "of lions". [18]

The Mahavamsa records the origin of the Sinhalese people and related historical events. It traces the historical origin of the Sinhalese people back to the first king who mentioned in the documentary history of Sri Lanka, Vijaya, who is the son of Sinhabahu (Sanskrit meaning 'Sinha' (lion) + 'bahu' (hands, feet), the ruler of Sinhapura. Some versions suggest Vijaya is the grandson of Sinhabahu. [19] [20] According to the Mahavamsa, Sinhabahu was the son of princess Suppadevi of the Vanga, who copulated with the king of the beast, a lion (there is no clear reference in the original text whether it was a lion or a man with lion-like features) and gave birth to a daughter called Sinhasivali and to a son, Sinhabahu, [21] whose hands and feet were like the paws of a lion and who had the strength of a lion. King Vijaya, the lineage of Sinhabahu, according to the Mahavamsa and other historical sources, arrived on the island of Tambapanni (Sri Lanka) and gave origin to the lion people, Sinhalese.

The story of the arrival of Prince Vijaya in Sri Lanka and the origin of the Sinhalese people is also depicted in the Ajanta caves, in a mural of cave number 17. According to some other sources, because there were four major clans of "hela" in ancient Sri Lanka (hela is another name for Sri Lanka) even before the arrival of Prince Vijaya, Sri Lanka was called as "Siv hela" (siv=four in the Sinhala language) and later it changed into "Sinhala".


Coming Of Sinhala (Mural At Ajanta In Cave No 17).jpg
The Consecration Of King Sinhala-Prince Vijaya (Detail From The Ajanta Mural Of Cave No 17).jpg
1 A section of the mural at Ajanta in Cave No 17, depicts the 'coming of Sinhala'. The prince (Prince Vijaya) is seen in both of groups of elephants and riders.
2 The consecration of King Sinhala (Prince Vijaya) (Detail from the Ajanta Mural of Cave No 17).
Historical population
1881 1,846,600    
1891 2,041,200+10.5%
1901 2,330,800+14.2%
1911 2,715,500+16.5%
1921 3,016,200+11.1%
1931 3,473,000+15.1%
1946 4,620,500+33.0%
1953 5,616,700+21.6%
1963 7,512,900+33.8%
1971 9,131,300+21.5%
1981 10,979,400+20.2%
1989 (est.) 12,437,000+13.3%
2001 13,876,200+11.6%
2011 15,173,820+9.4%
2001 Census was only carried out in 18 of the 25 districts. Source:Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka
& Statistics [22]
Data is based on
Sri Lankan Government Census.

The early recorded history of the Sinhalese is chronicled in two documents, the Mahavamsa, written in Pāli around the 4th century CE, and the later Culavamsa (the first segment probably penned in the 13th century CE by the Buddhist monk Dhammakitti). These are ancient sources that cover the histories of the powerful ancient Sinhalese kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa which lasted for 1500 years. The Mahavamsa describes the existence of fields of rice and reservoirs, indicating a well-developed agrarian society.

Pre Anuradhapura period

Prince Vijaya and his 700 followers left Suppāraka, [23] landed on the island at a site believed by historians to be in the district of Puttalam, south of modern-day Mannar and founded the Kingdom of Thambapanni. [24] [25] It is recorded the Vijaya made his landing on the day of Buddha's Parinirvana. [26] Vijaya claimed Tambapanni his capital and soon the whole island come under this name. Tambapanni was originally inhabited and governed by Yakkhas, having their capital at Sirīsavatthu and their queen Kuveni. [27] According to the Samyutta Commentary, Tambapanni was one hundred leagues in extent. [28]

At the end of his reign, Vijaya, having trouble choosing a successor, sent a letter to the city of his ancestors, Sinhapura, in order to invite his brother Sumitta to take over the throne. [29] However, Vijaya had died before the letter had reached its destination, so the elected minister of the people [30] Upatissa, the Chief government minister or prime minister and leading chief among the Sinhalese became regent and acted as regent for a year. After his coronation, which was held in the Kingdom of Tambapanni, he left it, building another one, bearing his own name. While he was king, Upatissa established the new capital Upatissa, in which the kingdom was moved to from the Kingdom of Tambapanni. When Vijaya's letter arrived, Sumitta had already succeeded his father as king of his country, and so he sent his son Panduvasdeva to rule Upatissa Nuwara. [29]

Upatissa Nuwara was seven or eight miles further north of the Kingdom of Tambapanni. [24] [25] [31] It was named after the regent king Upatissa, who was the prime minister of Vijaya, and was founded in 505 BC after the death of Vijaya and the end of the Kingdom of Tambapanni.

Anuradhapura period

In 377 BC, King Pandukabhaya (437–367 BC) moved the capital to Anuradhapura and developed it into a prosperous city. [32] [33] Anuradhapura (Anurapura) was named after the minister who first established the village and after a grandfather of Pandukabhaya who lived there. The name was also derived from the city's establishment on the auspicious asterism called Anura. [34] Anuradhapura was the capital of all the monarchs who ruled from the dynasty. [35]

Rulers such as Dutthagamani, Valagamba, and Dhatusena are noted for defeating the South Indians and regaining control of the kingdom. Other rulers who are notable for military achievements include Gajabahu I, who launched an invasion against the invaders, and Sena II, who sent his armies to assist a Pandyan prince.

Polonnaruwa and transitional period

The Flag of the King of Kandy in 1815 King of Kandy.svg
The Flag of the King of Kandy in 1815

During the Middle Ages Sri Lanka was well known for its agricultural prosperity under king Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa during which period the island was famous around the world as the rice mill of the east. Later in the 13th century the country's administrative provinces were divided into independent kingdoms and chieftaincies: Kingdom of Sitawaka, Kingdom of Kotte, Jaffna Kingdom and the Kandyan kingdom. [36] The invasion by Magha in the 13th century led to migrations by the Sinhalese to areas not under his control. This migration was followed by a period of conflict among the Sinhalese chiefs who tried to exert political supremacy. Parakramabahu VI in the 15th century was the only Sinhalese king during this time who could bring back the unity of the whole island. Trade also increased during this period, as Sri Lanka began to trade cinnamon and a large number of Muslim traders were bought into the island. [37]

In the 15th century a Kandyan Kingdom formed which divided the Sinhalese politically into low-country and up-country. [37]

Modern history

The Sinhalese have a stable birth rate and a population that has been growing at a slow pace relative to India and other Asian countries.



Sri Lanka

Distribution of majority ethnicity by DS Division according 2012 census Sri Lanka - Ethnicity 2012.png
Distribution of majority ethnicity by DS Division according 2012 census

Within Sri Lanka the majority of the Sinhalese reside in the South, Central, Sabaragamuwa and Western parts of the country. This coincides with the largest Sinhalese populations areas in Sri Lanka. Cities with more than 90% Sinhalese population include Hambantota, Galle, Gampaha, Kurunegala, Monaragala, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. [38]

Distribution of Sinhalese in Sri Lanka (2012) [2]
Province Sinhalese
Sinhalese population
of the province
Provincial contribution to
total population
Central Province.png  Central 1,687,19966.00%11.11%
Eastern Province Flag (SRI LANKA).png  Eastern 359,13623.15%2.36%
Flag of the Northern Province.svg  Northern 32,3313.05%0.21%
North Central Flag.png  North Central 1,143,60790.90%7.53%
North Western Flag.png  North Western 2,030,37085.70%13.38%
Sabaragamuwa Province Flag.png  Sabaragamuwa 1,657,96786.40%10.92%
Flag of the Southern Province (Sri Lanka).PNG  Southern 2,340,69394.96%15.42%
Flag of the Uva Province (Sri Lanka) SVG.svg  Uva 1,017,09280.80%6.70%
Western Province Flag (SRI LANKA).png  Western 4,905,42584.26%32.32%


The spread of Sinhalese in the United States Sinhalese USC2000 PHS.svg
The spread of Sinhalese in the United States

Sinhalese people have emigrated out to many countries for a variety of reasons. The larger diaspora communities are situated in the United Kingdom, Australia, United States and Canada among others. In addition to this there are many Sinhalese, who reside in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe, temporarily in connection with employment and/or education. They are often employed as guest workers in the Middle East and professionals in the other regions.

The largest population centres of the Sinhalese diaspora are mainly situated in Europe, North America and Australia. The city of Melbourne contains just under half of the Sri Lankan Australians. The 2011 census recorded 86,412 Sri Lanka born in Australia. There are 73,849 Australians (0.4 of the population) who reported having Sinhalese ancestry in 2006. Sinhala was also reported to be the 29th-fastest-growing language in Australia (ranking above Somali but behind Hindi and Belarusian). Sinhalese Australians have an exceptionally low rate of return migration to Sri Lanka. In the 2011 Canadian Census, 7,220 people identified themselves as of Sinhalese ancestry, out of 139,415 Sri Lankans. [39] There are a small number of Sinhalese people in India, scattered around the country, but mainly living in and around the northern and southern regions. Sri Lankan New Zealanders comprised 3% of the Asian population of New Zealand in 2001. [40] The numbers arriving continued to increase, and at the 2018 census there were over 16,000 Sri Lankans living in New Zealand [41] among those 9,171 were Sinhalese. [42]

In the U.S, the Sinhalese number about 12,000 people. The New York City Metropolitan Area contains the largest Sri Lankan community in the United States, receiving the highest legal permanent resident Sri Lankan immigrant population, [43] followed by Central New Jersey and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Many Sinhalese have migrated to Italy since the 1970s. Italy was attractive to the Sinhalese due to perceived easier employment opportunities and entry, compared to other European countries. It is estimated that there are 30,000-33,000 Sinhalese in Italy. The major Sinhalese communities in Italy are located in Lombardia (In the districts Loreto and Lazzaretto), Milan, Lazio, Rome, Naples, and Southern Italy (Particularly Palermo, Messina and Catania). It should be noted however that many countries census list Sri Lankan which also includes Sri Lankan Tamils so the numbers of just Sinhalese are not as accurate when the census states Sri Lankan and not Sinhalese. Though Sinhalese people in particular and Sri Lankans in general have migrated to the UK over the centuries beginning from the colonial times, the number of Sinhalese people in the UK cannot be estimated accurately due to inadequacies of census in the UK. The UK government does not record statistics on the basis of language or ethnicity and all Sri Lankans are classified into one group as Asian British or Asian Other.

Language and literature

The word Sinhala in Yasarath font. Word Sinhala in Yasarath font.svg
The word Sinhala in Yasarath font.
An ola leaf manuscript written in Sinhala. Ola Scriptures And Art Works Of Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera.jpg
An ola leaf manuscript written in Sinhala.

Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, also known as "Helabasa"; this language has two varieties, spoken and written. Sinhala is an Indo-Aryan language within the broader group of Indo-European languages. [14] The early form of the language was brought to Sri Lanka by the ancestors of the Sinhalese people from northern India who settled on the island in the 6th century BCE. [44] [45] Sinhala developed in a way different from the other Indo-Aryan languages because of the geographic separation from its Indo-Aryan sister languages. It was influenced by many languages, prominently Pali, the sacred language of Southern Buddhism, Telugu and Sanskrit. Many early texts in the language such as the Hela Atuwa were lost after their translation into Pali. Other significant Sinhala texts include Amāvatura, Kavu Silumina, Jathaka Potha and Sala Liheeniya. Sinhala has also adopted many loanwords of foreign origin, including from many Indian such as Tamil and European languages such as Portuguese, Dutch, and English. [46]

Sandesha Kavyas written by Buddhist priests of Sri Lanka are regarded as some of the most sophisticated and versatile works of literature in the world.[ citation needed ] The Sinhala language was mainly inspired by Sanskrit and Pali, and many words of the Sinhala language derive from these languages. Today some English words too have come in as a result of the British occupation during colonial times, and the exposure to foreign cultures through television and foreign films. Additionally many Dutch and Portuguese words can be seen in the coastal areas. Sinhalese people, depending on where they live in Sri Lanka, may also additionally speak English and or Tamil. According to the 2012 Census 23.8% or 3,033,659 Sinhalese people also spoke English and 6.4% or 812,738 Sinhalese people also spoke Tamil. [47] In the Negombo area bilingual fishermen who generally identify themselves as Sinhalese also speak the Negombo Tamil dialect. This dialect has undergone considerable convergence with spoken Sinhala. [48]

Folk tales like Mahadana Muttha saha Golayo and Kawate Andare continue to entertain children today. Mahadana Muttha tells the tale of a fool cum Pundit who travels around the country with his followers (Golayo) creating mischief through his ignorance. Kawate Andare tells the tale of a witty court jester and his interactions with the royal court and his son.

In the modern period, Sinhala writers such as Martin Wickremasinghe and G. B. Senanayake have drawn widespread acclaim. Other writers of repute include Mahagama Sekera and Madewela S. Ratnayake. Martin Wickramasinghe wrote the immensely popular children's novel Madol Duwa. Munadasa Cumaratunga's Hath Pana is also widely known.


The Temple of the Tooth was renovated during the Buddhist revival. SL Kandy asv2020-01 img33 Sacred Tooth Temple.jpg
The Temple of the Tooth was renovated during the Buddhist revival.

The form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka is known as Theravada (school of elders). The Pali chronicles (e.g., the Mahavansa) claim that the Sinhalese as an ethnic group are destined to preserve and protect Buddhism. In 1988 almost 93% of the Sinhala speaking population in Sri Lanka were Buddhist. [49] Observations of current religious beliefs and practices demonstrate that the Sinhalese, as a religious community, have a complex worldview as Buddhists. Due to the proximity and on some occasions similarity of certain doctrines, there are many areas where Buddhists and Hindus share religious views and practices. Sinhalese Buddhists have adopted religious elements from Hindu traditions in their religious practices. Some of these practices may relate to ancient indigenous beliefs and traditions on spirits (folk religion), and the worship of Hindu deities. Some of these figures are used in healing rituals and may be native to the island. [46] [50] [51] Gods and goddess derived from Hindu deities are worshiped by Sinhalese. Kataragama Deviyo from Kartikeya, Upulvan from Vishnu and Ayyanayake from Aiyanar can be named as examples. Though these gods take the same place as their Hindu counterparts in mythology, some of their aspects are different compared to the original gods. [52]

Prominent Sri Lankan anthropologists Gananath Obeyesekere and Kitsiri Malalgoda used the term "Protestant Buddhism" to describe a type of Buddhism that appeared among the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka as a response to Protestant Christian missionaries and their evangelical activities during the British colonial period. This kind of Buddhism involved emulating the Protestant strategies of organising religious practices. They saw the need to establish Buddhist schools for educating Buddhist youth and organising Buddhists with new organisations such as the Young Men's Buddhist Association, as well as printing pamphlets to encourage people to participate in debates and religious controversies to defend Buddhism. [53]


There is a significant Sinhalese Christian community, in the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka. [46] Christianity was brought to the Sinhalese by Portuguese, Dutch, and British missionary groups during their respective periods of rule. [54] Most Sinhalese Christians are Roman Catholic; a minority are Protestant. [49] Their cultural centre is Negombo.

Religion is considered very important among the Sinhalese. According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 99% of Sri Lankans considered religion an important aspect of their daily lives. [55]


Modern studies point towards a predominantly Bengali contribution and a minor Tamil influence. Gujarati and Punjabi lineages are also visible. [10] [56] In relation to the former, other studies also show the Sinhalese possess some genetic admixture from East Asian and Southeast Asian populations, especially from Austroasiatic groups. [57] [58] Certain Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups and genetic markers of immunoglobulin among the Sinhalese, for example, show East and Southeast Asian genetic influences many of which are also found among certain Northeast Indian populations to whom the Sinhalese are genetically related. [59] [60] [61]


Sinhalese girl in Osariya Sinhalese Girl Wearing A Traditional Kandyan Saree (Osaria)-1.jpg
Sinhalese girl in Osariya
Sinhalese girls in traditional Kandyan dress Women in Traditional Kandyan Dress Wait as Secretary Kerry Meets With Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Samaraweera (17152821338).jpg
Sinhalese girls in traditional Kandyan dress

Sinhalese culture is a unique one dating as far back as 2600 years and has been nourished by Theravada Buddhism. Its main domains are sculpture, fine arts, literature, dancing, poetry and a wide variety of folk beliefs and rituals traditionally. Ancient Sinhala stone sculpture and inscriptions are known worldwide and is a main foreign attraction in modern tourism. Sigirirya is famous for its frescoes. Folk poems were sung by workers to accompany their work and narrate the story of their lives. Ideally these poems consisted of four lines and, in the composition of these poems, special attention had been paid to the rhyming patterns. Buddhist festivals are dotted by unique music using traditionally Sinhalese instruments. More ancient rituals like tovils (devil exorcism) continue to enthrall audiences today and often praised and admired the good and the power of Buddha and gods in order to exorcise the demons.

Folklore and national mythology

According to the Mahavamsa, the Sinhalese are descended from the exiled Prince Vijaya and his party of seven hundred followers who arrived on the island in 543 BCE. Vijaya and his followers were said to have arrived in Sri Lanka after being exiled from the city of Sinhapura in Bengal. The modern Sinhalese people were found genetically to be most closely related to the people of North-East India (Bengal). [62] [63] It is thought throughout Sri Lanka's history, since the founding of the Sinhalese in the 5th century BC that an influx of Indians from North India came to the island.[ citation needed ] This is further supported from Sinhala being part of the Indo-Aryan language group. [64] [ better source needed ]

Traditionally during recreation the Sinhalese wear a sarong (sarama in Sinhala). Men may wear a long-sleeved shirt with a sarong. Clothing varies by region for women. Low country Sinhalese women wear a white Long sleeved jacket, and a tight wrap around skirt, which usually is embedded with a floral or pattern design. As for the up country Sinhalese, women wear a similar outfit, but with a puffed up shoulder jacket, and a tucked in frill that lines the top of the skirt (Reda and Hatte in Sinhala). Traditionally, high caste Kandyan women wear a Kandyan style sari, which is similar to the Maharashtrian sari, with the drape but with a frill lining the bottom half and sometimes puffed up sleeves. It’s also called an Osariya. The low country high caste women wear a South Indian style saree. Within the more populated areas, Sinhalese men also wear Western-style clothing wearing suits while the women wear skirts and blouses. For formal and ceremonial occasions women wear the traditional Kandyan (Osariya) style, which consists of a full blouse which covers the midriff completely, and is partially tucked in at the front. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring the midriff. The Kandyan style is considered as the national dress of Sinhalese women. In many occasions and functions, even the saree plays an important role in women's clothing and has become the de facto clothing for female office workers especially in government sector. An example of its use is the uniform of air hostesses of Sri Lankan Airlines. [46]


Typical Sri Lankan dish of rice and prawns. FoodAtUnawatuna RiceAndPrawns.jpg
Typical Sri Lankan dish of rice and prawns.

Sinhalese cuisine is one of the most complex cuisines of South Asia. As a major trade hub, it draws influence from colonial powers that were involved in Sri Lanka and by foreign traders. Rice, which is consumed daily, can be found at any occasion, while spicy curries are favourite dishes for lunch and dinner. [65] Some of the Sri Lankan dishes have striking resemblance to Kerala cuisine, which could be due to the similar geographic and agricultural features with Kerala. A well-known rice dish with Sinhalese is Kiribath, meaning ‘milk rice’. In addition to sambols , Sinhalese eat mallung , chopped leaves mixed with grated coconut and red onions. Coconut milk is found in most Sri Lankan dishes to give the cuisine its unique flavour.

Sri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. The best known is cinnamon which is native to Sri Lanka. In the 15th and 16th centuries, spice and ivory traders from all over the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. Lamprais, rice boiled in stock with a special curry, accompanied by frikkadels (meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked as a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish. Dutch and Portuguese sweets also continue to be popular. British influences include roast beef and roast chicken. Also, the influence of the Indian cooking methods and food have played a major role in what Sri Lankans eat.

The island nation's cuisine mainly consists of boiled or steamed rice served with curry. This usually consists of a main curry of fish or chicken, as well as several other curries made with vegetables, lentils and even fruit curries. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and sambols. The most famous of these is the coconut sambol, made of ground coconut mixed with chili peppers, dried Maldive fish and lime juice. This is ground to a paste and eaten with rice, as it gives zest to the meal and is believed to increase appetite.

Art and architecture

Gilded bronze statue of the Bodhisattva Tara, from the Anuradhapura period, 8th century. Now housed in the British museum. British Museum Asia 45 (cropped).jpg
Gilded bronze statue of the Bodhisattva Tara, from the Anuradhapura period, 8th century. Now housed in the British museum.

Many forms of Sri Lankan arts and crafts take inspiration from the island's long and lasting Buddhist culture which in turn has absorbed and adopted countless regional and local traditions. In most instances Sri Lankan art originates from religious beliefs, and is represented in many forms such as painting, sculpture, and architecture. One of the most notable aspects of Sri Lankan art are caves and temple paintings, such as the frescoes found at Sigiriya, and religious paintings found in temples in Dambulla and Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. Other popular forms of art have been influenced by both natives as well as outside settlers. For example, traditional wooden handicrafts and clay pottery are found around the hill country while Portuguese-inspired lacework and Indonesian-inspired Batik have become notable. It has many different and beautiful drawings.

Developed upon Indo-Aryan architectural skills in the late 6th century BCE Sinhalese people who lived upon greater kingdoms such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa have built so many architectural examples such as Ruwanwelisaya, Jetavanaramaya - second tallest brick building in the ancient world after Great Pyramid of Giza, and Abayagiriya - third tallest brick building in the ancient world. And also with the ancient hydraulic technology which is also unique to Sinhalese people to build ancient tanks, systematic ponds with fountains moats and Irrigational reservoirs such as Parakrama Samudra, Kaudulla and Kandalama. Sigiriya which is considered by many as the 8th wonder of the world, it is a combination of natural and man made fortress, which consists so many architectural aspects.


There are extensive folk poems relating to specific jobs of the ancient society. These poems were communal songs which had a rhythm that were sung when performing day-to-day tasks like harvesting and sowing. [66]

Concerning popular music, Ananda Samarakoon developed the reflective and poignant Sarala gee style with his work in the late 1930s/early 1940s. He has been followed by artists of repute such as Sunil Shantha, W. D. Amaradeva, Premasiri Khemadasa, Nanda Malini, Victor Ratnayake, Austin Munasinghe, T. M. Jayaratne, Sanath Nandasiri, Sunil Edirisinghe, Neela Wickremasinghe, Gunadasa Kapuge, Malini Bulathsinghala and Edward Jayakody.

Film and theatre

Dramatist Ediriweera Sarachchandra revitalised the drama form with Maname in 1956. The same year, film director Lester James Peries created the artistic masterwork Rekava which sought to create a uniquely Sinhalese cinema with artistic integrity. Since then, Peries and other directors like Vasantha Obeysekera, Dharmasena Pathiraja, Mahagama Sekera, W. A. B. de Silva, Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, Sunil Ariyaratne, Siri Gunasinghe, G. D. L. Perera, Piyasiri Gunaratne, Titus Thotawatte, D. B. Nihalsinghe, Ranjith Lal, Dayananda Gunawardena, Mudalinayake Somaratne, Asoka Handagama, and Prasanna Vithanage have developed an artistic Sinhalese cinema. Sinhala cinema is often made colourful with the incorporation of songs and dance adding more uniqueness to the industry.

In the recent years high budget films like Aloko Udapadi, Aba (film) and Maharaja Gemunu based on Sinhalese epic historical stories gain huge success.

Performing arts

Kandyan drummer GataBeraya.jpg
Kandyan drummer

Performing arts of the Sinhalese people can be categorised into few groups:

Martial arts

Angampora high click. Angampora high click.JPG
Angampora high click.

Angampora is the traditional martial art of the Sinhalese people. It combines combat techniques, self-defence, sport, exercise and meditation. [67] Key techniques observed in Angampora are: Angam, which incorporates hand-to-hand fighting, and Illangam, which uses indigenous weapons such as Velayudaya , staves, knives and swords. Its most distinct feature is the use of pressure point attacks to inflict pain or permanently paralyse the opponent. Fighters usually make use of both striking and grappling techniques, and fight until the opponent is caught in a submission lock that they cannot escape. Usage of weapons is discretionary. Perimeters of fighting are defined in advance, and in some of the cases is a pit. [68] [69] Angampora became nearly extinct after the country came under British rule in 1815, but survived in a few families until the country regained independence. [70]

Science and education

Sinhala ola leaf Medical Manuscripts. Sinhala palm-leaf medical manuscripts, open leaves, large image..JPG
Sinhala ola leaf Medical Manuscripts.

The Sinhalese have a long history of literacy and formal learning. Instruction in basic fields like writing and reading by Buddhist Monks pre-date the birth of Christ. This traditional system followed religious rule and was meant to foster Buddhist understanding. Training of officials in such skills as keeping track of revenue and other records for administrative purposes occurred under this institution. [71]

Technical education such as the building of reservoirs and canals was passed down from generation to generation through home training and outside craft apprenticeships. [71]

The arrival of the Portuguese and Dutch and the subsequent colonisation maintained religion as the centre of education though in certain communities under Catholic and Presbyterian hierarchy. The British in the 1800s initially followed the same course. Following 1870 however they began a campaign for better education facilities in the region. Christian missionary groups were at the forefront of this development contributing to a high literacy among Christians. [71]

By 1901 schools in the South and the North were well tended. The inner regions lagged behind however. Also, English education facilities presented hurdles for the general populace through fees and lack of access. [71]


Traditional Sinhalese villages in early days had at least one chief Medical personnel called Weda Mahaththaya (Doctor). These people practice their clinical activities by inheritance. Sinhalese Medicine resembles some of Ayurvedic practices in contrast for some treatments they use Buddhist Chantings (Pirith) in order to strengthen the effectiveness.

According to the Mahavamsa, the ancient chronicle, Pandukabhaya of Sri Lanka (437 BC – 367 BC) had lying-in-homes and Ayurvedic hospitals (Sivikasotthi-Sala) built in various parts of the country. This is the earliest documentary evidence we have of institutions specifically dedicated to the care of the sick anywhere in the world. [72] [73] Mihintale Hospital is the oldest in the world. [74]

See also

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Sri Lanka Country in South Asia

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia. It lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, and southeast of the Arabian Sea; it is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Sri Lanka shares a maritime border with India and the Maldives. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is its legislative capital, and Colombo is its largest city and financial centre.

History of Sri Lanka Historical aspects of Sri Lanka

The history of Sri Lanka is intertwined with the history of the broader Indian subcontinent and the surrounding regions, comprising the areas of South Asia, Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean.

Anuradhapura City in North Central Province, Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization. It was the third capital of the kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.

<i>Mahāvaṃsa</i> Historical chronicle of Sri Lanka written in Pali language

The Mahavamsa is the meticulously kept historical chronicle of Sri Lanka written in the style of an epic poem written in the Pali language. It relates the history of Sri Lanka from its legendary beginnings up to the reign of Mahasena of Anuradhapura covering the period between the arrival of Prince Vijaya from India in 543 BCE to his reign and later updated by different writers. It was composed by a Buddhist monk at the Mahavihara temple in Anuradhapura about the fifth century A.D. In 2021, a petition was made to declare the original leaf book a UNESCO heritage.

Buddhism in Sri Lanka History and demographics of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon

Theravada Buddhism is the largest and official religion of Sri Lanka, practiced by 70.2 percent of the population as of 2012.

Prince Vijaya King of Tambapanni in Sri Lanka

Prince Vijaya was the first Sinhalese king circa 543–505 BCE as cited in the Sri Lankan chronicle the Mahāvaṃsa. Legends say he and several hundred of his followers came to Sri Lanka after being banished from an Indian kingdom (Sinhapura).

Sinhala Kingdom

The Sinhala Kingdom or Sinhalese Kingdom refers to the successive Sinhalese kingdoms that existed in what is today Sri Lanka. The Sinhala Kingdom existed as successive kingdoms known by the city at which its administrative centre was located. These are in chronological order: the kingdoms of Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Gampola, Kotte, Sitawaka and Kandy. The Sinhala Kingdom ceased to exist by 1815. While Sinhala Kingdom existed from 543 BCE to 1815 CE, other political entities co-existed in Sri Lanka spanning certain partial periods, including the Jaffna kingdom, Vanni chieftaincies and the Portuguese and Dutch colonies. During these partial periods of time, these political entities were not part of the Sinhala Kingdom.

Upatissa is a Sinhala name and may refer to:

Kingdom of Tambapanni

The Kingdom of Tambapaṇṇī was the first Sinhalese kingdom in Sri Lanka. Its administrative centre was based at Tambapaṇṇī. It existed between 543 BC and 437 BC. The Kingdom was founded by Prince Vijaya and his followers.

Anuradhapura period Period in the history of Sri Lanka during the Anuradhapura Kingdom (377 BC-1017 AD)

The Anuradhapura period was a period in the history of Sri Lanka of the Anuradhapura Kingdom from 377 BC to 1017 AD. The period begins when Pandukabhaya, King of Upatissa Nuwara moved the administration to Anuradhapura, becoming the kingdom's first monarch. Anuradhapura is heralded as an ancient cosmopolitan citadel with diverse populations.

Kataragama Place in Sri Lanka

Kataragama is a pilgrimage town sacred to Buddhist, Hindu and indigenous Vedda people of Sri Lanka. People from South India also go there to worship. The town has the Kataragama temple, a shrine dedicated to Skanda Kumara also known as Kataragama deviyo. Kataragama is located in the Monaragala District of Uva province, Sri Lanka. It is 228 km (142 mi) southeast of Colombo. Although Kataragama was a small village in medieval times, today it is a fast-developing township surrounded by jungle in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka.


Rajarata [rā dja ra tə] was one of three historical regions of the island of Sri Lanka for about 1,700 years from the 6th century BCE to the early 13th century CE. Several ancient cities, including Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, were established as capitals within the area by successive rulers. Rajarata was under the direct administration of the King. Two other areas, Malayarata and Ruhunurata, were ruled by the king's brothers "Mapa" and "Epa". The Magha invasion in the 13th century brought about the end of the Rajarata kingdom.

Buddhist scripture condemns violence in every form. Ahimsa, a term meaning 'not to injure', is a primary virtue in Buddhism. This article discusses Buddhist principles with regard to violence, and also provides certain, historical instances concerning the use of violence by Buddhists, including acts of aggression committed by Buddhists with political and socio-cultural motivations, as well as self-inflicted violence by ascetics or for religious purposes. Despite these historical instances, as far as the Buddha's teachings and scriptures are concerned, Buddhism forbids violence for resolving conflicts. Contemporary violence, or the promotion of violence, has been on the rise in some Buddhist communities, most notably the persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar government.

House of Vijaya First recorded Sinhalese royal dynasty that ruled over Sri Lanka

The House of Vijaya was the first recorded Sinhalese royal dynasty that ruled over the island, Sri Lanka. According to Sinhalese folklore Prince Vijaya is the traditional first king of Sri Lanka, founding the Kingdom of Tambapanni and the dynasty subsequently founding the Kingdom of Upatissa Nuwara and finally the Anuradhapura Kingdom.

Throughout its history, Sri Lanka, as it is known today, has been ruled by various monarchial lines, at some times with different lines ruling different parts of the modern state, or the entire state.

Dewa (people) Maritime martial Sinhala caste in Sri Lanka

Dewa people were one of the main 5 types of people who created the coalition of Sinhalese nationality. Sinhalese people, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group of the island of Sri Lanka. They were historically known as Hela people, Ceylonese islanders, and Sinhalese islanders. They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number greater than 16.2 million. The Sinhalese identity is based on language, cultural heritage and nationality. The Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, an insular Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a minority of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity and other religions.

Bibliography of Sri Lanka Wikipedia bibliography

This is a bibliography of works on Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese monarchy Monarchy of Sri Lanka (543 BCE - 1815 CE)

The Sinhalese monarchy has its origins in the settlement of North Indian Indo-Aryan immigrants to the island of Sri Lanka. The Landing of Vijay as described in the traditional chronicles of the island, the Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa and Culavamsa, and later chronicles, recount the date of the establishment of the first Sinhala Kingdom in 543 BC when Prince Vijaya, an Indian Prince, and 700 of his followers landed on the island of Sri Lanka and established the Kingdom of Tambapanni. In Sinhalese mythology, Prince Vijaya and followers are told to be the progenitors of the Sinhalese people. However according to the story in the Divyavadana, the immigrants were probably not led by a scion of a royal house in India, as told in the romantic legend, but rather may have been groups of adventurous and pioneering merchants exploring new lands.

Pre-Anuradhapura period

The Pre-Anuradhapura period of Sri Lankan history begins with the gradual onset of historical records in the final centuries of the prehistoric period and ending in 437 BC. According to the Mahavamsa, the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka are the Yakshas and northern Naga tribes. Sinhalese history traditionally starts in 543 BC at the arrival of Prince Vijaya, a semi-legendary king who was banished from the Indian subcontinent with his 700 followers, and is recorded in the Mahavamsa chronicle. This period was succeeded by the Anuradhapura period.



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