In its ancient atmosphere and last but not least the hospitable people. Over the last centuries this island was known of its many names – Lanka, Ceylon, Serendib, Tabrobane and many more. The history of Sri Lanka lies buried in its fertile sands and hidden treasures. An island nation with a history so rich and termed as the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Pre History of Sri Lanka
Recorded history of Sri Lanka began twenty five centuries ago and its pre-history goes back to the Indian epic “The Ramayana”.
The archaeological discovery of human colonization in Sri Lanka appears at the site of Balangoda. These Balangoda people arrived on the island about 34,000 years ago and are identified as Mesolithic hunter gatherers who lived in caves. These natural caves are rich in remains of prehistoric culture. There are several of these caves including the well known Batadomba-lena, the oldest Fa Hien-lena and Beli-lena.
The Sandakelum people probably created Horton Plains, in the central hills, by burning the trees in order to catch game. However, the important evidence of cultivation of oats and barley, at about 15,000 BC suggests that agriculture had already developed at this early date.
Archaeological evidence for Iron Age in Sri Lanka is found at Anuradhapura citadel, where artifacts belonging to the early Iron Age have been found re-excavation, 900 BC.
There is evidence of pottery that has been found at Anuradhapura, bearing Brahmi script and non-Brahmi writing, dating back to 600 BC.
Ancient History of Sri Lanka
Around 500 BC, Sri Lankans archaeological phase developed a unique civilization. And its achievements included cities, palaces, reservoirs, parks, temples, monasteries, monuments and works of art bore testament to the character, imagination, culture, philosophy and faith of the people of Sri Lanka.
Indo-Aryan people emigrated from India, around 400 BC, and mixed with the Hela people and later Buddhism was established to create Sinhalese culture in Sri Lanka.
The famous chronicles of Sri Lanka, the Mahawamsa (“Great Chronicle”), Dipavamsa, Culavamsa (“Little Chronicle”) and Rajaveliya provide an exceptional record of Sri Lankan history.
The Mahawamsa is a chronicle compiled in Pali, according to this Chronicle Vijaya landed on Sri Lanka near Mahathitha (Mannar) and named the Island “Thambaparni” (copper-colored palms).
Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka three times. When he visited Sri Lanka for the 3rd time, he placed his foot mark on Siripada (Adam’s Peak).
Colonial History of Sri Lanka
The first Europeans to visit Sri Lanka were the Portuguese who arrived in 1505. They founded a fort at the port city of Colombo in 1517 and extended their control over the coastal areas and forced the lowland Sinhalese to convert to Christianity. In 1592 the Sinhalese moved their capital to the inland city of Kandy, a location more secure against attack from invaders.
In 1602, when the Dutch captain landed in Sri Lanka, the king of Kandy appealed to him for help. By 1660 the Dutch controlled the whole Island except the kingdom of Kandy. A mixed Dutch-Sinhalese people are known as Burgher people and they are the legacy of Dutch rule in Sri Lanka.
In 1802, the Dutch part of the Island was officially ceded to Britain, and became a crown colony. In 1803 the British invaded the Kingdom of Kandy in the 1st Kandyan War. The 2nd Kandyan War in 1815 finally ended with independence to Sri Lanka in 1948.
The invaders imposed their religion, language, customs, dress, food and their culture on the people in the Island.