Thursday, 23 May 2013

For beaches and balmy weather, head to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean, has an area of 65,610 sq. km. The country is bordered by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait.

Bundala, Hurulu Forest Reserve, the Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya and Sinharaja are the four biosphere reserves of the country. The official languages of the island country are Sinhalese and Tamil. The multicultural country has inhabitants following four major religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.

Sinhalese was the earliest population of the country. It is believed that they had travelled to the island from northern India during the 6th century BC. The Sinhalese civilization accepted Buddhism and began to flourish in the north-central part of the island. The population inhabited this part of the island from 200 BC till 1200 AD.  The Sinhalese were pushed southwards due to the invasions from southern India.

In 1505, Portuguese traders travelled to the island in search of cinnamon and other spices. They inhabited the coastal areas of the island and spread Christianity. In 1658, the Dutch supplanted the Portuguese. The British occupied the country in 1796 and ejected the Dutch.

The King of Kandy was defeated by the British in 1815. Thereafter, they established a plantation economy based on tea, rubber and coconuts. The country was granted complete independence on February 4, 1948. Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon till 1972.

The culture of the country is strongly influenced by the previous colonisations of the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British. Sri Lankan music has been influenced by the Theravada sect of Buddhism. Uda Rata Natum, Pahatha Rata Natum and Sabaragamuwa Natum are the native dance forms of the country.

The country is famous for satinwood, ebony, ironwood, mahogany and teak. Varied water birds like storks, pelicans, ibis and spoonbills inhabit the country. Sri Lanka Junglefowl is the national bird of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka, being a multicultural society, celebrates festivals like Sinhala and Tamil New Year Festival. Ramadan and Esala Perahera, the grand festival of Esala are the other festivals celebrated in the country.

Sri Lanka can be visited throughout the year. The South-west coast and the hills can be visited from November to April, while the east coast can be visited from May to September. However, the ideal tourist season throughout the island is from December to March.