Known as the ‘tear of India’ for its shape, Sri Lanka is a Southern Asian country surrounded by the Indian Ocean and is located south of India. Many may have heard of the tragic history of this country, which was plagued by a civil war that lasted 30 years, arising from political conflicts between the Sinhalese (the majority race) and the Indian Tamils (a minority race). The war only ended when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was defeated by the Sri Lankan military. Looking beyond its war-ridden past, Sri Lanka currently boasts the highest literacy rate in South Asia with 92% of the population being literate, and most of its electricity is derived from hydro-powered energy due to the prominence of waterfalls in the country. Sri Lanka has certainly seen a post-war boost in tourism, with tourists from all over visiting this exquisite country well known for its many places of religious and historic significance.
Being a country where majority of the population are Buddhists (approximately 70%), one can expect to find many monuments and attractions related to the religion. The Dambulla Cave Temple is one example. Situated in the central province of the country, this UNESCO world heritage site has a total of 153 statues of Buddha, 3 statues of Sri Lankan Kings, and 4 of gods and goddesses. Besides the statues, there are many murals and paintings spread across the 5 caves that the temple is consisted of, most dating back to the 19th century.
Another popular site to visit is Adam’s Peak; considered to be the most sacred mountain in the country. Pilgrims from all over climb to its peak to view a 1.8m tall rock formation which, in Buddhist tradition, has an indentation considered to be the footprint of Buddha. It does however, also hold religious significance to the Muslims, Christians, and Hindus.
When Sri Lanka was formally known as ‘Ceylon’ while it was still under British rule, the British introduced tea into the country by bringing in a tea plant from China to Ceylon and planting it in the Royal Botanical Gardens. Little did they know how much Ceylon tea’s popularity would grow, and Sri Lanka is now the 4th largest producers of tea in the world, and it is one of the country’s main exports, making up approximately 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP).
Besides their tea, Sri Lanka also has cuisine well worth the try. Sri Lankan dishes usually include main staples such as rice, spices, coconut, and in fact have influences from South Indian, Indonesian, and even Dutch culture. Sour fish curry is one of the favourite curry dishes available, along with other traditional favourites such as Kottu; a spicy dish made from stir-fried roti (bread), sometimes with vegetables, eggs or meat, and Hoppers; a dish described as the ‘hot new pancakes’, which is based on fermented butter and made from coconut milk, some spices, and rice flour.
Not forgetting about Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture, you will certainly be amazed at the traditional celebrations and festivals held in the country. Kandy Esala Perahera, also known as ‘The Festival of the Tooth’, is held every July and august in Kandy; a major city in Sri Lanka. An annual procession is held with many acts such as fire-dancers, musicians, and even an elephant parade, to commemorate the arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka from India during the 4th century CE.