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Sri Lanka Travel Guide


Sri Lanka
(formerly Ceylon)



Sri Lanka's official name is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

LOCATION

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an independent Island-nation.  It is one of the largest islands in the India Ocean and lies approximately 20 miles to the South East of the Southern-most tip of India.  The narrow Palk Strait divides Sri Lanka form India.  25,332 square miles in extent it is approximately the same size as West Virginia in the USA.

HISTORY

The history of Sri Lanka goes back to the pre-historic times with a recorded history of over 2000 years.  Recent excavations show that even during the Neolithic Age in Sri Lanka, there were food-gatherers and rice cultivators.  Very little is known of this period and documented history began with the arrival of the settlers from North India.  They introduced the use of agriculture through a rudimentary system of irrigation.  They also introduced the art of government.  Of the ancient settlements, Anuradhapura grew into a powerful kingdom under the rule of Pandukabhaya.  According to traditional history, he is accepted as the founder of Anuradhapura.

During the region of King Devanampiya Tissa, a descendant of Pandukabhaya, Buddhism was introduced in 247 B.C. by Arahat Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka of India.  This is an important event in Sri Lankan history as it made the country predominantly Buddhist influencing its way of life and culture.

In the mid 2nd century B.C. a large part of North Sri Lanka came under the rule of an invader from South India.  From the beginning of the Christian era and up to the end of the 4th century A.D. Sri Lanka was governed by an unbroken dynasty called Lambakarna, which paid great attention to the development of irrigation.  A great king of this dynasty was King Mahasen (3rd century A.D.) who started the construction of large 'tanks' (reservoirs) which in turn fed smaller reservoirs.  Another great 'tank' builder was Dhatusena, who was put to death by his son Kasyapa, who made Sigiriya a royal city with his fortress capital on the summit of the rock.

As a result of invasions from South India the Kingdom of Anuradhapura fell by the end of the 10th century A.D. Vijayabahu I - repulsed the invaders and established his capital at Polonnaruwa in the 11th century A.D.  Other great kings of Polonnaruwa were Parakrama Bahu the Great and Nissanka Malla, both of whom adorned the city with numerous buildings of architectural beauty.

Invasions continued intermittently and the capital was moved constantly until the Portugese arrived in 1505, when the chief city was esetablished in Kotte, in the western lowlands.  The Portugese came to trade in spices, but stayed to rule until 1658 in the coastal regions, as did the Dutch thereafter.  Dutch rule lasted from 1658 to 1796, in which year they were displaced by the British.  During this period the highland kingdom, with its capital Kandy, retained its independence despite repeated assaults by foreign powers who ruled the rest of the country.  In 1815 the Kingdom of Kandy was ceded to the British who thus established their rule over the whole island.  Modern communications, western medical services, education in English, as well as the plantation industry (first coffee, then tea, rubber and coconut) developed during British rule.  By a process of peaceful constitutional evolution, Sri Lanka won back her independence in 1948 and is now a sovereign republic, with membership in the United Nations Organization (in 1955), the Commonwealth and various other international and regional organizations.

World Heritage Sites: Culminating from the rich, diverse, cultural and historical heritage, UNESCO has designated seven sites as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  They include the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Dambulla Rock Temple, the Galle Fort and the Citadel Kingdom of Sigiriya.

ATTRACTIONS

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Beaches

Negombo
Population: 140,000
Distance from Colombo: 35 km
A characteristic fishing town north of Colombo, it is a mere 6 km from the international airport.  Set amid lush groves of coconut palms, it breathes the spirit of the sea.  Negombo is a gourmet's paradise with seafood in plenty.  Old world fishing craft, like the outrigger canoe and the catamaran, bring seer, skipjack, herring and mullet, pomfret and amber jack, while lobster and prawn are caught in the lagoon.

Mount Lavinia
Distance from Colombo: 12 km
South of Colombo, Mount Lavinia is an immediate city suburb, and the beach was one of the better known, even in colonial times.  It lies alongside a wind-swept headland jutting into the waters of the Indian Ocean.  The Governor's House, built in 1805 by Sir Thomas Maitland, now forms part of the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

Beruwela
Population: 136,000
Distance from Colombo: 55 km
South of Colombo, Berula marks the beginning of a 130 km-stretch of beaches, where resort development has made immense strides in recent years.  Good bathing in the bay all year round.

Bentota
Population: 48,000
Distance from Colombo: 64 km
South of Colombo, the Bentota Resort Complex is a romantic rendezvous of river and sea with several resort hotels.

Hikkaduwa
Population: 97,000
Distance from Colombo: 99 km
South of Colombo, Hikkaduwa is the place for underwater delights.  It is the site of the famed coral gardens - hire a glass-bottomed boat, or goggles and flippers.

Galle
Population: 97,000
Distance from Colombo: 116 km
South of Colombo, Galle is the most important southern town.  It has an old-world charm.  Believed to be the "Tarshish of the Bible", its natural harbor was a famous fort in days gone by.  Galle is famous for its Dutch fort, lace making, ebony carving and gem polishing.

National Parks

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Yala National Park
Situated 309 km south of Colombo, Yala is approximately 1,259 km in extent and is located in the south eastern corner of the island.  Its northern boundaries border the Lahugala Elephant Sanctuary and it has the added bonus of a scenic ocean frontage.

The terrain is varied - flat plains alternating with rocky outcrops.  The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle.  Water holes, small lakes, lagoons and streams provide water for the animals and birds.  The specialty here is the large number of elephants.

Uda Walawe National Park
Situated 170 km southeast of Colombo, the Uda Walawe National Park is approximately 30,821 hectares in extent.  This park - which lies within the Ratnapura and Monaragala Districts - acts as the catchment to the Uda Walawe Reservoir and is located in the Dry Zone.  It comprises grasslands, thorn scrubs, and many valuable species of trees.

Horton Plains
Horton Plains National Park is the only nations park situation in the hill country.  It falls within the Nuwara Eliya district -200 km away from Colombo.  The panoramic beauty of the hill country is witnessed within the park.  Endemic slender loris and endemic purple monkeys are among the animal species that can be seens.

Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is the latest addition to Sri Lanka's national parks and is situated 260 km from Colombo.  All species of waterbirds reside in the country and migrant birds inhabit this Park.

Gal Oya National Park
Situated at Inginiyagala, the Gal Oya National Park is 314 km from Colombo.  It is most renowned for its elephant population.

Wasgamuwa National Park
Situated approximately 200 km away from Colombo, the Wasgamuwa National Park lies within the Polonnaruwa and Matale Districts.  It has the Mahaweli and Amban Rivers at its eastern and western borders.  A tropical, evergreen forest predominates its environment.

Bird Sanctuaries

The sanctuaries at Kumana, 312 km from Colombo, Wirawila 261 km, Bundala 259 km, and Kalametiya 224 km, are all lagoon locations in Sri Lanka's extreme south eastern coast.  The coastal sanctuaries are exotically picturesque with combinations of lagoon, swamp, river, jungle, lake and plain.  Large flocks can be found here of both resident and migrant aquatic birds.

National Zoological Gardens

Situated 11 km from the Fort, the zoo has a fine collection of animals, birds, reptiles and fish from all over the world.  The aquarium is the only one of its kind in Asia and displays over 500 varieties of aquatic life.  Also walk through Aviary, Reptilium, and Butterfly Park.

URBAN CULTURE

Cities and Towns

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Colombo


Population: 700,000
Colombo is a fascinating city, not only for its comfortable blend of East and West, but also for its cozy mixture of the past and present.  It is the commercial capital of the country, and is only 34 kilometers from the international airport.

Attractions: Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, churches, the old parliament building, the zoo, museums, and art galleries.

Kandy
Population: 147,000
Distance from Colombo: 116 km
Sri Lanka's hill capital is, perhaps, its most beautiful town.  It is 488 meters above sea level, and next to Colombo, is Sri Lanka's most visited place.  The focal point of the town is the golden-roofed Dalada Mailgawa, where the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is enshrined.  The highlight of the year is the Esala Perahera, when a replica of the relic casket is taken in procession, accompanied by exotically costumed dancers, drummers and some 100 elephants during ten glittering nights in July/August.  There are numerous shrines and temples in and around Kandy, where you will see rare paintings, frescoes, and stone carvings.

Don't miss the Peradeniya Gardens, with its amazing variety of trees, plants and flowers.  Kandy is an exciting place for shopping, with souvenirs in wood, copper, silver, brass, ebony, and bronze.  Ceramics, lacquer work, handlooms, batiks, jewellery and rush and reed-ware can also be purchased.

Nuwara Eliya
Population: 103,000
Distance from Colombo: 180 km
Set in the heart of tea-country, this beautiful town is where the British succeeded in created an English countryside, with homes in styles from Georgian to Queen Anne.  Well-kept lawns with hedges, and Anglican church, and the famous golf course and beautiful parks give the place an air of nostalgia.  Situated 1,890 meters above sea level, the air is cool and fresh - a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of Colombo.

Close of Nuwara Eliya is Horton Plains, Sri Lanka's highest and most isolated plateau.  Nature lovers will revel in this wide, patna-grass covered plain, the haunt of many wild, yet harmless, animals and the home of many species of birds.  Bridle paths will takey ou to the precipice known as World's End - a sheer drop of 1,050 meters.  Acres and acres of tea with its lush green foliage extend miles across the hills, and no visit to the hill country is complete without a visit to a tea estate, and the chance to purchase some of the worlds finest flavored tea.

Ratnapura
Population: 109,000
Distance from Colombo: 101 km
Sri Lanka's "City of Gems" and the center of its gemming industry.  Gems include sapphire, ruby, cat's eye, alexandrite, topaz, amethyst, aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet and zircon.  Visits to gem mines can be arranged thorugh travel agents.  Gem collections can be seen at the National Museum, Ratnapura, and a number of private museums.

Anuradhapura
Population: 99,000
Distance from Colombo: 206 km
Sri Lanka's first capital is situated in the dry zone.  It is one of Sri Lanka's premier ancient cities.

Attractions:  The sacred Bo Tree, many temples, Brazen Palace, Samadhi Buddha, Kuttam Pokuna, and Mihintale (12 km from Anuradhapura) - a rock dotted with sphrines and dweelings - a grand stairway of 1,840 steps made of granite slabs, leads to a summit with a splendid view of the countryside.

Polonnaruwa
Population: 106,000
Distance from Colombo: 216 km
The island's medieval capital rose to fame after Anuradhapura's decline.  The largest of its many man-made reservoirs, the Parakrama Samudra is larger than the Colombo harbor.

Attractions: Ruins of the king's council chamber, the Royal Citadel, the Kumara Pokuna, the Royal Pavilion, the Vatadage Relic House (which is lavished with moonstones, guardstones, and a sculptured railing), Kiri Vehera, and Gal Vihare.

Sigiriya
Distance from Colombo: 169 km
This rock fortress was a royal citadel for more than 18 years.  In a sheltered pocket, approached by a spiral stairway, are the famous frescoes.  The summit of the rock, with a area of nearly one hectare, was the site of the old palace - the outer wall of which was built on the very brink of the precipice.  The UNESCO-sponsored Central Cultural Fund has restored Sigiriya's 5th century Water Gardens to its former glory.

Dambulla
DIstance from Colombo: 148 km
Like Sigiriya, Damulla is a vast isolated rock mass, which houses a rock temple (formerly caves).  Some of its frescoes are over 2,000 years old - and there is a colossal figure of the recumbent Buddha carved out of the rock, some 14 meters long.

MUSEUMS

National Museum, Colombo
Situated in Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 7.  It is the first public museum to be established in Sri Lanka (1877).  Best known for its collection of antiques and objects displaying the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka, including national treasures of artifacts from all parts of the island.  A section of the first floor houses the Puppetry and Children's Museum.  It also houses a library with a collection of about 500,000 books, and more than 4,000 ancient palm leaf manuscripts. (Tel. 694767-8)

National Museum of Natural History
Situated in the same premises as the Cultural Museum, it is also accessible from Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7.  Displays the Natural Heritage of Sri Lanka.  Fauna are displayed in dioramas, and there are sections on applied botany, geology and fossils and the natural environment.

In the Discovery Room one finds the mounted skeleton of an elephant and a scale model in relief showing the topography of a part of Sri Lanka.  (Tel: 694767-8)

The Dutch Period Museum
Situated at Kimara Weediya, Pettah, Colombo 11, the old "Dutch House" in Prince Street, Pettah, which houses this museum was built in the latter part of the 17th century.  It was the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow.  Today, the sides of the street are filled with boutique and stores of traders.  This building embodies the unique architectural features of a colonial Dutch townhouse.  The museum, while displaying the Dutch legacy with artifacts - viz. furniture, ceramics, coins, arms, etc. - portrays facets of contemporary life and culture. (Tel: 448466)

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Kandy Museum
Situated behind the Temple of the Tooth, in a building of historical and architectural interest.  Its collections are all of the Kandyan period in the 17th-18th Century. (Tel: 08 223867)

Ratnapura Museum
The National Museum, Ratnapura, is housed in the famous Ehelapola Walauwa, on the Colombo Road in Ratnapura.  The museum displays the prehistory of Sri Lanka.  Ratnapura being famous for gems, the process of gem-mining is displayed through a model.  Some of the artifacts displayed here reflect the unique arts and culture of the Sabaragamuwa Province.  (Tel: 045 22451)

Anuradhapura Folk Museum
The Fold Museum is in the sacred city close to the Archaeological Museum.  It houses a collection of artifacts which illustrate the rural life of the North Central Province. (Tel: 025 22589)

Galle Cultural Museum
Within the Fort of Galle, in a Dutch Colonial building in Church Street, is the Cultural Museum adjoining the New Oriental Hotel.  Its artifacts reflect the culture of the Southern Province. (Tel: 09 32051)

The National Maritime Museum, Galle
Located within the Galle Fort in a colonial Dutch warehouse with imposing pillars, this museum displays the fauna and flora of the sea and the environment.  Artifacts consist of preserved material and scale models of whales and fish. (Tel: 09 42261)

ART GALLERIES

The Art Gallery
The Art Gallery at Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, COlombo 7, caters to conservative tastes in paintings. (Tel: 693965)

The Lionel Wendt Art Gallery
The Lionel Wendt Art Gallery at Guildford Crescent, Colombo 7, displays contemporary paintings. (Tel: 659794)

Kalagaraya
Kalagaraya, the permanent art gallery of the Alliance Francaise de Colombo, is located at 54, Ward Place, Colombo 7, and displays a representative collection of contemporary art.

The Sapumal Foundation
The Sapumal Foundation Gallery at 32/4, Barnes Place, Colombo 7, displays and sells Sri Lankan paintings from 1920 onwards. (Tel: 695731)

SRI LANKA TODAY

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

LIFE

Are You Living It?
The sheer variety of topography, ecology and cultural diversity that is found in Sri Lanka sets the island apart from many other travel destinations in the world.  Indeed, the country can boast of every conceivable landscape other than snow-capped habitats.  From golden beaches caressed by the Indian Ocean, the island's multitudinous layers slope upwards for form plains, paddy fields and dense forests.  Streams cascade into waterfalls and rapids to become sedate rivers before they flow into the open expanses of the sea.

For a country with one of the highest population densities in the world, Sri Lanka is also remarkable in that 13 percent of its land area is designated for wildlife and nature conservation.  In the annals of time, the world's first recorded wildlife sanctuary was declared in 3BC at Mihintale.  UNESCO has declared seven World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, one of which - the Dutch fortification at Galle - is a living World Heritage Site.

With 242 known species of butterflies, 435 recorded birds, 92 species of mammals, 107 species of fish, 54 species of amphibia, 74 species of tetrapod reptiles and 81 species of snakes, Sri Lanka is set apart as one of the most biodiverse eco-travel destinations in the world.

An Eco-Tourist's Paradise
Sri Lanka has something to offer everyone.  On the adventure side of eco-tourism, it has the potential to become one of the great adventure destinations in the world.  A rocky, mountainous core rises in three peneplains, or steps, from the center of the island.  Sheer rock faces abound in an island dissected with ridges and moutain ranges.  No less than 103 rivers cascade down to the ocean, allowing plenty of scope for canoeing and whitewater rafting.  Anything from easy, grade one stretches, to hair-raising grade six rapids, to make even a seasoned rafter's heart pump fast, is available.  Sri Lanka's potential  for scuba diving is probably understated.  In addition to the well=known reefs, several others lie unexplored, off the routine diving-circuit.

It is probably in trekking that Sri Lanka has the potential to stake a claim as a premier soft-adventure destination.  Being a relatively compact island, it is not too difficult to design a trekking circuit that will run from the cool highlands to the humid, lowland rain-forests, or the parched dry-lowlands dotted with ancient lakes and the remains of great ancient  civilizations.  A trek can start at altitudes where temperatures drop below freezing, and end only a few days later, in an almost desert-like environment.  The mountainous core and two seasonal monsoons work to produce markedly different climatic zones in a relatively small area.  Trekkers can experience montane forests, alpine grasslands, tea estates, paddy fields and scrub jungles, all in the space of a week.

In the forested areas, migratory tree warblers, thrushes and cuckoos can be found.  Reservoirs in the dry zone attract numerous types of ducks, whilst large water birds - including storks, herons and egrets - can be easily spotted in areas such as Bundala, Kalametiya and Wirawila in the extreme south-eastern coast.  The eastern lagoons in the island, particularly Bundala, are especially famous for migrating flocks of flamingos.

Fauna
Of the 92 species of mammals in Sri Lanka, 14 of which are endemic, pride of place goes to the majestic elephant.  Although rapid destruction of its habitat has affected the elephant population, sizeable numbers can be seen in Gal Oya, Udawalawe National Park and the Kaudulla Minneriya Forest Complex.  The Elephant Orphanage, situated at Pinnawela, was the world's first sanctuary for lost and abandoned elephants.

Despite human encroachment, the island's biggest cat - the leopard- continues to prowl the remaining small forest areas.  Many species of deer - the Sambar, the Hog Deer and the Mouse Deer - as well as the Sloth Bear, can be found in the Parks.  Other mammals such as the Wild Boar, Porcupine and Monkey - especially the Grey Mangu - are common throughout the island.  In the north-western seagrass beds, the protected Dugong can still be spotted.  The Bear Monkey, a sub-species of the endemic Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is confined to the  montage region, whilst the others are found across the humid areas of the country.  The highest endemic number of mammals in Sri Lanka are amongst the shrews, and the largest group of mammals - consisting of 36 species - are bats.

Butterflies
To the naturalist, Sri Lanka offers a tantalizing array of interesting and unique butterfly forms.  Of the 242 known species, 42 are endemic to the island.  Butterflies are found in the lower foothill regions 9up to 910 meters) and a few (six species) can be glimpsed at about 1,210 meters.  Most species are closely associated with medicinal plants which are used by the butterfly larvae as sources of food.  A spectacular scene is the seasonal migration during March and April when tradition has it that they fly towards "Samanala Kande" (Butterfly Peak), the local name for the mountain more commonly known as "Sri Pada" or "Adam's Peak".

Aquatic Life
With cascading waterfalls and as many as 103 rivers, all major groups of vertebrates can be found in Sri Lanka.  Of these, the highest endemic species are found in the amphibian and reptile group.  Most of the 107 species of fish are marsh and river dwelling, the 39 endemic species - the Carplet group - being restricted to the perennial streams of the wet zone.  The British introduced trout into the clear, cold streams of Horton Plains.  Of the 54 species of amphibia, 33 are endemic to the island.  According to ongoing research, the largest number of endemic amphibian fauna in the world may soon be found in Sri Lanka.  One endemic genus, the Nannophyrus, with three species, is common on the wet zone living on rock ledges, covered by a continuous trickle of water, and sharing the same habitat with tadpoles.

Ayurveda
Ayurveda is nature's way of caring and curing.  The preparation of ayurvedic medication is usually a long process with ingredients being ground in a pestle for a prescribed period of time.  Juices and extracts of plants are simmered until they reduce to a fraction of their original volume.  Besides decoctions, wines, pills and powders for internal use, ayurveda also uses poultices, pastes, ointments and oils for external application.  The methods of ayurvedic treatment vary from steam baths to massages, and recommended codes for healthy living which include dietary and socio-cultural practices.  Ayurveda is a cure for a lifetime and a way of life.  Generations of Sri Lankans continue to use these age-old remedies, living to a ripe old age in excellent physical and mental condition.  Together with its meditative aspects, ayurveda is a gentle and relaxed treatment for both mind and body resulting in tranquility, zest and energy.

Golf
It is almost 125 years since the Royal Colombo Golf Club was inaugurated.  The stone was laid and a course was built on the Galle Face esplanade.  The Royal Colombo is the second oldest Royal Golf Club outside the British Isles, with the Royal Calcutta Golf Club established 175 years ago identified as the oldest.  During this period of time, every imaginable game was played on Galle Face and the playing area was so impossibly crowded, that golf was getting choked due to unlawful encroachment.

In 1895, the Colonial Secretary, a rabid golfer himself, moved in and brought immense relief to all golfers when, in consultation with Governor Sir Joseph West Ridgeway, he offered the Alfred Model Farm - named after the son of Queen Victoria - to the Golf Club.  In December 1896, the course was opened by Governor Ridgeway and since then the Royal Colombo Golf Club course has been named Ridgeways, and today, after much restructuring, the course is an absolute beauty comparable with the best in the region.

The Victoria Golf Club at Digana can also match any course in the region, and when the Pelawatte Course is ready, Sri Lanka will have four courses to accommodate the present increasing demand for world-class facilities.

The Nuwara Eliya Golf Club has been redeveloped with tremendous changes to the fairways and greens.  The landscaping is splendid, and the accommodation and restaurant have been jazzed up, assuring golfers of a pleasant and friendly service.

But the showpiece remains the Royal Colombo Golf Club, which has been redesigned by architects of world repute, Donald Steel and Martin Ebert.  The course is absolutely beautiful and the Club House is studded with comfortable and roomy foyers, a spacious Coffee Shop and much privacy in a fine Dining Room named Ridgeways.

Cricket
Every since Sri Lanka became World Champions, in 1996, cricket has been more than just a game for Sri Lankans.  While the game itself is played on every available strip of land, the exploits of the national team are followed by virtually the entire population.  Sri Lanka crick's superstars, such as Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, are heroes to almost every schoolboy in the country.

Cricket is now big business in Sri Lanka, with the bet teams in the world touring the country on a regular basis.  And, with these teams come their bands of traveling supporters.  Sri Lanka Tourism has been restructuring itself to cater to this new sports-tourist, with new facilities being developed in the vicinity of the nation's international sports stadiums - in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, and most recently, in Dambulla.

The Lion Flag (Sinha Kodiya) of Sri Lanka
The National Flag of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

History
The original Lion Flag has existed since ancient times, and is said by some, to be the oldest flag or banner in the world, over 2500 years old.  Legend has it that it was brought to Sri Lanka by Prince Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhala race and used subsequently by Sri Lanka's monarch including the warrior King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century, and the King of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte; until it was finally lowered in the Hill Capital of Kandy in March 1815, when the last king Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe was captured and Sri Lanka came under British rule.

Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 within the British Commonwealth; and once again the ancient Lion Flag was hoisted alongside the Union Jack as a symbol of the transfer of power from Britain to Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Description
The original royal Sinhala banner of a golden lion bearing a sword in its right paw, on a crimson background, now stands for a Sinhala majority.  Representing the minorities are two vertical stripes of equal size in the ratio of 1:7 of the entire flag.  These stripes also symbolize national unity.  The whole flag is enclosed by a yellow border except the hoist.  The saffron stripe represents the Tamils and the green stripe represents the Muslims. The border around the flag represents other minor races. 

The stylized Bo leaves is a heraldic motif denoting Sri Lanka as a Buddhist country, with a love of peace and respect for religion.  Today, the four leaves represent the four important religions of Sri Lanka - Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.  The crimson background indicates perserverance and self-sacrifice.  The lion as King of the Beasts and Lord of the Jungle indicates power, prestige and forthrightness.  The raised tail stands for fearless determination in ensuring that right is might.  The sword depicts Justice.

The lion flag of Sri Lanka today is a blend of old and new.  The lion symbol occupies a pride of place in all national affairs.  It is derived from the ancient name of the Island - Sinhale; and has greater significance in that the "Lion" King Sinha (Prince Vijaya's father) was the father of the Sinhala race.  Cultural artifacts such as the sacred and ornamental sculptures; architecture; the gold coinage of the era of Parakramabahu the Great; literature of the Sri Jayewardenaura Kotte, all stress the importance of the lion.

This flag, sacred in its antiquity, is the nation's inspiration to strive incessantly for all that is good and noble.

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Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Information provided by the Sri Lanka Embassy.

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