Colombo – the diversity of races, cultures and religions in Sri Lanka

Population, Holidays and Religion of Sri Lanka

By the end of the 20th century, Sri Lanka had a population of about 19 million. Approximately one million Tamil refugees live outside its borders, mostly in India and Canada. The largest ethnic group in the country are the Sinhalese-Buddhists (74 percent of the population), the second largest is the Tamils (18 percent).

Neither of Sri Lanka’s two major nationalities is indigenous, but both have lived on the island for a very long time. Both Tamils and Sinhalese came here from India and both consider Sri Lanka their homeland. Long-standing tensions between the two came to a head in the 1980s, when the Tamils tried to gain equal rights and the Sinhalese wanted to consolidate their dominance.

The sources of these tensions lie in confessional and ethnic differences. The Sinhalese consider the legendary Prince Vijay, a native of North India, as their ancestor. He left his homeland around the fifth century B.C., driven out by his father, the ruler of Sinhabahu. The prince, along with his 700 subjects, sailed from India and after some time landed on the shores of Sri Lanka. The descendants of these men gradually settled the island, founding the first cities here. According to Sri Lanka’s main historical chronicle, the Mahavanshe, Vijaya and his entourage arrived on the island on the same day that the Buddha died in India. This version of events once again confirms the Sinhalese desire to proclaim themselves the true guardians of the Buddhist faith. By that time, the Aryans in India were already in decline, and the Sinhalese, one of the Aryan peoples, moved south to subdue or at least displace the dark-skinned non-Aryan population of the new lands.

Unlike the Sinhalese, the Tamils of Sri Lanka are not a homogeneous ethnic group. Belonging to the same Dravidian people, they are divided into Ceylon Tamils (or Jaffna Tamils) and Indian Tamils. The more numerous Ceylon Tamils consider themselves the descendants of belligerent dynasties that, beginning in the 3rd century B.C., invaded Sri Lanka and seized power over parts of the island.

Today the Ceylon Tamils live mostly in the vicinity of Jaffna and on the eastern coast. As for the Indian Tamils, they are the descendants of Tamils who were resettled from India to Sri Lanka by the British in the 19th century to work on tea plantations. Initially they were only men, but since the 80s of the 19th century, women and even entire families began to arrive on the island. The flow of immigrants grew rapidly, and by the 1920s half a million Tamils were working in tea plantations. Today, most Indian Tamils live in tea-producing areas in the center of the island, although large numbers have also settled in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.

Approximately 3/4 of the Tamils are Hindus, the rest practice Christianity and Islam. Both groups speak Tamil, Dravidian, a language in which many words are borrowed from Sanskrit.

The Tamil language bears little resemblance to Sinhalese; moreover there are two dialects of it, the latter resulting from the settlement of Indian and Ceylon Tamils on the island at different times in history.

The Tamil language has its own alphabet, resembling those of the other

Dravidian languages.

The third largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka are the Moors (7%). They are the descendants of Arabs and Indian traders who have settled on the island since the 7th century A.D. Most of them settled in Sri Lanka due to the commercial potential of the island. Even today, the Moors are mostly engaged in trade, mainly in precious stones. A small proportion of the Moors have Malay roots.

Sicily: sights and interesting places

Today’s Malay Moors live mostly on the south coast, near the town of Hambantota, and are the descendants of Malay sailors and warriors who were brought here by the Dutch. During British rule, regiments of Malay soldiers were stationed in the area of Colombo, called “the island of slaves. Some Malay still retain the language of their ancestors, but they are fewer and fewer in number. The Malay Moors speak Sinhalese, and those living in the north and east of the country speak Tamil.

The ethnic composition of the island is extremely diverse. In addition to the Sinhalese, Tamils, and Moors, there are also Burghers – the descendants of children from marriages of native Sri Lankans with the Portuguese and the Dutch.

In contrast to India, where the descendants of Indian and English marriages were not recognized by either, Sri Lankan burghers often achieved high social status. Both the Dutch and the Portuguese valued them highly. At one time the Portuguese authorities even actively encouraged marriages between their citizens and the natives of the colonies.

After independence most of the English-speaking burghers lost their influence. Many of them emigrated, mostly to the United States and Australia. Today the burghers constitute less than 0.5% of the population of Sri Lanka. Most of them are Christians.

The original inhabitants of Sri Lanka are the Veddas, who inhabited the island long before the Sinhalese and Tamils. Many anthropologists consider the Veddas to be direct descendants of Stone Age people. In some respects they resemble the aborigines of Australia and the Andaman Islands.

As the population grew, the forests on the island were cut down, and the Veddas had to give up their traditional way of life. Today there are only a few hundred members of this ancient people left in Sri Lanka. They are mainly engaged in subsistence farming in the jungles of the province of Uva.

Speaking of the population of Sri Lanka, we can not fail to mention the Chinese, Pakistanis and natives of India – Parsi, Sindh, Kui, and Bohra who practice Islam.

Holidays and Religion

Most of Sri Lanka’s population is Buddhist, but Hinduism is also widespread on the island. There are also Muslims and Christians. Given the great ethnic diversity that distinguishes the population of Sri Lanka, it is not surprising that there are many religious and secular holidays. Some have a fixed date and others are calculated according to the lunar calendar, which changes every year and consists of only 360 days.

This means that Muslim holidays, for example, shift by a few days each year, meaning that their dates are not constant. The only way to determine these dates is to buy the appropriate calendar.

Muslim holidays depend on the time of the new moon. It is much easier to determine the dates of Buddhist holidays, which are usually celebrated on the days of the full moon. For example, the Kandi Perahera festival is celebrated during the full moon in July and August.

Most of the most important holidays in Sri Lanka fall on these months and are celebrated by members of the country’s largest religious communities – Buddhists and Hindus.


Duruthu Perahera. It is celebrated in Colombo. The holiday marks the day the Buddha arrived in Sri Lanka.

February .

Navam Perahera. A colorful festival featuring elephants. The festivities take place over two days on the streets of Colombo near the Gangaramaya Temple.

Annecy - what to see in a small alpine Venice

Independence Day. On the 4th of February. On this day there are parades and performances related to national achievements and culture. Everywhere there is dancing and playing national games.

Mawlid. Feast in honor of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2010 it was celebrated in February.


Sinhalese and Tamil New Year. A traditional holiday marking the transition of the Sun from the constellation of Pisces to the constellation of Aries. Across the island there are elephant races and a variety of games, including coconut and pillow fights.

Labor Day. On this day, labor unions organize processions to celebrate the international holiday of workers. Vesak Full Moon Festival. This is a celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and departure of the Buddha. You’ll see huge illuminated floats – pandals – and colorful performances. Food and drinks are distributed to pilgrims on this day.

Posong Full Moon Festival. It marks the establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka (III century B.C.). The festival is celebrated in most parts of the island with illuminations, shows, and processions.

July / August

Kandi Esala Perahera. The main and most spectacular Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka, lasting ten days. The center of the festivities is the city of Kandy. It is usually here that the grandest procession takes place – with hundreds of elephants, dancers, drummers and torchbearers. Festivities these days can also be seen at Kataragam, Dondra, Bellanville, and Munneshwaram.

Vel. The major annual Hindu festival celebrated throughout the island. On this day the richly decorated chariot of Skanda, god of war, is carried through the city streets from one temple to another. Kataragama. In the city of Cataragama, the Hindu show the wonders of mortification of the flesh.


Deepavali. This is a festival of light celebrated by Hindus in honor of the goddess Lakshmi.

Ramadan. In 2009 it began on August 21, in 2010. – It was August 11.

Eid al-Fitr. Holiday of the end of Ramadan. In 2009 and 2010 it was in September.


Eid al-Adha. In 2009 and 2010, this Muslim holiday fell in November.


The full moon festival of Unduvap (Sangamitta Day). On this day a branch from the Indian tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment was brought to Sri Lanka. During the festival at the sacred tree Bo in Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka, gathers especially many worshippers.

Christmas. Christmas is celebrated very widely on the island, and above all, of course, by local Christians.

Public holidays

Sri Lanka has a huge number of them. On these days, trains and buses are packed with people, and hotel prices skyrocket. Find out which holidays are during your stay so you can plan your trip accordingly.

Despite the crowds and rising prices, the Lankan holidays are spectacular and will be remembered for a long time. The most colorful festival in Asia is Kandy Esala Perahera.

In addition to the holidays already mentioned, there are many other holidays celebrated in the country – Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian. Buddhists, for example, celebrate every full moon; on these days, liquor is sold only in a few tourist centers. Most Hindu and Muslim holidays are celebrated according to the lunar calendar; to find out their exact date, go to



The majority of Sri Lankans (74%, mostly Sinhalese) profess Buddhism and are adherents of the Theravada school, i.e., the Way of the Elders.

  • Theravada focuses on attaining nirvana, while Mahayana is based on the bodhisattva path – the refusal to go to nirvana in order to help others attain enlightenment. The goal of the theravada devotee is to become an arhat, that is, “to attain liberation. This can only be realized by completing the Noble Eightfold Path and getting rid of the “ten fetters” – mistaken notions about the world and life. The Noble Eightfold Path symbolizes the Buddhist scheme of moral and spiritual self-development leading to enlightenment. Here are its stages:
  • right understanding;
  • right intention;
  • right speech;
  • right action;
  • the right way of life;
  • right effort;
  • the right direction of thought;

right concentration.

The foundation of Buddhist thinking is the four Noble Truths that the Buddha set forth in his first admonition. Anyone who comprehends them will receive the coveted liberation. These four Noble Truths are: Dukkha: everything is suffering; Samudaya: the cause of suffering is selfish desire; Nirodha: deliverance from desire brings deliverance from suffering; Magga: the only way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

In addition, all adherents of Buddhism usually commit themselves to the threefold grace of their faith, known as the “three jewels”: they are the Buddha, the dhamma (his sacred teachings) and the sangha (the Buddhist community).


Hinduism in Sri Lanka is the second most common religion. It is practiced by almost all Tamils.

Hinduism recognizes the existence of many deities, with Brahma being the main one. It is a rather eclectic religion, at least it seems so to those who do not practice it. The Hindu pantheon also includes Buddha, considered an incarnation of the great god Vishnu. Like the Buddhists, Hindus also seek to break the seemingly endless cycle of rebirths by attaining enlightenment, which is achieved through god-worship, meditation, asceticism, and selflessness.

Mentorship in Hinduism is provided by priests and gurus. The most revered Hindu gods in Sri Lanka are Skanda, god of war, Vishnu, protector of the universe, Shiva, creator-destroyer, Ganpati, god of wisdom, Lakshmi, giver of wealth, and Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of good luck and patron of learning. Images of Hindu gods can be found in many Buddhist temples. However, Buddha also appears very often in Hindu temples. The two religions are very different, but at the same time are closely related, and this bond was formed over two thousand years.


In Sri Lanka, Islam ranks third in terms of the number of adherents. It is mainly practiced by Moors and Malays, who constitute about 7% of the population. Almost all are Sunnis (orthodox), followers of the Shafi school, which developed in areas near the coast of the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka also has Shia Muslims, mostly Ismaili Bohr.


The Portuguese introduced Christianity to Sri Lankans, therefore Roman Catholicism reigns here. This religion is most common on the west coast, especially in the Negombo region.

Other Faiths

Sri Lanka also has Sikhs and Parsis. The original religion of the Veddas is animistic, but today many of them practice Buddhism.

Sri Lanka – population, faith, language, cities.

I’ve often wondered: what country is Sri Lanka? I have heard the opinion that it is one of the states of India. In fact, it is a separate state, an island, which is located in South Asia and borders on India and the Maldives. Sri Lanka occupies a small place on the world map. The island is 430 kilometers long, 225 kilometers wide, and has an area of about 65,000 square kilometers.

People, Holidays and Religion of Sri Lanka

The state is located near the equator, so the climate here is special. Despite the small area, in different parts of the country can be completely different weather . In one part of the island the sun shines, in another – heavy rains. But the temperature during the day here never drops below +20 degrees.

What ocean washes Sri Lanka

Landmarks of Sri Lanka

The Indian Ocean washes the island from all sides. The water temperature is around 25 degrees all year round. The magnificent beaches, surrounded by palm groves, are a true paradise for tourists. And there are a lot of rivers on the island. When frosts rage in Moscow, here you can enjoy a swim in the warm ocean waters.

The population and the national language of the island

In Sri Lanka, you can meet people of different nationalities. The main part of the population are Sinhalese and Tamils. A total of about 18 million people live on the island, most of whom are rural.

Many live on plantations and on estates. The clothes of the locals are very similar to those of the Hindus. The women wear a lot of jewelry. Almost no one wears shoes.

Pacific coast of Sri Lanka

The official languages in Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil. They are completely different from each other, and have dialects. Fortunately, many people here know English. Therefore, I had no problems with communication on the island.

From the history of the state

Sri Lanka is a country with an interesting and rich history. The island used to be called Ceylon. When I found out about it, I immediately understood where the famous Ceylon tea came from. Until 1948 Sri Lanka was one of Britain’s colonies. The island became an independent republic relatively recently – in 1972. Until that time Ceylon was ruled by the King of England.

The island had to endure a series of ethnic conflicts. And from 1983 to 2009 there was a civil war. Now it is hard to believe that just recently the state was in distress. Thanks to international support and the democratization of society, Sri Lanka has become one of the most desirable places to visit.

Sri Lankan people

Today, the island is ruled by a president. The flag of Sri Lanka is interesting. It doesn’t just have a combination of certain colors on it. The canvas depicts a lion with a sword, there are vertical and horizontal stripes and a framing in the form of a gold frame. The island simply has a royal national symbol, corresponding, in my opinion, to the beauty of the local nature.

What religion do the people of Sri Lanka follow?

People of different nationalities live on the island, respectively, and there are many religions here. The bulk of the population are Buddhists and Hindus. This is not surprising, since many have come here from India. However, there are quite a few Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka.

National Flag of Sri Lanka

Because of the diversity of religions on the island there are many religious festivals. At any time of the year here you can witness fascinating processions, rituals and national entertainment. I was lucky enough to visit Sri Lanka in the summer. This is the time when Kandi Esala Perahera is celebrated here. It is a very important event for Buddhists. In Kandy on this day there is a grand procession with elephants and local artists.

The largest cities of Sri Lanka

  1. I was in Sri Lanka for a few weeks. This allowed me to visit several cities on the island.
  2. Colombo . Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka. It has an international airport where tourists from all over the world fly in. From here you can get to anywhere in the country. In Colombo you can visit shopping malls, see places of interest such as Viharamahadevi Park, the Presidential Palace and the National Palace. There are also temples in Colombo. The city is beautiful, but to enjoy nature, it is better to go inland.
  3. Anuradhapura . This city is called the ancient capital of the state. It was built before our era. Anuradhapura is not made for beach lovers. It attracts pilgrims and those interested in history and religion. Numerous architectural monuments, monasteries, temples and various religious buildings can be seen in Anuradhapura. I was especially impressed by the Lohapasad Palace, also known as the Bronze Palace. This unique nine-story building with numerous columns and a thousand rooms was built 2000 years ago. In no other country have I seen anything like it.
  4. Kandy . It was the city I liked the most among the others I visited. There was an artificial lake of amazing beauty on the outskirts of Kandy. And on its shore is the famous temple of Buddha’s tooth. I knew about this sight for a long time. The building is under the protection of the World Organization of UNESCO. Finally I was able to see it with my own eyes. The temple is located on the grounds of the palace, where you can visit several other attractions.
  5. Halle . This is the largest port on the island, located right on the coast. There are not many attractions here, in addition, it is not recommended to swim on the local beach. For evaluation purposes, if you have time, you can visit this town.

Negombo is one of the largest cities on the island. Be sure to visit the fish market. Such a variety of seafood I have not seen anywhere else. Negombo – a godsend for fans of active summer holidays. Sandy beaches, a huge number of water and land activities are waiting for local tourists. Do not forget to visit the mangrove pakr and bird sanctuary, which are located near the city.

Sacred Temple of Buddha's Tooth

For those who want to learn more and spend a productive time in these cities, I advise to book tours through . Great guys, very professional approach to business!

My recommendations for those who decided to visit Sri Lanka

To avoid unpleasant situations, familiarize yourself with the local customs. There are very religious people here who may react quite nervously to disrespect for their traditions. For example, it is better not to turn your back to the statues of Buddha, do not enter the temple with shoes on, and on no account greet with the left hand. It is also not advisable to pose especially near religious sites.

Important: Do not rent accommodation near temples. The Buddhist prayers begin to be read into the loudspeaker from early in the morning, and then the bells start ringing. It’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep in such conditions. Choose a hotel in advance on and great deals of up to 70% off are often available.

Familiarize yourself in advance with the working hours of the banks. On the island of short working day and a lot of days off. There is a risk to be left without cash. By the way, the time difference between Sri Lanka and Moscow is +3 hours in summer and +2 hours in winter. I learned this only when I was on the island.

If the main purpose of the trip is to enjoy the beaches and nature, choose the southern direction. But do not stop at visiting one city. If possible, explore other areas as well. Sri Lanka is worth it!

Spain: the magical Alhambra
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