Culture Sri Lanka

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Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka : Discover the country's culture


Lonely Planet Sri Lanka, 11th Edition, August 2009


Sacred, ritual or religious Sri Lankan music is found in the Indian music section of record dealers. Note that the "PÍcheurs de perles" (Pearl fishers), opera by Bizet is performed in ancient Ceylon.

Sri Lanka : Discover the country's history

Historical dates

5th century BC: the founding of the first capital, Anuradhapura.
1st century BC: Tamils invade, and are defeated by the Sinhalese.
500 AD: King Kasyapa founds the capital Sigiriya.
1153-1186: Ceylon under the reign of Parakrama, and the Sinhalese civilisation is at its clilmax.
15th and 16th centuries: first Portuguese trading posts and introduction of Christianism.
Beginning of 19th century: British take over the island. King Kandy escapes to Mauritius.
1948: independence is proclaimed.
1972: Ceylon withdraws from the Commonwealh and becomes Sri Lanka.
1983: riots and curfews. Tamil Tigers massacre soldiers.
1987: peace agreement between India (suporting the Tamils) and the Sinhalese.
1990: Indian troops withdraw. Hostilities resume.
1991: the Minister of Defence is assassinated.
1993: the President is assassinated.
1994: Chandrika Kumaranatunga, Sri Lanka's first, and so far only, female president takes office.
1995: conflict lulls but a serious attack occurs in the centre of Colombo in January 1996.
1997: attack of Tigers close to a big hotel in the capital; 34 deaths.
1998: truck bomb detonates outside the Temple of Dent in Kandy, conflict resumes.
1999: reelection of Chandrika Kumaranatunga for a second term.
end of 1999/early 2000: Several attacks in Colombo and in the rest of the country;
February 2002: a new cease-fire agreement is signed between the Government and freedom-fighters.
2003: Peace talks continue in Thailand, Germany and Japan. April-May, several incidents take place in Muslim regions; civilians killed.
February 2004: The President dissolves the Parliament, and early legislative elections are held on 2 April 2004.
August 2005: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lakshman Kadirgamar, is shot. A member of the Tamil community, he fervently advocated a tough policy against the separatists of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
November 19 2005: Mahinda Rajapaksa elected president, and continues to hold office today. The violence slowed down off after talks in February 2005, but escalated again in April and the conflict continued until the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009.

Sri Lanka : Stay up to date on the country's holidays and events


In January: Maha Shivaratri, Hindu feast of the victory of Good over Evil.
Winter Perahera : eve of the full moon of January in Colombo.
Duruthu, day of the full moon celebrating the visit of Buddha in Kelaniya, commercial capital of Sri Lanka. A grand perahera celebrates this anniversary.
4 February: National Day. celebrating the independence gained in 1948. On this occasion, the national flag is lifted and parades and religious programmes are organised in the cities.
In February : Navam, day of full moonn, celebrating the anointment of the two chief disciples of Buddha in the pre-chistian era.
In March: Feast of Passion celebrated by Catholics.
13 and 14 April: Sinhalese and Tamil New Year feast celebrated throughout the country.
1st May: Labour Day.
Poya Vesak, Buddhist feast celebrating the birth, illumination and death of Buddha.
July-August: Feast of Esala throughout the country. It commemorates the first sermon of Buddha.
Hindu festival of Vel : celebrated in Colombo. Parade of elegantly decorated carts in the city streets.
15 August: Madhu festival celebrated by Catholics.
Nikini is the feast of full moon celebrated in August.
Feast of Light or Deepawali.
Hindu feast celebrating the victory of Good over Evil.
25 December: Christmas is a tradition among the Christian community. Midnight masses are organised in churches where christmas carols are sung in Sinhalese or Tamil!

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