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Sri Lanka

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Just about the size of Ireland, and hanging almost as an afterthought off the south-eastern tip of India, Sri Lanka is full of geographic, religious and cultural contrasts, with a documented and rich history spanning over two millennia. Its location on the oceanic trade routes ensured that Sri Lanka was known to the ancient civilizations of China, Greece, Rome and Persia, but its proximity to India was the dominating factor in pre-colonial times. The most influential Indian export was Buddhism; introduced to the island in the third century BC, it became a driving force in the foundation of great Sinhalese kingdoms centred in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Buddhism also produced the technological advances that made these civilizations viable; in particular, the remarkable irrigation systems and reservoirs (known as 'tanks'). Many centuries of social and religious development ensued, interspersed with frequent wars against invading Tamils from southern India, who eventually established a permanent base on the northern tip of the island.

When the Portuguese arrived in 1505 there were three primary fiefdoms: the Tamil kingdom based in Jaffna, to the north; and two Sinhalese kingdoms of Kandy and Kotte (near present-day Colombo). The Portuguese dominance lasted for 150 years, followed by a further 150 years of Dutch rule, although both powers' control only extended to the coastal areas, and neither was ever able to conquer the Kandyan kingdom in the central mountains. In 1796 the British ejected the Dutch, and by 1815 they had taken Kandy and established the first unified rule the island had ever known. By the time Ceylon achieved independence in 1948 (the name change to Sri Lanka occurred in 1972), nearly five hundred years of European rule had inescapably imposed itself on the Indian-influenced culture of its ancient origins.
Faces of Sri Lanka
Faces of Sri Lanka
Negombo to Dambulla
Negombo to Dambulla
Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa
Anuradhapura     and Mihintale
Anuradhapura and Mihintale
Sigiriya
Sigiriya
Kandy
Kandy
Tea Country
Tea Country
South Coast - Yala and Tangalle
South Coast - Yala and Tangalle
Galle
Galle