History of Sri Lanka


History of Sri Lanka


The history of Sri Lanka begins around 30,000 years ago when the island was first inhabited. Chronicles, including the Mahawansa, the Dipavamsa, the Culavamsa and the Rajaveliya, record events from the beginnings of the Sinhalese monarchy in the 6th century BC; through the arrival of European Colonialists in the 16th century; and to the disestablishment of the monarchy in 1815. Some mentions of the country are found in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Lankavatara Sutra Mahayana Buddhism texts of Gautama Buddha's teachings. Buddhism was introduced in the 3rd century BC by Arhath Mahinda (son of the Indian emperor Ashoka the Great).

From the 16th century, some coastal areas of the country were ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Sri Lanka was ruled by 181 Kings and Queens from the Anuradhapura to Kandy periods. After 1815 the entire nation was under British colonial rule and armed uprisings against the British took place in the 1818 Uva Rebellion and the 1848 Matale Rebellion. Independence was finally granted in 1948 but the country remained a Dominion of the British Empire. In 1972 Sri Lanka assumed the status of a Republic. A constitution was introduced in 1978 which made the Executive President the head of state. The Sri Lankan Civil War began in 1983, including an armed youth uprising in 1987–1989, with the 25 year-long civil war ending in 2009.

(REF : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sri_Lanka)


Prehistoric era of Sri Lanka


The earliest archaeological evidence of human colonization in Sri Lanka appears at the site of Balangoda. Balangoda Man arrived on the island about 34,000 years ago and have been identified as Mesolithic hunter gatherers who lived in caves. Several of these caves, including the well known Batadombalena and the Fa-Hien Rock cave, have yielded many artifacts from these people who are currently the first known inhabitants of the island.

Balangoda Man probably created Horton Plains, in the central hills, by burning the trees in order to catch game. However, the discovery of oats and barley on the plains at about 15,000 BC suggests that agriculture had already developed at this early date.

Several minute granite tools (about 4 centimetres in length), earthenware, remnants of charred timber, and clay burial pots date to the Mesolithic stone age. Human remains dating to 6000 BC have been discovered during recent excavations around a cave at Varana Raja Maha vihara and in the Kalatuwawa area.

Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and has been found in Ancient Egypt as early as 1500 BC, suggesting early trade between Egypt and the island's inhabitants. It is possible that Biblical Tarshish was located on the island. James Emerson Tennent identified Sri Lanka with Galle.

The protohistoric Early Iron Age appears to have established itself in South India by at least as early as 1200 BC, if not earlier (Possehl 1990; Deraniyagala 1992:734). The earliest manifestation of this in Sri Lanka is radiocarbon-dated to c. 1000-800 BC at Anuradhapura and Aligala shelter in Sigiriya (Deraniyagala 1992:709-29; Karunaratne and Adikari 1994:58; Mogren 1994:39; with the Anuradhapura dating corroborated by Coningham 1999). It is very likely that further investigations will push back the Sri Lankan lower boundary to match that of South India.

Archaeological evidence for the beginnings of the Iron age in Sri Lanka is found at Anuradhapura, where a large city–settlement was founded before 900 BC. The settlement was about 15 hectares in 900 BC, but by 700 BC it had expanded to 50 hectares.A similar site from the same period has also been discovered near Aligala in Sigiriya.who still live in the central, Uva and north-eastern parts of the island, are probably direct descendants of the first inhabitants, Balangoda man. They may have migrated to the island from the mainland around the time humans spread from Africa to the Indian subcontinent.

(REF : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sri_Lanka)


The first king Vijaya


The Pali chronicles, the Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Thupavamsa and the Chulavamsa, as well as a large collection of stone inscriptions,the Indian Epigraphical records, the Burmese versions of the chronicles etc., provide information on the history of Sri Lanka from about the 6th century BC.The Mahavamsa, written around 400 AD by the monk Nagasena, using the Deepavamsa, the Attakatha and other written sources available to him, correlates well with Indian histories of the period. Indeed Emperor Ashoka's reign is recorded in the Mahavamsa. The Mahavamsa account of the period prior to Asoka's coronation, 218 years after the Buddha's death, seems to be part legend. Proper historical records begin with the arrival of Vijaya and his 700 followers. Vijaya was a Vangan (now Bengal, India) prince, the eldest son of King Sinhabahu ("Man with Lion arms") and his sister Queen Sinhasivali who had their capital at Sihapura (now Singur in West Bengal, India). Both these Sinhala leaders were supposedly born of a mythical union between a lion and a human princess. The Mahavamsa claims that Vijaya landed on the same day as the death of the Buddha. The story of Vijaya and Kuveni (the local reigning queen) is reminiscent of Greek legend and may have a common source in ancient Proto-Indo-European folk tales.

According to the Mahavamsa, Vijaya landed on Sri Lanka near Mahathitha (Manthota or Mannar[16]), and named on the island of Thambaparni ("copper-colored sand"). This name is attested to in Ptolemy's map of the ancient world. The Mahavamsa also describes the Buddha visiting Sri Lanka three times. Firstly, to stop a war between a Naga king and his son in law who were fighting over a ruby chair. It is said that on his last visit he left his foot mark on Siripada ("Adam's Peak").

(REF : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sri_Lanka)


Anuradhapura Kingdom


In the early ages of the Anuradhapura Kingdom the economy was based on farming and they made their early settlements mainly near the rivers of the east, north central, and north east areas which had the water necessary for farming the whole year round. The king was the ruler of country and responsible for the law, the army, and being the protector of faith. Devanampiya Tissa (250-210 BC) who was Sinhalese was friendly with the King of the Maurya clan. His links with Emperor Asoka led to the introduction of Buddhism by Mahinda (son of Asoka) around 247 BC. Sangamitta (sister of Mahinda) brought a Bodhi sapling via Jambukola (Sambiliturei). This king's reign was crucial to Theravada Buddhism and for Sri Lanka.

Elara (205-161 BC) was a Tamil King who ruled "Pihiti Rata" (Sri Lanka north of the mahaweli) after killing King Asela. During Elara's time Kelani Tissa was a sub-king of Maya Rata (in the south-west) and Kavan Tissa was a regional sub-king of Ruhuna (in the south-east). Kavan Tissa built Tissa Maha Vihara, Dighavapi Tank and many shrines in Seruvila. Dutugemunu (161-137 BC), the eldest son of King Kavan Tissa, at 25 years of age defeated the South Indian Tamil invader Elara (over 64 years of age) in single combat, described in the Mahavamsa. The Ruwanwelisaya, built by Dutugemunu, is a dagaba of pyramid-like proportions and was considered an engineering marvel.

Pulahatta (or Pulahatha), the first of The Five Dravidians, was deposed by Bahiya. He in turn was deposed by Panaya Mara who was deposed by Pilaya Mara, murdered by Dathika in 88 BC. Mara was deposed by Valagambahu I (89-77 BC) which ended Tamil rule. The Mahavihara Theravada Abhayagiri ("pro-Mahayana") doctrinal disputes arose at this time. The Tripitaka was written in Pali at Aluvihara, Matale. Chora Naga (63-51 BC), a Mahanagan, was poisoned by his consort Anula who became queen. Queen Anula (48-44 BC), the widow of Chora Naga and of Kuda Tissa, was the first Queen of Lanka. She had many lovers who were poisoned by her and was killed by Kuttakanna Tissa. Vasabha (67-111 AD), named on the Vallipuram gold plate, fortified Anuradhapura and built eleven tanks as well as pronouncing many edicts. Gajabahu I (114-136) invaded the Chola kingdom and brought back captives as well as recovering the relic of the tooth of the Buddha.

There was a huge Roman trade with the ancient Tamil country (present day Southern India) and Sri Lanka, establishing trading settlements which remained long after the fall of the Western Roman empire.During the reign of Mahasena (274-301) the Theravada (Maha Vihara) was persecuted and the Mahayanan branch of Buddhism surfaced. Later the King returned to the Maha Vihara. Pandu (429) was the first of seven Pandiyan rulers, ending with Pithya in 455. Dhatusena (459-477) "Kalaweva" and his son Kashyapa (477-495), built the famous sigiriya rock palace where some 700 rock graffiti give a glimpse of ancient Sinhala

(REF : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sri_Lanka)




Also view other kingdom's details
Kingdom of Ruhuna
Kingdom of Polonnaruwa
Kingdom of Dambadeniya
Kingdom of Jaffna
Kingdom of Gampola
Kingdom of Kotte
Kingdom of Sitawaka
Kingdom of Kandy

Colonial Sri Lanka


Portuguese Era

The first Europeans to visit Sri Lanka in modern times were the Portuguese: Lourenço de Almeida arrived in 1505 and found that the island, divided into seven warring kingdoms, was unable to fend off intruders. The Portuguese founded a fort at the port city of Colombo in 1517 and gradually extended their control over the coastal areas. In 1592 the Sinhalese moved their capital to the inland city of Kandy, a location more secure against attack from invaders. Intermittent warfare continued through the 16th century.

Many lowland Sinhalese were forced to convert to Christianity while the coastal Moors were religiously persecuted and forced to retreat to the Central highlands. The Buddhist majority disliked the Portuguese occupation and its influences, welcoming any power who might rescue them. When the Dutch captain Joris van Spilbergen landed in 1602 the king of Kandy appealed to him for help.

(REF : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sri_Lanka)



Dutch era

Rajasinghe II, the king of Kandy, made a treaty with the Dutch in 1638 to get rid of the Portuguese who ruled most of the coastal area of the island. The main conditions of the treaty were that the Dutch should handover the coastal areas they capture to the Kandyan king and the king should grant the Dutch a monopoly over trade on the entire island. The agreement was breached by both parties. By 1660 the Dutch controlled the whole island except the kingdom of Kandy and it was not until 1656 that Colombo fell. The Dutch (Protestants) persecuted the Catholics and the remaining Portuguese settlers left the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims alone. The Dutch taxed the people far more heavily than the Portuguese had done.

In 1659 the British sea captain Robert Knox landed by chance on Sri Lanka and was captured by the king of Kandy, along with sixteen sailors. He and another sailor escaped 19 years later and he wrote an account of his stay. This helped to bring the island to the attention of the British.A legacy of the Dutch period in Ceylon are the Dutch Burghers, a people of mixed Dutch and local origin. A later definition of the Burgher people of Ceylon was handed down in 1883 by the Chief Justice of Ceylon, Sir Richard Ottley.

(REF : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sri_Lanka)



British era

During the Napoleonic Wars Great Britain, fearing that French control of the Netherlands might deliver Sri Lanka to the French, occupied the coastal areas of the island (which they called Ceylon) with little difficulty in 1796. In 1802 the Treaty of Amiens formally ceded the Dutch part of the island to Britain and it became a crown colony. In 1803 the British invaded the Kingdom of Kandy in the first Kandyan War, but were repulsed. In 1815 Kandy was occupied in the second Kandyan War, finally ending Sri Lankan independence.

Following the suppression of the Uva Rebellion the Kandyan peasantry were stripped of their lands by the Wastelands Ordinance, a modern enclosure movement, and reduced to penury. The British found that the uplands of Sri Lanka were very suitable for coffee, tea and rubber cultivation. By the mid-19th century, Ceylon tea had become a staple of the British market bringing great wealth to a small number of white tea planters. The planters imported large numbers of Tamil workers as indentured labourers from south India to work the estates, who soon made up 10% of the island's population.[citation needed] These workers had to work in slave-like conditions living in line rooms, not very different from cattle sheds.

The British colonialists favoured the semi-European Burghers, certain high-caste Sinhalese and the Tamils who were mainly concentrated to the north of the country. Nevertheless, the British also introduced democratic elements to Sri Lanka for the first time in its history and the Burghers were given degree of self-government as early as 1833. It was not until 1909 that constitutional development began, with a partly elected assembly, and not until 1920 that elected members outnumbered official appointees. Universal suffrage was introduced in 1931 over the protests of the Sinhalese, Tamil and Burgher elite who objected to the common people being allowed to vote.

(REF : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sri_Lanka)