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An island nation that was officially known as Ceylon until 1972, Sri Lanka is situated off India’s southern coast in South Asia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean, Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar and shares maritime borders with India. Its deep harbours and geographic location had earned it a tremendous strategic importance since ancient times through World War II. It is a highly diverse country that has been home to many religions, ethnicities and languages over its long history.

The island embraces beautiful tropical beaches, ancient monuments and flourishing vegetation. The southern portion of the island is rugged hill country while all of the northern part is a large plain spreading out of the hill country to the Jaffna peninsula.

Mainly an agriculture country, it is almost self reliant in its chief crop rice, with tea being the major foreign exchange earner. Other significant crops include rubber, coconut, cocoa and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. It is also a major precious and semi-precious stone exporting country, and the city of Ratnapura is its centre of gem trade. Manufacturing industries offering products like ready-made garments, electronic equipment and leather goods are on the rise as is tourism.

Sri Lanka has a documented history of over three thousand years and is greatly influenced by the Buddhist culture which can be seen in its classical sculpture, architecture and paintings. Stupas dot the countryside and there are a number of lavishly large sculptures of Buddha, those of particular note are found at Aukana, and Buduruvagala, as they come with imposing archaeological heritage. Additionally the country boasts of colonial Dutch fort remnants, churches and British residences. The finest colonial city on the island is Galle.

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Woodcarving, pottery, metalwork and weaving are highly developed crafts. Wood carved Sri Lankan masks are especially noteworthy. Different types of masks are used for varying purposes like dance performances, dramas and rituals based on ancient beliefs. It is believed that the ritual masks have healing powers and can be used to treat different illnesses. 

 

Fast Facts:

Capital:   Colombo

Major Cities:   Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna, Galle

Area:   65,610 sq km or 25,332 sq mi

Currency:   Sri Lanka Rupee

Language:   Sinhala and Tamil (official)

Religion:   Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity

Climate:   Tropical in nature

 

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