Sinhalese people

The Sinhalese (Sinhala: සිංහල ජාතිය Sinhala Jathiya, also known as Hela) are an Indo-Aryan-speaking ethnic group native to the island of Sri Lanka.[14] They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number greater than 16.2 million.[1][2] The Sinhalese identity is based on language, historical heritage and religion. The Sinhalese people speak the Sinhalese language, an Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists,[15] although a small percentage of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity. The Sinhalese are mostly found in North Central, Central, South, and West Sri Lanka. According to the 5th century epic poem Mahavamsa, and the Dipavamsa, a 3rd–5th century treatise written in Pali by Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese are descendants of settlers who came to the island in 543 BCE from Sinhapura, in India, led by Prince Vijaya.[16]

සිංහල ජාතිය
Sinhalese of India, Mumbai, India, 1897
A Sinhalese man in Mumbai, India in 1897
Total population
c. 17 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Sri Lanka       15,173,820 (74.58%)
 Australia~110,000 (2017)[3]
 United Kingdom~100,000 (2010)[4]
 United States~41,000 (2016)[5]
 Singapore~25,000 (2016)[6]
 Canada19,830 (2006)[7]
 Malaysia~10,000 (2009)[8]
 New Zealand7,257 (2006)[9]
Languages of Sri Lanka: Sinhala
Some English & Tamil
Dharma wheel.svg Theravada Buddhist majority
Gold Christian cross.svg Christian/Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Ethnic groups in northeast South Asia[12]
Tamils (especially Sri Lankan Tamils)[12]
Austro-Asiatic peoples[13]


From the Sanskrit word Sinhala, meaning literally "of lions".[17] Other Sanskrit meaning is 'Sinha' (lion) + 'la' (blood or heart).

The Mahavamsa records the origin of the Sinhalese people and related historical events. It traces the historical origin of the Sinhalese people back to the first king of Sri Lanka, Vijaya, who is the son of Sinhabahu (Sanskrit meaning 'Sinha' (lion) + 'bahu' (hands, feet), the ruler of Sinhapura.[18] According to the Mahavamsa, Sinhabahu was the son of princess Suppadevi of the Vanga, who copulated with the king of the beast, a lion (there is no clear reference in the original text whether it was a lion or a man with lion-like features), and gave birth to a daughter called Sinhasivali and to a son, Sinhabahu,[19] whose hands and feet were like the paws of a lion and who had the strength of a lion. King Vijaya, lineage of Sinhabahu, according to the Mahavamsa and other historical sources, arrived to the island of Tambapanni (Sri Lanka), and gave origin to the lion people, Sinhalese.

The story of the arrival of Prince Vijaya to Sri Lanka, and the origin of the Sinhalese people is also depicted in the Ajanta caves, in a mural of cave number 17.


1 A section of the mural at Ajanta in Cave No 17, depicts the 'coming of Sinhala'.The prince (Prince Vijaya) is seen in both of groups of elephants and riders.
2 The consecration of King Sinhala (Prince Vijaya) (Detail from the Ajanta Mural of Cave No 17).

Coming Of Sinhala (Mural At Ajanta In Cave No 17)
The Consecration Of King Sinhala-Prince Vijaya (Detail From The Ajanta Mural Of Cave No 17)
Historical population
1881 1,846,600—    
1891 2,041,200+10.5%
1901 2,330,800+14.2%
1911 2,715,500+16.5%
1921 3,016,200+11.1%
1931 3,473,000+15.1%
1946 4,620,500+33.0%
1953 5,616,700+21.6%
1963 7,512,900+33.8%
1971 9,131,300+21.5%
1981 10,979,400+20.2%
1989 (est.) 12,437,000+13.3%
2001 13,876,200+11.6%
2011 15,173,820+9.4%
2001 Census was only carried out in 18 of the 25 districts. Source:Department of Census& Statistics[20]
Data is based on
Sri Lankan Government Census.

Early recorded history of the Sinhalese is chronicled in two documents, the Mahavamsa, written in Pāli around the 4th century CE, and the much later Culavamsa (probably penned in the 13th century CE by the Buddhist monk Dhammakitti). These are ancient sources which cover the histories of the powerful ancient Sinhalese kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa which lasted for 1500 years. The Mahavamsa describes the existence of fields of rice and reservoirs, indicating a well-developed agrarian society.

Pre Anuradhapura period

Prince Vijaya and his 700 followers left Suppāraka,[21] landed on the island at a site believed to be in the district of Chilaw, near modern-day Mannar, and founded the Kingdom of Tambapanni.[22][23] It is recorded the Vijaya made his landing on the day of Buddha's death.[24] Vijaya claimed Tambapanni his capital and soon the whole island come under this name. Tambapanni was originally inhabited and governed by Yakkhas, having their capital at Sirīsavatthu and their queen Kuveni.[25] According to the Samyutta Commentary, Tambapanni was one hundred leagues in extent.

After landing in Tambapanni Vijaya met Kuveni the queen of the Yakkhas, who was disguised as a beautiful woman but was really a 'yakkini' (devil) named Sesapathi.[26]

At the end of his reign, Vijaya, having trouble choosing a successor, sent a letter to the city of his ancestors, Sinhapura, in order to invite his brother Sumitta to take over the throne.[27] However, Vijaya had died before the letter had reached its destination, so the elected minister of the people[28] Upatissa, the Chief government minister or prime minister and leading chief among the Sinhalese became regent and acted as regent for a year. After his coronation, which was held in the Kingdom of Tambapanni, he left it, building another one, bearing his own name. While he was king, Upatissa established the new capital Upatissa, in which the kingdom was moved to from the Kingdom of Tambapanni. When Vijaya's letter arrived, Sumitta had already succeeded his father as king of his country, and so he sent his son Panduvasdeva to rule Upatissa Nuwara.[27]

Upatissa Nuwara was seven or eight miles further north of the Kingdom of Tambapanni.[22][23][29] It was named after the regent king Upatissa, who was the prime minister of Vijaya, and was founded in 505 BC after the death of Vijaya and the end of the Kingdom of Tambapanni.

Anuradhapura period

In 377 BC, King Pandukabhaya (437–367 BC) moved the capital to Anuradhapura and developed it into a prosperous city.[30][31] Anuradhapura (Anurapura) was named after the minister who first established the village and after a grandfather of Pandukabhaya who lived there. The name was also derived from the city's establishment on the auspicious asterism called Anura.[32] Anuradhapura was the capital of all the monarchs who ruled from the dynasty.[33]

Rulers such as Dutthagamani, Valagamba, and Dhatusena are noted for defeating the South Indians and regaining control of the kingdom. Other rulers who are notable for military achievements include Gajabahu I, who launched an invasion against the invaders, and Sena II, who sent his armies to assist a Pandyan prince.

Polonnaruwa & Transitional period

King of Kandy
The Flag of the King of Kandy in 1815

During the Middle Ages Sri Lanka was well known for its agricultural prosperity under the Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa during which period the island was famous around the world as the rice mill of the east. Later in the 13th century the country's administrative provinces were divided into three independent kingdoms: Kingdom of Sitawaka, Kingdom of Kotte and the Kandyan kingdom.[34] The invasion by Magha in the 13th century led to migrations by the Sinhalese to areas not under his control. This migration was followed by a period of conflict among the Sinhalese chiefs who tried to exert political supremacy. Parakramabahu VI in the 15th century was the only Sinhalese king during this time who could bring back the unity of the whole island. Trade also increased during this period, as Sri Lanka began to trade Cinnamon and a large number of Muslim traders were bought into the island.[35]

In the 15th century a Kandyan Kingdom formed which divided the Sinhalese politically into low-country and up-country.[35]

Modern history

The Sinhalese have a stable birth rate and a population that has been growing at a slow pace relative to India and other Asian countries.



Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka - Ethnicity 2012
Distribution of majority ethnicity by DS Division according 2012 census

Within Sri Lanka the majority of the Sinhalese reside in the South, Central, Sabaragamuwa and Western parts of the country. This coincides with the largest Sinhalese populations areas in Sri Lanka. Cities with a > 90% population include Hambantota, Galle, Gampaha, Kurunegala, Monaragala, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.[36]

Distribution of Sinhalese in Sri Lanka (2012)[2]
Province Sinhalese
% Sinhalese
 Central 1,687,199 66.00% 11.11%
 Eastern 359,136 23.15% 2.36%
 Northern 32,331 3.05% 0.21%
 North Central 1,143,607 90.90% 7.53%
 North Western 2,030,370 85.70% 13.38%
 Sabaragamuwa 1,657,967 86.40% 10.92%
 Southern 2,340,693 94.96% 15.42%
 Uva 1,017,092 80.80% 6.70%
 Western 4,905,425 84.26% 32.32%
Total 15,173,820 74.80% 100.00%


Sinhalese USC2000 PHS
The spread of Sinhalese language in the United States

Sinhalese people have emigrated out to many countries for a variety of reasons. The larger diaspora communities are situated in the United Kingdom, Australia, United States and Canada among others. In addition to this there are many Sinhalese, who reside in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe, temporarily in connection with employment and/or education. They are often employed as guest workers in the Middle East and professionals in the other regions.

The largest population centres of the Sinhalese diaspora are mainly situated in Europe, North America and Australia. The city of Melbourne contains just under half of the Sri Lankan Australians. The 2011 census recorded 86,412 Sri Lanka born in Australia. There are 73,849 Australians (0.4 of the population) who reported having Sinhalese ancestry in 2006. The Sinhalese language was also reported to be the 29th-fastest-growing language in Australia (ranking above Somali but behind Hindi and Belarusian). Sinhalese Australians have an exceptionally low rate of return migration to Sri Lanka. In the 2011 Canadian Census, 7,220 people identified themselves as of Sinhalese ancestry, out of 139,415 Sri Lankans.[37] There are a small amount of Sinhalese people in India, scattered around the country, but mainly living in and around the northern and southern regions.[38] Sri Lankan New Zealanders comprised 3% of the Asian population of New Zealand in 2001.[39] The numbers arriving continued to increase, and at the 2006 census there were over 7,000 Sri Lankans living in New Zealand. The Sinhalese number about 12,000 in the U.S.[40] The New York City Metropolitan Area contains the largest Sri Lankan community in the United States, receiving the highest legal permanent resident Sri Lankan immigrant population,[41] followed by Central New Jersey and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Many Sinhalese have migrated to Italy since the 1970s. Italy was attractive to the Sinhalese due to perceived easier employment opportunities and entry, compared to other European countries. It is estimated that there are 30,000-33,000 Sinhalese in Italy. The major Sinhalese communities in Italy are located in Lombardia (In the districts Loreto and Lazzaretto), Milan, Lazio, Rome, Naples, and Southern Italy (Particularly Palermo, Messina and Catania). Though Sinhala people in particular and Sri Lankans in general have migrated to the UK over the centuries beginning from the colonial times, the number of Sinhalese people in the UK cannot be estimated accurately due to inadequacies of census in the UK. The UK government does not record statistics on the basis of language or ethnicity and all Sri Lankans are classified into one group as Asian British or Asian Other.

Language and literature

Word Sinhala in Yasarath font
The word Sinhala in Yasarath font.
Ola Scriptures And Art Works Of Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera
An ola leaf manuscript written in Sinhala.

Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, also known as "Helabasa"; this language has two varieties, spoken and written. Sinhala is an Indo-Aryan language within the broader group of Indo-European languages.[15] The early form of the language was brought to Sri Lanka by the ancestors of the Sinhalese people from northern India who settled on the island in the 6th century BCE.[42][43] Sinhala developed in a way different from the other Indo-Aryan languages because of the geographic separation from its Indo-Aryan sister languages. It was influenced by many languages, prominently Pali, the sacred language of Southern Buddhism, and Sanskrit. Many early texts in the language such as the Hela Atuwa were lost after their translation into Pali. Other significant Sinhala texts include Amāvatura, Kavu Silumina, Jathaka Potha and Sala Liheeniya. Sinhala has also adopted many loanwords of foreign origin, including from many Indian such as Tamil and European languages such as Portuguese, Dutch, and English.[44]

Sandesha Kavyas written by Buddhist priests of Sri Lanka are regarded as some of the most sophisticated and versatile works of literature in the world. The Sinhala language was mainly inspired by Sanskrit and Pali, and many words of the Sinhala language derive from these languages. Today some English words too have come in as a result of the British occupation during colonial times, and the exposure to foreign cultures through television and foreign films. Additionally many Dutch and Portuguese words can be seen in the coastal areas. Sinhalese people, depending on where they live in Sri Lanka, may also additionally speak English and or Tamil. According to the 2012 Census 23.8% or 3,033,659 Sinhalese people also spoke English and 6.4% or 812,738 Sinhalese people also spoke Tamil.[45] In the Negombo area bilingual fishermen who generally identify themselves as Sinhalese also speak the Negombo Tamil dialect. This dialect has undergone considerable convergence with spoken Sinhala.[46]

Folk tales like Mahadana Muttha saha Golayo and Kawate Andare continue to entertain children today. Mahadana Muttha tells the tale of a fool cum Pundit who travels around the country with his followers (Golayo) creating mischief through his ignorance. Kawate Andare tells the tale of a witty court jester and his interactions with the royal court and his son.

In the modern period, Sinhala writers such as Martin Wickremasinghe and G. B. Senanayake have drawn widespread acclaim. Other writers of repute include Mahagama Sekera and Madewela S. Ratnayake. Martin Wickramasinghe wrote the immensely popular children's novel Madol Duwa. Munadasa Cumaratunga's Hath Pana is also widely known.


Zahntempel Kandy
The Temple of the Tooth was renovated during the Buddhist revival.

The form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka is known as Theravada (school of elders). The Pali chronicles (e.g., the Mahavansa) claim that the Sinhalese as an ethnic group are destined to preserve and protect Buddhism. In 1988 almost 93% of the Sinhalese speaking population in Sri Lanka were Buddhist.[47] Observations of current religious beliefs and practices demonstrate that Sinhalese as a religious community have complex worldview as Buddhists. Due to the proximity and on some occasions similarity of certain doctrines, there are many areas where Buddhists and Hindus share religious views and practices. This can lead to the opinion that Buddhists have adopted religious elements from Hindu traditions in their religious practices. Some of these practices may relate to ancient indigenous beliefs and traditions on spirits, worship of deities and godlings and some figures appear to demons. Some of these demonic figures are used in healing rituals and may be native to the island.[44][48][49]

Prominent Sri Lankan anthropologists Gananath Obeyesekere and Kitsiri Malalgoda used the term "Protestant Buddhism" to describe a type of Buddhism that appeared among the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka as a response to Protestant Christian missionaries and their evangelical activities during the British colonial period. This kind of Buddhism involved emulating the Protestant strategies of organising religious practices. They saw the need to establish Buddhist schools for educating Buddhist youth and organising Buddhists with new organisations such as the Young Men's Buddhist Association, as well as printing pamphlets to encourage people to participate in debates and religious controversies to defend Buddhism.[50]

There is a significant Sinhalese Christian community, in the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka.[44] Christianity was brought to the Sinhalese by Portuguese, Dutch, and British missionary groups during their respective periods of rule.[51] Most Sinhala Christians are Roman Catholic; a minority are Protestant.[47] Their cultural centre is Negombo.

Religion is considered very important among the Sinhalese. According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 99% of Sri Lankans considered religion an important aspect of their daily lives.[52]


Genetic relationship of Sinhalese to other ethnic groups in a dendogram
Genetic distance of Sinhalese to other ethnic groups in the Indian Subcontinent according to an Alu Polymorphism analysis.

Modern studies point towards a predominantly Bengali contribution and Western Indian (Gujarati) contribution.[12][53] In relation to the former, studies also show the Sinhalese possess a genetic relationship with East Asian and Southeast Asian populations due to their close genetic links to Northeast India.[54][55] Certain Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups and genetic markers of immunoglobulin among the Sinhalese, for example, show East and Southeast Asian genetic influences many of which are also found among certain Northeast Indian populations of whom the Sinhalese are genetically related to.[56][57][58]


Sinhalese culture is a unique one dating as far back as 2600 years and has been nourished by Theravada Buddhism. Its main domains are sculpture, fine arts, literature, dancing, poetry and a wide variety of folk beliefs and rituals traditionally. Ancient Sinhalese stone sculpture and inscriptions are known worldwide and is a main foreign attraction in modern tourism. Sigirirya is famous for its frescoes. Folk poems were sung by workers to accompany their work and narrate the story of their lives. Ideally these poems consisted of four lines and, in the composition of these poems, special attention had been paid to the rhyming patterns. Buddhist festivals are dotted by unique music using traditionally Sinhala instruments. More ancient rituals like tovils (devil exorcism) continue to enthral audiences today and often praised and admired the good and the power of Buddha and gods in order to exorcise the demons.

Folklore and national mythology

According to the Mahavamsa, the Sinhalese are descended from the exiled Prince Vijaya and his party of seven hundred followers who arrived on the island in 543 BCE. Vijaya and his followers were said to have arrived in Sri Lanka after being exiled from the city of Sinhapura in Bengal. The modern Sinhalese people as said in the Mahavamsa were found to be most closely related to the people of North-East India (Bengal).[59][60] It is thought throughout Sri Lanka's history, since the founding of the Sinhalese in the 5th century BC that an influx of Indians from North India came to the island. This is further supported from the Sinhalese language being part of the Indo-Aryan language group. Sinhalese derives from the Maharashtri Prakrit, along with Marathi, Konkani and Dhivehi.[61]


Sinhalese Girl Wearing A Traditional Kandyan Saree (Osaria)-1
Sinhalese girl in Osaria

Traditionally during recreation the Sinhalese wear a sarong (sarama in Sinhala). Men may wear a long-sleeved shirt with the sarong, while women wear a tight-fitting, short-sleeved jacket with a wrap-around called the cheeththaya. In the more populated areas, Sinhalese men also wear Western-style clothing — wearing suits while the women wear skirts and blouses. For formal and ceremonial occasions women wear the traditional Kandyan (Osaria) style, which consists of a full blouse which covers the midriff completely, and is partially tucked in at the front. However, modern intermingling of styles has led to most wearers baring the midriff. The Kandyan style is considered as the national dress of Sinhalese women. In many occasions and functions, even the saree plays an important role in women's clothing and has become the de facto clothing for female office workers especially in government sector. An example of its use is the uniform of air hostesses of Sri Lankan Airlines.[44]


FoodAtUnawatuna RiceAndPrawns
Typical Sri Lankan dish of rice and prawns.

Sinhalese cuisine is one of the most complex cuisines of South Asia. As a major trade hub, it draws influence from colonial powers that were involved in Sri Lanka and by foreign traders. Rice, which is consumed daily, can be found at any occasion, while spicy curries are favourite dishes for lunch and dinner.[62] Some of the Sri Lankan dishes have striking resemblance to Kerala cuisine, which could be due to the similar geographic and agricultural features with Kerala. A well-known rice dish with Sinhalese is Kiribath, meaning "Milk Rice." In addition to sambols, Sinhalese eat "Mallung"- chopped leaves mixed with grated coconut and red onions. Coconut milk is found in most Sri Lankan dishes to give the cuisine its unique flavour.

Sri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. The best known is cinnamon which is native to Sri Lanka. In the 15th and 16th centuries, spice and ivory traders from all over the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. Lamprais rice boiled in stock with a special curry, accompanied by frikkadels (meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked as a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish. Dutch and Portuguese sweets also continue to be popular. British influences include roast beef and roast chicken. Also, the influence of the Indian cooking methods and food have played a major role in what Sri Lankans eat.

The island nation's cuisine mainly consists of boiled or steamed rice served with curry. This usually consists of a "main curry" of fish or chicken, as well as several other curries made with vegetables, lentils and even fruit curries. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and "sambols". The most famous of these is the coconut sambol, made of ground coconut mixed with chili peppers, dried Maldive fish and lime juice. This is ground to a paste and eaten with rice, as it gives zest to the meal and is believed to increase appetite.

Art and architecture

British Museum Asia 45 (cropped)
Gilded bronze statue of the Bodhisattva Tara, from the Anuradhapura period, 8th century.

Many forms of Sri Lankan arts and crafts take inspiration from the island's long and lasting Buddhist culture which in turn has absorbed and adopted countless regional and local traditions. In most instances Sri Lankan art originates from religious beliefs, and is represented in many forms such as painting, sculpture, and architecture. One of the most notable aspects of Sri Lankan art are caves and temple paintings, such as the frescoes found at Sigiriya, and religious paintings found in temples in Dambulla and Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. Other popular forms of art have been influenced by both natives as well as outside settlers. For example, traditional wooden handicrafts and clay pottery are found around the hill country while Portuguese-inspired lacework and Indonesian-inspired Batik have become notable. It has many different and beautiful drawings.

Developed upon Indo-Aryan architectural skills in the late 6th century BCE Sinhalese people who lived upon greater kingdoms such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa have built so many architectural examples such as Ruwanwelisaya, Jetavanaramaya - second tallest brick building in the ancient world after Great Pyramid of Giza, and Abayagiriya - third tallest brick building in the ancient world. And also with the ancient hydraulic technology which is also unique to Sinhalese people to build ancient tanks, systematic ponds with fountains moats and Irrigational reservoirs such as Parakrama Samudra, Kawdulla and Kandalama. Sigirya which consider as the 8th wonder of the world is a combination of natural and man made fortress, which consists so many architectural aspects.


Concerning popular music, Ananda Samarakoon developed the reflective and poignant Sarala gee style with his work in the late 1930s/early 1940s. He has been followed by artists of repute such as Sunil Shantha, W. D. Amaradeva, Premasiri Khemadasa, Nanda Malini, Victor Ratnayake, Austin Munasinghe, T. M. Jayaratne, Sanath Nandasiri, Sunil Edirisinghe, Neela Wickremasinghe, Gunadasa Kapuge, Malini Bulathsinghala and Edward Jayakody.

Film and theatre

Dramatist Ediriweera Sarachchandra revitalised the drama form with Maname in 1956. The same year, film director Lester James Peries created the artistic masterwork Rekava which sought to create a uniquely Sinhala cinema with artistic integrity. Since then, Peries and other directors like Vasantha Obeysekera, Dharmasena Pathiraja, Mahagama Sekera, W. A. B. de Silva, Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, Sunil Ariyaratne, Siri Gunasinghe, G. D. L. Perera, Piyasiri Gunaratne, Titus Thotawatte, D. B. Nihalsinghe, Ranjith Lal, Dayananda Gunawardena, Mudalinayake Somaratne, Asoka Handagama, and Prasanna Vithanage have developed an artistic Sinhala cinema. Sinhala cinema is often made colourful with the incorporation of songs and dance adding more uniqueness to the industry.

In the recent years high budget films like Aloko Udapadi, Aba (film) and Maharaja Gemunu based on Sinhalese epic historical stories gain huge success.

Performing arts

Kandyan Drummer

Performing arts of the Sinhalese people can be categorised into few groups:

  • Kandyan dance consist of 18 Wannam (dance routines) featuring behaviours of various animals such as elephant, eagle, cobra, monkey, peacock and rabbit, mainly performing in Annual Perahara pegent in Sri Dalada Maligawa Kandy.
  • Pahatharata dance have significant dancing style which is using for cure illnesses and spiritual clarification.the main feature in this dances is dancer wear on Masks representing various Gods and Demons.and use elements such as fire and water to bless people.
  • Sabaragamuwa dances have also a significant dancing style mainly to entertain people.
  • Folk Music and Dances differ according to the casts of Sinhalese people and also some times in regional wise - mainly popular among small children, specially girls.These arts are widely performing during Sinhalese New year period.

Martial arts

Angampora high click
Angampora high click.

Angampora is the traditional martial art of the Sinhalese people. It combines combat techniques, self-defence, sport, exercise and meditation.[63] Key techniques observed in Angampora are: Angam, which incorporates hand-to-hand fighting, and Illangam, which uses indigenous weapons such as Velayudaya, staves, knives and swords. Its most distinct feature is the use of pressure point attacks to inflict pain or permanently paralyse the opponent. Fighters usually make use of both striking and grappling techniques, and fight until the opponent is caught in a submission lock that they cannot escape. Usage of weapons is discretionary. Perimeters of fighting are defined in advance, and in some of the cases is a pit.[64][65] Angampora became nearly extinct after the country came under British rule in 1815, but survived in a few families until the country regained independence.[66]

Science and education

Sinhala palm-leaf medical manuscripts, open leaves, large image.
Sinhala ola leaf Medical Manuscripts.

The Sinhalese have a long history of literacy and formal learning. Instruction in basic fields like writing and reading by Buddhist Monks pre-date the birth of Christ. This traditional system followed religious rule and was meant to foster Buddhist understanding. Training of officials in such skills as keeping track of revenue and other records for administrative purposes occurred under this institution.[67]

Technical education such as the building of reservoirs and canals was passed down from generation to generation through home training and outside craft apprenticeships.[67]

The arrival of the Portuguese and Dutch and the subsequent colonisation maintained religion as the centre of education though in certain communities under Catholic and Presbyterian hierarchy. The British in the 1800s initially followed the same course. Following 1870 however they began a campaign for better education facilities in the region. Christian missionary groups were at the forefront of this development contributing to a high literacy among Christians.[67]

By 1901 schools in the South and the North were well tended. The inner regions lagged behind however. Also, English education facilities presented hurdles for the general populace through fees and lack of access.[67]


Traditional Sinhalese villages in early days had at least one chief Medical personnel called Weda Mahaththaya (Doctor). These people practice their clinical activities by inheritance. The Sinhala Medicine resembles some of Ayurvedic practices in contrast for some treatments they use Buddhist Chantings (Pirith) in order to strengthen the effectiveness.

According to the Mahavamsa, the ancient chronicle, Pandukabhaya of Sri Lanka (437 BC-367 BC) had lying-in-homes and Ayurvedic hospitals (Sivikasotthi-Sala) built in various parts of the country. This is the earliest documentary evidence we have of institutions specifically dedicated to the care of the sick anywhere in the world.[68][69] Mihintale Hospital is the oldest in the world.[70]

See also



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  •  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

External links

Aruni Rajapaksha

Aruni Madusha Rajapaksha (Sinhalese: අරුණි රාජපක්ෂ; born 5 January 1984) is a Sri Lankan film actress, model and a TV presenter. She was crowned Miss Sri Lanka in 2007 and had represented Sri Lanka at the Miss Universe 2008 beauty pageant. She also participated for Miss International 2007 and eligible to enter to top 15 list.

Buddhism in Saudi Arabia

The International Religious Freedom Report 2007, of U.S. Department of State, estimated that more than 8 million foreigners are living and working in Saudi Arabia, including Muslims and non-Muslims.

There are 400,000 Sri Lankans, as well as a few thousand Buddhist workers from East Asia, the majority of which are: Chinese, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese. There is also a possibility that a percentage of Nepalese immigrants also help make up the estimated 8 million foreign residents in Saudi Arabia.

This amount of foreign inhabitants makes about 1.5% of Saudi Arabia's population Buddhists, or around 400,000 nominal Buddhists, most likely giving Saudi Arabia the largest Buddhist community in the Middle East or Arab World.

Buddhism in the Maldives

Buddhism in the Maldives was the predominant religion at least until the 12th century CE. It is not clear how Buddhism was introduced into the islands.

Dharmadasa Wanniarachchi

Dharmadasa Wanniarachchi was the seventh Governor of the North Western Province of Sri Lanka.He was also a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament. Wanniarachchi died on 5 October 2007 at the age of 87.

Dilhani Ekanayake

Dilhani Ashokamala Ekanayake (Sinhalese: දිල්හානි ඒකනායක; born 04 March 1970) is an award-winning Sri Lankan Film Actress.As the Sinhala film industry has slumped due to stiff competition from Bollywood and a resurgence of teledramas, Ekanayake is one of the few actors working to keep Sinhala cinema afloat.

Ehelepola Nilame

Ehelapola Wijesundara Wickremasinghe Chandrasekara Amarakoon Wasala Ranamuka Mudiyanse (Sinhalese: ඇහැලේපොළ මහ නිලමේ; 1773 - 1829) known as Ehelapola Nilame was a courtier of the Kingdom of Kandy. He was the 1st Adigar (Maha Adikaram) from 1811 to 1814 under the reign King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. Following the brutal execution of his entire family by the King, he aided the British in launching an invasion of the Kandy Kingdom and was instrumental in the Kandyan Convention that followed which led to the annexed the Kandy Kingdom to the British Empire.

Gamya Wijayadasa

Gamya Wijayadasa (Sinhala:ගම්‍යා විජයදාස) is a Sri Lankan beauty pageant titleholder who won Derana Veet Miss Sri Lanka 2009 and represented Sri Lanka in Miss World 2009 on December 12, 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Jackal's horn

The Jackal's Horn is a boney cone-shaped excrescence which can occasionally grow on the skulls of golden jackals. It is associated with magical powers in South Asia. This horn usually measures half an inch in length, and is concealed by fur.

In the 1800s, the natives of Sri Lanka called this growth narric-comboo, and both Tamil and Sinhalese people traditionally believe it to be a potent amulet which can grant wishes and reappear to its owner at its own accord when lost. Some Sinhalese believe that the horn can grant the holder invulnerability in any lawsuit.According to healers and witch doctors in Nepal, a jackal horn can be used to win in gambling bouts, and ward off evil spirits. The Tharu people of Bardia (Nepal) believe that jackal horns are retractible, and only protrude when jackals howl in chorus. A hunter who manages to extract the horn will place it in a silver casket of vermilion powder, which is thought to give the object sustenance. The Tharu believe that the horn can grant the owner the ability to see in the dark.In some areas, the horn is called Seear Singhi or "Geedhar Singhi" the word "Geedhar" is the Urdu translation of Jackle and (the root words being the Persian "seah" meaning black, and "Singh" which means horn in Hindi and Urdu) and is tied to the necks of children. The horn is sometimes traded by low caste people, though it is thought that they are in fact pieces of deer antlers sold to the credulous.In Bengal, it is believed that when placed within a safe, jackal horns can increase the amount of money within three-fold. Some criminal elements of the Bengal Sansi will use fake jackal horns to lull unwitting people into trusting them, and will offer to place these horns into their victim's safe in order to discover its location.

Niluka Ekanayake

Niluka Ekanayake was the 9th Governor of Sabaragamuwa Province, Sri Lanka. She was in office from 12 April 2018 to 31 December 2018. Ekanayake was an astrologer, before being appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena on 17 March 2016 as the 10th Governor of the Central Province.She was the first transgender woman to hold the post of governor in a Sri Lankan Province.

P. B. Dissanayake

Punchi Banda Dissanayake is a Sri Lankan politician, and the 12th Governor of the Central Province, and the acting Governor of the Uva Province of Sri Lanka. He has previously been the Governor of the North Central Province.

Pooja Umashankar

Pooja Gauthami Umashankar, mononymously known as Pooja, is an Indian-Sri Lankan actress, who has appeared in Tamil films as well as Sinhala, Malayalam and amateur films. Following a series of successful commercial ventures, Bala's Naan Kadavul saw Pooja's performance as a blind beggar praised by the critics, securing major awards, including the South Filmfare and Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. She simultaneously worked in Sinhala cinema and was part of several successful films like Anjalika (2006), Asai Man Piyabanna (2007), Suwanda Denuna Jeewithe (2010) and Kusa Pabha (2012), thus establishing herself as one of the leading actresses of Sinhala cinema.

Puran Appu

Weera-Hennedige Francisco Fernando alias Puran Appu (full name: Weera Sanadhdhana Weera Balasooriya Kuru Uthumpala Arthadewa Gunaratne Nanayakkara Lakshapathi Maha Widanelage Fransisco Fernando) (Sinhala පුරන් අප්පු) is one of the notable personalities in Sri Lanka's history. He was born on November 1812 in the coastal town of Moratuwa. He left Moratuwa at the age of 13 and stayed in Ratnapura with his uncle, who was the first Sinhalese proctor, and moved to the Uva province. In early 1847, he met and married Bandara Menike, the daughter of Gunnepana Arachchi in Kandy. He was captured by the British after the failure of Matale Rebellion along with Gongalegoda Banda and Ven. Kudapola Thera. He was executed by a firing squad on August 8, 1848. His body was buried in Matale.

Sangeetha Weeraratne

Dian Hemamali Sangeetha Weeraratne (born in December 13, 1973 as සංගීතා වීරරත්න [Sinhala]) is a Sri Lankan film actress in the Sri Lankan cinema.She made her debut as a sixteen-year-old with Roy de Silva's It's a Matter of Time opposite Kamal Addararachchi in 1990. However, she earned immense popularity only after performing in H.D. Premaratne's Saptha Kanya, also opposite Kamal Addararachchi in 1993. It was a huge success and she won the Sarasaviya Best Newcomer Award that year. Since then she has acted in over 50 movies and is regarded as one of the most successful stars of the Sri Lankan film industry.

Sarath Chandrasiri Mayadunne

Sarath Chandrasiri Mayadunne is Sri Lankan civil servant and politician. He was the 36th Auditor General of Sri Lanka and was appointed to the Parliament of Sri Lanka in 2015.Graduating from University of Ceylon, Peradeniya with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1970, he became a Chartered Accountant. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation.Joining the Auditor-General's Department, he was appointed Auditor General on 13 August 2000, succeeding S. M. Sabry, and held the office until his retirement from public service on 23 October 2006. He was succeeded by P. A. Pematilaka.He was listed by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna as a national list candidate at the 2015 general election. Following the election Mayadunne was appointed to Parliament as a national list Member of Parliament taking oaths on 1 September 2015, however he resigned two days later on 3 September 2015.

Sinhalese New Year

Sinhalese New Year, generally known as Aluth Avurudda (Sinhalese: අලුත් අවුරුද්ද) in Sri Lanka, is a Sri Lankan holiday that celebrates the traditional New Year of the Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka. It is a major anniversary celebrated by not only the Sinhalese people but by most Sri Lankans. The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the new year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festival has close semblance to the Tamil New year and other South and Southeast Asian New Years. It is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. It is generally celebrated on 13 April or 14 April and traditionally begins at the sighting of the new moon.According to Sinhalese astrology, New Year begins when the sun moves from Meena Rashiya (the house of Pisces) to Mesha Rashiya (the house of Aries). It also marks the end of the harvest season and of spring.

Sri Lankan

Sri Lankan may refer to:

Something of, from, or related to the country of Sri Lanka

A person from Sri Lanka, see Demographics of Sri Lanka

Sinhalese people, an ethnic majority

Sri Lankan Tamils, an ethnic minority

Sri Lankan Moors, an ethnic minority

Sri Lankan Malays, an ethnic minority

Sri Lankan culture

Sri Lankan cuisine

SriLankan Airlines

Sri Lankans in India

Sri Lankans in India mainly refer to Tamil people of Sri Lankan origin in India and non resident Sri Lankans. They are partly who migrated to India and their descendants and mostly refugees from Sri Lanka because of the recently concluded Sri Lankan Civil War. There is also a small population of Sinhalese people in India, numbering about 3,500 and mostly located in Delhi and Chennai.

Stanley Tillekeratne

Stanley Tillekeratne was a Sri Lankan politician. He was the Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament and later was the Governor of the Central Province of Sri Lanka from May 1998 to 2000.

Stanley Tillekeratne had a long liaison with the country's Left movement from 1947 before joining the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1965. He contested and won Kotte on the Communist Party ticket at the July 1960 elections and retained the seat in 1965 for the SLFP. He was reelected in 1970 and was made speaker of parliament, in which role he won the admiration even of his opponents for the impartial manner in which he conducted the affairs of the House. Along with many of the SLFP stalwarts he too suffered defeat at the 1977 poll, but he succeeded in remaining in the public eye as a champion human rights lawyer, especially during the turbulent period of 1989-90. He figured in several groundbreaking cases. At the 1989 elections he was returned to parliament from Colombo district and remained as an MP until his exit in 1994. He was governor of Central province in 1998-2000.

Stephanie Siriwardhana

Stephanie Siriwardhana (Sinhalese: ස්ටෙෆනි සිරිවර්ධන; born 5 February 1988) is a Sri Lankan-Lebanese model and the winner of 2011 Miss Sri Lanka title. As Miss Universe Sri Lanka she represented her country at the 2011 Miss Universe pageant.

Sinhala and
other languages
Writing system
Grammar and
Sri Lankans
See also

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