This week, we are showcasing Sri Lanka, a South Asian island country. Sri Lanka is located in the Indian Ocean and is separated from India by the Palk Strait, a 40-mile inlet. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the country’s legislative capital, and Colombo its largest city and center of commerce.
Sri Lanka traces its history back to migrations from India spanning from the 3rd century BCE. The island has a rich history of Buddhism. The Pāli Canon—the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition—was first written down in Sri Lanka in 29 BCE. In addition to this strong Buddhist tradition, Sri Lankan society has also been influenced by Hinduism and Islam.
The symbol of a lion on the Sri Lankan flag dates back to the 5th century. According to legend, Prince Vijaya arrived from Sinhapura (“Lion City”) in India. Since that time, the island’s Sinhalese majority adopted The Lion Flag, except when Sri Lanka was conquered by foreign invaders. In 1948, after nearly 150 years of British rule, Sri Lanka became an independent country. The Lion Flag was once again hoisted in celebration. The minorities of Sri Lanka, however, felt like the Lion Flag did not represent them. In 1951, the parliament commissioned that two vertical stripes be added, green for Muslims and orange for Tamils. In 1972, leaves from the Bodhi tree were added to indicate the influence Buddhism has in Sri Lanka and to represent Buddhism’s four virtues of kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity
Sri Lankan culture is heavily influenced by religion. In a 2018 poll, 99% of polled individuals reported that religion is an important part of their daily lives. The Buddhist community observes Poya Days once per month when the moon is full. All practicing Buddhists within Sri Lanka meditate, reflect, and put particular importance on the five precepts of Buddhism. The Hindu and Muslim communities observe their own holidays. Sports, especially cricket, also play an important part of cultural life. The country has a rich artistic tradition, with distinct creative forms that encompass music, dance, and the visual arts.