AYUBOWAN / (ආයුබෝවන්) is uniquely a Sri Lankan form of courteous greeting, spoken with the palms placed together as if in prayer.
SIZE: 65,606 sq. kms.
LOCATION: 880 kms north of the equator.
CAPITAL: Sri Jayewardenapura, Kotte
Population: 21.5 Million
The history of Sri Lanka stretches back over 2500 years, its very beginnings are lost in myth and legend,and the arrival of Prince Vijaya, an exile from North India with his entourage of 700 followers. However, the earliest recorded civilization dates back to 380 BC, when Anuradhapura was established as the first capital city. Following the advent of Buddhism a civilization rich in Indo-Aryan culture took root. Since Vijaya, there have been many great Kings who built great cities with their dagoba‘s, palaces, pleasure gardens, a rich art and architecture and gigantic irrigation works – many of which are still in use today.
With the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505, what followed was a period of nearly five hundred years during which the island came under the control and influence of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. While the Portuguese and Dutch ruled over the maritime regions for a rough 150 years each, the British established complete control over the island with the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. The British too ruled for 150 years before the country regained independence in 1948.
The impact of many cultures, over the centuries, from South Indian to the Moorish and that of the western colonization have resulted in the country’s culture being enriched by a rich diversity much of which is in evidence today. The island’s economy has traditionally been based on agriculture with rice as the main food crop.
Spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and pepper have been age-old exports, as were gems and even peacocks and elephants. With western commercial influence, rice gave way to cash crops, until the British made tea the base of the economy. The new thrust in the economy is an export-led industry. Agriculture is now being revived. Non-traditional exports such as textiles and garments, tea, diamonds, gem & jewellery, petroleum products, rubber products, seafood, foliage, cut flowers and tropical fish and value added agro-industries have in recent years contributed to the economic advance of Sri Lanka.
The people of Sri Lanka are of diverse races and faiths. The majority are Sinhalese who are Buddhists, while among the minorities the Tamils mainly Hindus are the largest, followed by the Moors and Malays, who follow Islam, and sharply declining number of Burghers, descended from the Portuguese and Dutch, who are Christians. There is also a considerable population of Christians among the Sinhalese and Tamils.
The country was the first in South Asia to move away from a State-centered economic structure and embrace a private sector led market oriented economy. The opportunities are many for foreign investment, with almost all exchange controls relaxed and many incentives given for foreign investment. Free Trade Zones, repatriation of profit, widespread education, a sophisticated middle class and a newly emerging capital market, have made Sri Lanka most attractive to foreign investors in the past decade.
Although well on the road to modernization, the country and its people still cherish most of their traditional values and take pride in their rich culture. An aspect which continues to attract visitors from abroad, as much as the beauty and diversity of scenery and the warmth and friendship of the people.