The Sri Lankan culture is a mixture of modern elements with traditional facets. Regional diversity it posses is a result of its blending with the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the West Asian, the Middle Eastern, the South East Asian and the South Asian subcontinent.
Theravada Buddhism plays a major role in shaping the lifestyle of Sri Lanka. It has affected Sri Lankan culture in great proportions.
The influence the Buddhist philosophy has in Sri Lankan culture is predominantly strong in southern and central regions of Sri Lanka.
History has it that the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505. Sri Lanka was then known to the civilization of the world as Serendib.
Their occupation of the maritime region changed the culture of that region. The Dutch fought the Portuguese and was in power from 1658 – 1796.
The imprint of their influence also became a lasting one with certain Dutch words that have been assimilated into Sinhala.
Then came the British. They who fought the Dutch came into power in 1802. However, it is with the fall of the indigenous Kingdom in Kandy in 1815 that Sri Lanka became an English crown Colony completely.
The European influence on Sri Lankan culture has had a long lasting influence. By way of customs, language, religion and the Roman-Dutch law that still prevails they encapsulated Sri Lankan culture with a twist of their own valued European cultural elements.
The influence it had on shaping marvels of architectural feat seen in churches and residences, its forts, hospitals etc. is vibrant and conspicuous.
In fact with the Portuguese occupation the European influence gave a different twist to Sri Lankan culture.
However, prior to that the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Arabs and the Indians visited Sri Lanka only to leave their cultural imprint to a lesser or greater degree.
Sri Lankan and It’s Culture have been one of the most diverse, highly developed ancient civilisation on the plant according to Hydroponically, Geographical and demo political-graphical evidences.
Sinhalese and it’s technologist may have originated from early touched of Aliens.
- Around 500 BCE, Ancients Sri Lankan developed a unique advance hydraulic agricultural civilisation. Achievements include the construction of the largest reservoirs, pumped water top of Sigiriya rock and large dams of the ancient world as well as enormous pyramid-like Buddha Stupa. Technologies unknown until today.
- Evidence of human colonisation in central Sri Lanka appears at the site of Balangoda. Balangoda Man arrived on the island about 34,000 or even early stage. And have been identified as Mesolithic hunter gatherers who lived in caves.
- Cinnamon spice is native to Sri Lanka and has been found in Ancient Egypt, Middle East and all over Europe as early as 1500 BCE, suggesting early trade between Egypt, Middle East on Silk Road and the island’s inhabitants. It is possible that Biblical Tarshish was located on the island. James Emerson Tennent identified Tarshish with Galle.
- The hunter-gatherer people known as the Wanniyala-Aetto or Veddas native people of Island Nation, who still live in the central, Uva and north-eastern parts of Sri Lanka, are probably direct descendants of the first inhabitants to the country, Balangoda prehistorical man. They may have migrated to the Sri Lanka from the mainland of Asia around the time humans mass migration from Africa because of global warming.
- Balangoda Man probably created Horton Plains in central Sri Lanka, in the central hills, by burning the trees in order to catch games. However, the discovery of oats and barley DNA that connected to Northern Europe Bio diversity. on the plains at about 15,000 BCE suggests that agriculture had already developed at this early date.
- Evidences of Ancient Sri Lankan Cities (Kingdoms) Structures with 7 stories sky-high.
- Sri Lankan imitations of 4th-century Roman coins and other Europeans Artefacts 4–8th century.
Most importantly, the Portuguese influenced Sri Lankan culture in diverse ways. Their military equipment, their food, their exotic behaviour influenced Sri Lankans.
The portuguese built a fort at Colombo in 1517. Their boots and iron hats, their busy ways, bread they ate and wine they drank perplexed the indigenous community.
In the Sinhalese chronicle Rajavaliya the Portuguese are described as eating hunks of white stone (bread) and drinking blood (wine). Their cannon was described as louder than thunder.
Sri Lankan Culture & It’s Communities
The Sinhalese is the major ethnic group an it comprises of 74% of the population. (Sinhalese are decreasing day by day due to birth control plan) The Tamils are the next community to have a say in the population and it is 12.6%.
There are Sri Lankan moors, Burghers, Malay, a community that has its descent from Black Africans and the aborigines of Sri Lanka called the Veddas.
The Sinhalese and the Tamils
The Sinhalese who are descendants of Aryans arrived on the island probably from far north of Asian continent or west Asia in the late 6th Century B.C.
The legend has it that King Vijaya was the first official King from India to come to this country with his retenue. (The Island civilisation officially mixed with Indian culture).
The Tamils could also have migrated to the northern territories of Sri Lanka from South India.
Sri Lankan history is full of accounts of numerous wars between the Sinhalese kings and the Tamil kings and invaders from India.
What is interesting is the diverse also some of inhuman cultural imprints both these communities have had in shaping the true identity of Sri Lankan culture.
The Sinhalese are the Jewish of Indian Ocean
The Sinhalese are the natives of Sri Lanka without any arguments for nowhere in the world can you find a country where you find Sinhalese governments.
And Shinhaless have been fighting for at least 1,500 years with Indians, winning the game time to time. ( Rama Ravana war and 32 years old previous Civil war with dirty corrupted Indian Political structure & RAW Intelligence)
This idea may cause controversy but it is a fact that emerges from the depths of reality. Though the fact that the Sinhalese are the descendants of Aryans where they really come from, for certain, has not been found. Various DNA evidence has not confirmed it.
The genetic markers of immunoglobulin show high frequencies of afb3 in the Sinhalese.
In Bengali, central Nepali and Northern Indian, southern Han Chinese, Southeast Asian and some Austronesian populations of the pacific islands a high frequency if afb3 is found.
The same genetic aspect is seen among the Sinhalese though the frequency is ab3st.
This frequency is higher among northern Han Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Korean and Japanese populations.
The Transferring TF-Dchi allele is common among East Asian and Native Americans. It is also found among the Sinhalese.
Hum DNI 4 and HumDNI 5 are outstanding DNase 1 genes are among Sinhalese. This is a reality among southern Chinese groups and Tamang people in Nepal.
They have done a study in 1988 which was conducted by N. Soha and it showed high GC 1F and low GC 15 frequencies among the Sinhalese.
This is comparable to the ones of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Malays, Vietnamese, Laotians and Tibetans.
A study done in 1998 by D.E. Hawkey show how dental morphology of the Sinhalese is connected to the Austro-Asiatic population of East and the Northeast India.
Hemoglobin E a variant of normal hemoglobin which originated in and prevalent in Southeast Asia.
This phenomenon is seen as a common feature of the Sinhalese and it is about 40%. Modern Sri lankan DNA mixed with Europeans, Arabs, especially dutch, English, Spanish and Portuguese as well.
Sri Lankan Culture & The Tamils
Though ethnocentric people put forward their own theories about Sri Lankan Tamils, the reality is that they migrated from India 3000 or 4000 years ago. It could be due to population density and lack of enough food. Also, British used poor South Indians on their Sri Lankan Tea plantations as slaves.
Sri Lankan Culture & The Muslims
They may have migrated or (Sinhalese converted as Muslims) back few generations to Sri Lanka due to various trade relations Sri Lanka had with the Arab world.
Basically they came for trade learnt Tamil language and got themselves assimilated into Sri Lankan community along with their cultural diversity inherited by them from their forefathers. And it is doubtless that their origin could be traced to the Arab world.
Sri Lankan Culture & The Malays – The Burghers
They are descendants of Malaysian and Europeans who mixed up with the local community on their own or through intermarriages.
The African-Sri Lankans – The Sri Lankan Kaffirs
They are a small community. They are the descendants of African slaves brought to Sri Lanka during Portuguese occupation of Sri Lanka in the 17th century.
Currently they number around 1000. They are a mixed race consisting of Portuguese, Bantu and native Sri Lankans. They reside basically in Puttalam area in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Culture & The Veddas
The are the aborigines of Sri Lanka. They are known as the descendants of Kuveni and king Vijaya.
Kuveni belonging to the tribe of ‘Yaksha’ betrayed her people to get the kingdom for king Vijaya.
They had two children. But later, king Vijaya chased her away into the forest with the children. They say the Veddas come down from those two children. They live in Mahiyangana and Dabana in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Culture & Festivals in Sri Lanka
Festivals celebrated in Sri Lanka add colour and vigor to Sri Lankan culture. The main festivals in Sri Lanka are the Sinhala and the Tamil new year, the Vesak festival, Diwali, Thai Pongal and Ramadan.
These festivals show various interestingly heart taking aspects of Sri Lankan culture. Mostly because these festivals are festivals of a multi ethnic society. So variety and diversity is a character of Sri Lankan festivals.
The Sinhala and the Tamil New Year
The Sinhalese and the Tamils celebrate this in April. This is a Sri Lankan harvest festival when the sun moves from the house of pisces to house of Aries.
This is an astrological reality. Various customs can be seen and the tourists are attracted by such customs.
Basically religious observations take place. Traditionally an auspicious time is used for various activities.
The kind of food has a vibrant and culturally significant role. Various sweetmeats endemic to Sri Lanka are made, shared and enjoyed.
Elders are honoured by worshipping them. In fact we see Sri Lankans hospitality at its zenith during these festivals.
Various traditional games are organised. Also you are able to see traditional cart races, playing of drums, dances along with so many exciting games climbing the grease pole, pillo fights, bun eating, the blind man hitting the pot etc. They are really interesting inclusions in the new year festivities.
Forgetting past anger, disagreements etc and making peace between people is seen as a cultural entity which is done with offering a sheet of betel leaves.
This is predominantly a Buddhist festival. The birth, death and the enlightenment of Lord Buddha is celebrated in this festival.
What is culturally significant for tourist to feast their eyes is the vesak lanterns and panadols. You can see various religious activities during this festival.
This is celebrated by the Hindus in Sri Lanka. It is a festival of lights and an important occasion for religious observances.
They make various traditional sweetmeats for this festival. Lighting lamps has a pivotal role in its festivities.
This is a Muslim festival which is celebrated after fasting 11-16 hours. This takes place between May to June and the days vary according to the Lunar calendar.
The fasting period culminates with feasting when they make their traditional foods. ‘Watalappan’ is a delicacy which is endemic to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.
So is biryani a dish with rice, veggies chicken and eggs. Also various sweetmeats such as haluwa, boondi are made during this festival.
Sharing food with neighbours and providing for the poor and the marginalized is seen as yet another aspect of Sri Lankan culture connected to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.
Art Music and Drama
These are seen as specific traits of Sri Lankan culture. We have our own musical taste, stage dramas, dancing and puppet shows which are a vibrant cultural identity of Sri Lankan culture.
Upcountry and down country dancing in Sri Lanka is breathtaking and adds much colour and flavour to our Sri Lankan identity.
Dancing is used at various festivals, such as cultural processions, weddings, religious ceremonies and ‘Shanthi Karma’ ( religious performances to cure sick people) These show how rituals and customs are infused in Sri Lankan culture.
Special Cultural Pageants
The ‘esala maha perahera’ – a religious procession with many nicely arrayed elephants, whip dancers, fire dancers, upcountry and down country dancers, tomtom beaters etc.
Plays a major role in bringing out and outstanding Sri Lankan cultural character for the enthusiastic tourists. In this procession the sacred tooth relic of Lord buddha is taken in Procession. This takes place in July.
Sri Lanka cultural enjoys two kinds of martial arts. They are ‘cheena di’ and ‘angampora’.
Customs and Food
Sri Lankan customs date back to 2000 years and it is known for its hospitality. Respecting the elders is an age old value in Sri Lankan culture.
It is seen in the extended family systems. Also its cuisine is known for its specific ability to treat the visitors palet to the maximum.
Sri Lankan food is spicy. Its traditional food is milk rice and staple food is rice which is eaten with meat, fish, veggies, salads etc.
Class Conscious and Caste system
Being class conscious can be seen as a bad quality in Sri Lankan culture specially really high among North East Tamil People and It is clearly come from India.
Though things are vanishing past with social mobility we still see it among people. In Jaffna caste system is adversely seen.
This could be a malignant influence from our neighbouring country, India. It is said that in Jaffna some families do not offer even a glass of water to the person of the so called low caste people.
Marriage and Dowry
Though in the current context things are changing because of the education and modernisation some girls still suffer for they need dowry to be given in marriage.
This is strictly practised by some Tamils in Sri Lanka still. As a result there is a tendency for parents to love male children.
However, with free education in Sri Lanka these ideas are changing and females also get educated and we can see a lot of employed women in our country.
World’s first Female Prime Minister comes from Sri Lanka – Sirimavo Bandaranaike
World’s 20th Female Executive President comes from Sri Lanka – Chandrika Bandaranaike.
So basically it is a good aspect of Sri Lankan culture. There are still people resisting the freedom of women, though.
Under marriage is also past vanishing. It is, however, still practised in rural communities who have marginal access to education and who resist new value as to the emancipation of women.
In conclusion what becomes clear is the outstanding place Sri Lankan culture enjoys with its unique identity in the area of global cultures.
With a history dating back to 2000 years or more we Sri Lankans have been able to impress upon the international community with our dynamic culture.
To the Visitors to Sri Lanka
Well if you ever happen to visit Sri lanka, look for a culture with its own identity. True modernisation is influencing the globe.
But hospitality, cuisine, cultural heritages, artifacts, and cultural diversity will provide you an ever inviting and fascinating place to to discern our cultural values.
Know that they are exciting and make your visit more than a dream come true. Diversity is the word that describes our culture which is bathed in hospitality for you, dear traveller.
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