Sigiriya or the so called ‘Lion Rock’ - which earned this nickname based on the gateway that is found in the middle part of the side of this rock, built in the shape of a mammoth lion - is a tourist attraction as well as a sacred place. The green village surrounding this place caters to the requirements of the travelers and pilgrims. This site is deemed as the eighth wonder of the world.
This amazing archaeological legacy rises 200m above the forested plains surrounding the site. The engravings on the walls of this site illustrate that it was a location of refuge for Buddhist monks as far as the 3rd century BC. Renowned for facets such as advanced ancient urban planning, intricate irrigation and engineering techniques, this rock fortress was deemed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1982.
The Sigiriya rock fortress and city became prominent in the fifth century AD. This was when the distressed but ambitious King Kasyapa killed his father and overthrew his brother, who was initially announced as heir to the kingdom of Anuradhapura. Overridden with misery, fear and remorse; king Kasyapa departed and took shelter among the dense jungles found in the central part of Sri Lanka.
Here the king commanded his workforce to build his palace on top of the gigantic column of rock as well as create a fabulous city around its base, to imitate the legendary ‘Alakamanda’ the city of gods and Kubera, known as ‘The God of Wealth.’
Within 7 years, the site was vibrant with fountains, lush gardens, terraces, staircases and ponds. Some mention him as a playboy of the ancient world due to the splendid pleasure palace he envisioned to suit his taste. The rock was transformed to replicate a white cloud with its sides illuminated with frescoes depicting semi nude females well-known as the Sigiriya Damsels.
Finally Mogallana, the brother of king Kasyapa, invaded the city and in the height of the battle that ensued, king Kasyapa was left stranded and committed suicide in order to prevent capture. After conquering the empire, Mogallana handed over the fortress and city to the Buddhist monks, who later turned its caves into a safe haven for hermits. Except for the short periods in the 16th and 17th centuries where the Kingdom of Kandy used it for military purposes, the site remained mostly forgotten until the British reclaimed it in the year 1828. The remains of the king’s palace, the lion gate, the frescos on the mirror walls as well as the caves, moats and gardens can be explored.
A renowned coastal town for water sports, Bentota is a leading beach destination for surfers, divers and swimmers. With the Bentota River Airport, travelers have the option of flying directly to this popular deatination through seaplanes. According to ancient tales, the ‘Bem’ Demon ruled the river in this area. The river which flows towards the Indian Ocean - whilst forming a lagoon close to the end of the river - is a good spot for parasailing, jet-skiing and windsurfing. The area is also well-known for producing toddy alcoholic beverage created from coconut nectar. The months from November to April are considered to be the perfect period for sailing, snorkeling, and water-skiing, as the sea seems to be calm during this phase.
Beruwala is the actual point from where a long stretch of beach starts in the south western coastal belt. This destination represents the initial Muslim settlement on the country. A vast community of Sri Lankan Moors, mostly comprised of gem merchants, continues to live in this town. The bay around this location provides the perfect option for bathing, coral reef diving and deep sea fishing throughout the year. Numerous start-class hotels are to be found within these areas. There are numerous star-class hotels to be found within these locations. These two areas consist some of the well known religious sites too.
Sri Lanka - also known as the pearl of India - is a land like no other. This island has a rich history that spans more than 3000 years. The country is home to numerous religions, ethnicities and languages. These comprise the Sinhalese, Tamils, Burgers, Muslims and even the indigenous Vedda people to name a few. This nation’s Buddhist heritage dates back to 1st century BC. Sri Jayawardenepura - home to the country’s new parliament and a large suburb of Colombo city - is the capital of Sri Lanka. This nation was plagued with a 30 year civil war, which ended when the country’s military defeated the terrorist organization called LTTE in 2009.
The island in the Indian Ocean is renowned for producing world-class tea, coffee, coconuts, rubber, gemstones and cinnamon. As a member of SAARC, UN, the Commonwealth of Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and G77; Sri Lanka is the only nation in South Asia, which is presently ranked in a high position on the Human Development Index. In ancient times, Sri Lanka was known as Taprobane by Greeks, Serendib by Arabs, Ceilão by Portuguese and Ceylon by the British. The country won its independence from the British Empire in 1948.
Pre-historic references to the island
The Indian epic Ramayana provides one of the pre-historic references to the island. It mentions that divine sculptor Vishwakarmaa built a kingdom called ‘Lanka’ for Kubera, the God of Wealth. Also James Emerson Tennent - the nineteenth century Irish historian - noted that King Solomon used to draw ivory, peacocks and various other valuables from Galle, a city in southern sri lanka, which was considered the seaport of Tarshish in ancient times.
The ancient Sri Lankans were known as experts in building dagobas, sophisticated irrigation systems and palaces to name a few. In the ancient times, before the invasion by the Portuguese and British, Sri Lanka was able to withstand and overcome the infiltration by neighboring South Asian empires like the Chera, Pandya, Chola and Pallava. The medieval period of this island was where the country was at the crest of its power.
First democracy in South Asia
Presently, Sri Lanka - as the first democracy in South Asia - is ruled by a system that is a blend of a presidential system as well as a parliamentary system. Sri Lanka is segregated into 09 provinces and 25 districts. Colombo, also known as the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, is the largest city of this country. Sri Lanka’s armed forces comprise the Army, Navy & Air Force; while the nation’s paramilitary units contain the Civil Security Force, Sri Lanka Coast Guard and the Special Task Force. Sri Lanka is proud to be the first nation in the current world to eliminate terrorism on its own land.
Sources of revenue for the country
When it comes to per capita income, Sri Lanka ranks as one of the best in the entire South Asian region. Tea export, tourism and garments are the country’s major economic sectors. Other sources of revenue for the country include overseas employment such as in the Middle East. Sri Lanka’s economy - which is efficiency driven - ranks 52nd out of 142 countries in global competitiveness. The country is also recognized for its charitable behavior by being ranked in the 8th position of the World Giving Index. Being recognized as an emerging market by the Dow Jones, marked as one of the top places to visit by the New York Times and noted as a 3G country by Citigroup, are noteworthy facets of the progress and growth Sri Lanka has been able to achieve in recent years. Sri Lanka is also the 1st country in the South Asia region to have introduced 3G and 4G mobile broadband Internet technologies in the region.
The Sri Lankans boast a life expectancy that is higher compared to the world’s average. The country is blessed with many deep water ports in Colombo, Trincomalee (5th largest natural harbor in the world), Galle and Habantota. With the assistance of the free education system created in 1945, Sri Lanka has one the most literate populations among developing countries.
Top Cricketing Nation
Sri Lanka is also known for its sport activities. The country is blessed with natural talent when it comes to the game of cricket. The Sri Lankan cricket team has not only won many international cups, but also has been able to produce legendary players such as Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya to name a few. Other than cricket, the country has won two silver medals in Olympics. Also in the year 1973, the World Billiards Championship was won by Mohammed Lafir. Rugby, tennis and aquatic sports such as swimming and surfing are also followed in a major manner in Sri Lanka. Also notable is the fact that Cheena di and Angampora are native martial arts of Sri Lanka.