History of Srilanka
The History of Sri Lanka begins around 30,000 years ago when the island was first inhabited. Chronicles, including the Mahawansa, theDipavamsa, the Culavamsa and the Rajaveliya, record events from the beginnings of the Sinhalese monarchy in the 6th century BC; through the arrival of European Colonialists in the 16th century; and to the disestablishment of the monarchy in 1815. Some mentions of the country are found in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the books of Gautama Buddha‘s
|History of Sri Lanka|
From the 16th century some coastal areas of the country were ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Sri Lanka was ruled by 181 kings from the Anuradhapura to Kandy periods.  After 1815 the entire nation was under British colonial rule and armed uprisings against the British took place in the 1818 Uva Rebellion and the 1848 Matale Rebellion. Independence was finally granted in 1948.
After an armed youth uprising in 1971, known as the 1971 April Rebellion, Sri Lanka became a sovereign state in 1972. Aconstitution was introduced in 1978 which made the Executive President the head of state. The Sri Lankan Civil War began in 1983, including an armed youth uprising in 1987–1989, with the 26 year-long civil war ending in 2009.
Prehistoric era of Sri Lanka
The earliest archaeological evidence of human colonization in Sri Lanka appears at the site of Balangoda. Balangoda Man arrived on the island about 34,000 years ago and have been identified as Mesolithichunter gatherers who lived in caves. Several of these caves, including the well known Batadombalena and theFa-Hien Rock cave, have yielded many artifacts from these people who are currently the first known inhabitants of the island.
Balangoda Man probably created Horton Plains, in the central hills, by burning the trees in order to catch game. However, the discovery of oats and barley on the plains at about 15,000 BC suggests that agriculture had already developed at this early date.
Several minute granite tools (about 4 centimetres in length), earthenware, remnants of charred timber, and clay burial pots date to the Mesolithic stone age. Human remains dating to 6000 BC have been discovered during recent excavations around a cave at Varana Raja Maha vihara and in the Kalatuwawa area.
Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and has been found in Ancient Egypt as early as 1500 BC, suggesting early trade between Egypt and the island’s inhabitants. It is possible that Biblical Tarshishwas located on the island. James Emerson Tennent identified Sri Lanka with Galle.
The protohistoric Early Iron Age appears to have established itself in South India by at least as early as 1200 BC, if not earlier (Possehl 1990; Deraniyagala 1992:734). The earliest manifestation of this in Sri Lanka is radiocarbon-dated to c. 1000-800 BC at Anuradhapura and Aligala shelter in Sigiriya (Deraniyagala 1992:709-29; Karunaratne and Adikari 1994:58; Mogren 1994:39; with the Anuradhapura dating corroborated by Coningham 1999). It is very likely that further investigations will push back the Sri Lankan lower boundary to match that of South India.
Archaeological evidence for the beginnings of the Iron age in Sri Lanka is found at Anuradhapura, where a large city–settlement was founded before 900 BC. The settlement was about 15 hectares in 900 BC, but by 700 BC it had expanded to 50 hectares. A similar site from the same period has also been discovered near Aligala in Sigiriya.
The hunter-gatherer people known as the Wanniyala-Aetto or Veddas, who still live in the central, Uva and north-eastern parts of the island, are probably direct descendants of the first inhabitants, Balangoda man. They may have migrated to the island from the mainland around the time humans spread from Africa to the Indian subcontinent.
Around 500 BC Sri Lankans developed a unique hydraulic civilization. Achievements include the construction of the largest reservoirs and dams of the ancient world as well as enormous pyramid-likeStupa (Dagoba) architecture. This phase of Sri Lankan culture was profoundly influenced by earlyBuddhism.
Buddhist scriptures note three visits by the Buddha to the island to see the Naga Kings, who are said to be snakes that can take the form of a human at will. The kings are thought to be symbolic and not based on historical fact.
The earliest surviving chronicles from the island, the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa, say that tribes of Yakkhas (demon worshippers), Nagas (cobra worshippers) and Devas (god worshippers) inhabited the island prior to the migration of Vijaya.
Ancient Sri Lanka
Pali Chronicles and the arrival of Vijaya
The Pali chronicles, the Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Thupavamsa and the Chulavamsa, as well as a large collection of stone inscriptions, the Indian Epigraphical records, the Burmese versions of the chronicles etc., provide an exceptional record for the history of Sri Lanka from about the 6th century B.C.
The Mahavamsa, written around 400 AD by the monk Nagasena, using the Deepavamsa, the Attakatha and other written sources available to him, correlates well with Indian histories of the period. Indeed Emperor Ashoka‘s reign is recorded in the Mahavamsa. The Mahavamsa account of the period prior to Asoka’s coronation, 218 years after the Buddha’s death, seems to be part legend. Proper historical records begin with the arrival of Vijaya and his 700 followers. Vijaya was a Vangan (nowBengal, India) prince, the eldest son of King Sinhabahu (“Man with Lion arms”) and his sister Queen Sinhasivali who had their capital at Singhapura (now Singur in West Bengal, India). Both these Sinhala leaders were supposedly born of a mythical union between a lion and a human princess. The Mahavamsa claims that Vijaya landed on the same day as the death of the Buddha. The story of Vijaya and Kuveni (the local reigning queen) is reminiscent of Greek legend and may have a common source in ancient Proto-Indo-European folk tales.
According to the Mahavamsa, Vijaya landed on Sri Lanka near Mahathitha (Manthota or Mannar), and named on the island of Thambaparni (“copper-colored palms”). This name is attested to in Ptolemy‘s map of the ancient world. The Mahavamsa also describes the Buddha visiting Sri Lanka three times. Firstly, to stop a war between a Naga king and his son in law who were fighting over a ruby chair. It is said that on his last visit he left his foot mark on Siripada (“Adam’s Peak”).
Tamirabharani is the old name for the second longest river in Sri Lanka (known as Malwatu Oya in Sinhala and Aruvi Aru in Tamil). This river was a main supply route connecting the capital,Anuradhapura, to Mahathitha (now Mannar). The waterway was used by Greek and Chinese ships travelling the southern Silk Route.
Mahathitha was an ancient port linking Sri Lanka to India and the Persian gulf.
The present day Sinhalese (and many modern Tamils) are a mixture of the indigenous people and of other peoples who came to the island from various parts of India. The Sinhalese recognize the Vijayan Indo-Aryan culture and Buddhism (already in existence prior to the arrival of Vijaya), as distinct from other groups in neighboring south India.
In the early ages of the Anuradhapura Kingdom the Sinhalese economy was based on farming and they made their early settlements mainly near the rivers of the east, north central, and north east areas which had the water necessary for farming the whole year round. The king was the ruler of country and responsible for the law, the army, and being the protector of faith. Devanampiya Tissa (250-210 BC) was Sinhalese King of the Maurya clan. His links with Emperor Asoka led to the introduction of Buddhism byMahinda (son of Asoka) around 247 BC. Sangamitta(sister of Mahinda) brought a Bodhi sapling via Jambukola(Sambiliturei). This king’s reign was crucial to Theravada Buddhism and for Sri Lanka.
Elara (205-161 BC) was a Tamil King who ruled “Pihiti Rata” (Sri Lanka north of the mahaweli) after killing KingAsela. During Elara‘s time Kelani Tissa was a sub-king ofMaya Rata (in the south-west) and Kavan Tissa was a regional sub-king of Ruhuna (in the south-east). Kavan Tissa built Tissa Maha Vihara, Dighavapi Tank and many shrines in Seruvila.Dutugemunu (161-137 BC), the eldest son of King Kavan Tissa, at 25 years of age defeated the South Indian Tamil Invader Elara (over 64 years of age) in single combat, described in the Mahavamsa. Dutugemunu is depicted as a Sinhala “Asoka”. The Ruwanwelisaya, built by Dutugemunu, is a dagaba of pyramid-like proportions and was considered an engineering marvel.
Pulahatta (or Pulahatha), the first of the five Dravidians, was deposed by Bahiya. He in turn was deposed byPanaya Mara who was deposed by Pilaya Mara, murdered by Dathika in 88 BC. Mara was deposed by Valagambahu I (89-77 BC) which ended Tamil rule and restored theDutugamunu dynasty. The Mahavihara TheravadaAbhayagiri (“pro-Mahayana“) doctrinal disputes arose at this time. The Tripitaka was written in Pali at Aluvihara,Matale. Chora Naga (63-51 BC), a Mahanagan, was poisoned by his consort Anula who became queen. Queen Anula (48-44 BC), the widow of Chora Naga and of Kuda Tissa, was the first Queen of Lanka. She had many lovers who were poisoned by her and was killed by Kuttakanna Tissa. Vasabha (67-111 AD), named on the Vallipuramgold plate, fortified Anuradhapura and built eleven tanks as well as pronouncing many edicts. Gajabahu I (114-136) invaded the Chola kingdom and brought back captives as well as recovering the relic of the tooth of the Buddha.
There was a huge Roman trade with the ancient Tamil country (present day Southern India) and Sri Lanka,establishing trading settlements which remained long after the fall of the Western Roman empire.
During the reign of Mahasena (274-301) the Theravada(Maha Vihara) was persecuted and the Mahayanan branch of Buddhism surfaced. Later the King returned to the Maha Vihara. Pandu (429) was the first of seven Pandiyan rulers, ending with Pithya in 455. Dhatusena (459-477) “Kalaweva” and his son Kashyapa (477-495), built the famous sigiriya rock palace where some 700 rock graffiti give a glimpse of ancient Sinhala.