Lanka is a pear-shaped continental island situated below the southern tip of India. It has a land
area of 65,610 sq.km and is separated from the Indian peninsula by
the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, just 32 km at the narrowest
point. Lying in the Indian continental shelf, the ocean depth between
India and Sri Lanka is quite shallow and during much of the geological
history it has been connected to India.
Sri Lanka lies north of the
equator and its exact geographical location is between 5’’
55’ & 9’’ 50’ North Latitude and between
79” 42’ & 81” 53’ Eastern Latitudes. It
is 5 ½ hours ahead of GMT. It is 432 kms from north to the south
and 224 kms from east to west at the widest point.
The country has a mountainous interior
and contains 103 river systems that mostly radiate from it and flow
down to the Indian ocean. Two major monsoons that the island receive
annually influence the division of the country into two main climatic zones
namely wet zone and dry zone. The Southwest monsoon winds that blow
between May-September, bring heavy rain to the Southwestern part
of the island and to the mountainous interior which comprise roughly
1/3 the island forming the wet zone.
The Northeast monsoon brings rain
to the entire country during late October to February. Therefore
the wet zone receives two monsoons remaining wet almost throughout
the year. Sri Lanka has a year round temperature of around 28-32 C
in the lowlands and a pleasant 16 C or so in the central highlands with nights being even cooler.
Large amounts of rainfall and high temperatures year round in the wet
zone have given rise to spectacular rain forests, which are home to
a rich biodiversity much of it endemic to the island. With 0.7 % of
the world’s vascular plants endemic to it, Sri Lanka and Western
Ghats in India are regarded as one of 25 biodiversity hotspots.
zone has some of the Asia’s best National Parks such as Yala
National Park home for a rich diversity of mammalian fauna including
Leopard, Asian Elephant and Sloth Bear.
Sri Lanka has a population
of 21 million, which comprises of multi ethnic and multi religious
communities. Sinhala and Tamil are the main languages. English is
widely spoken. Nearly 70 % of the population are Buddhists. The rest are
of Hindu, Christian & Islamic faiths.
Colonial rule under the Portuguese, Dutch & British from
16th century until the country obtained independence in 1948 has further
painted island’s cultural fabric vivid. Sri Lanka has been known
by a range of names. Its previous country name is Ceylon, which is
the British colonial name for this island nation and is reflected in the
popular brands such as Ceylon tea, marketed interestingly by the Sri
Lanka Tea Board. The current name ‘Lanka’ is in fact its
earliest one derived from the famous Indian Epic Ramayana of pre Christian
era in which the country is referred as ‘Lanka’. The prefix
‘Sri’ is an honorific title meaning ‘resplendent’.
Country earns most of its income through exporting Garments. This
is followed by remittances received by locals working abroad, Tea
and Tourism. In 2005 the tourist arrivals topped a record high of
Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in the world that can
boast of a written history of 2,500 years. Many monuments, inscriptions
and ruins dotted all over the country bear silent witness to its ancient
heritage. There are 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country out
which 6 are cultural and one natural, which is Sinharaja rain forest
(112 sq.km.), our undisputed endemic hotspot.
The currency that is used in Sri Lanka is Sri Lankan Rupees (SLR/Rs). In Feb 2007, 1 GBP equalled to Rs.213,
1 USD to Rs. 109 & 1 Euro to Rs. 142.
Sri Lankans are friendly
people always ready to flash a smile and are happy to share the rich
natural and cultural heritage of their resplendent island.