Culture of Sri Lanka

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Ceylon Tea

The culture of Sri Lanka has been influenced by many factors, but has managed to retain much of its ancient aspects. Mostly it has been influenced by its long history and its Buddhist heritage.South Indian influences are visible in many aspects. There is also some influence from colonization by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British. The country has a rich artistic tradition, embracing the fine arts, including music, dance, and visual arts. The Sri Lankan lifestyle is reflected in the country's cuisine, festivals, and sports. Sri Lankan culture is best known abroad for its cricket, food, holistic medicine, religious icons like the Buddhist flag, and cultural exports such as tea, cinnamon and gems. Sri Lankan culture is diverse, as it varies from region to region.

Sri Lanka has had ties with the Indian subcontinent since ancient times. Demographics: Sinhalese 74.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 9.23%, Indian Tamil 4.16%, Sri Lankan Tamil 11.21%, Other 0.6%.[1]

History[edit]

Main article: History of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka boasts of a documented history of over 2000 years, mainly due to ancient historic scriptures like Mahawansa,[2] and with the first stone objects dating back to 500,000 BC.[3] Several centuries of intermittent foreign influence have transformed Sri Lankan culture to its present form. Nevertheless, the ancient traditions and festivals are still celebrated by the mostly conservative Sinhalese people of the island, together with other minorities that make up the Sri Lankan identity.

Visual arts[edit]

A royal palace in Polonnaruwa.
Frescoes at Sigiiriya.

Architecture[edit]

The architecture of Sri Lanka displays a rich variety of architectural forms and styles. Buddhism had a significant influence on Sri Lankan architecture, since it was introduced to the island in 3rd Century BCE.[4] However techniques and styles developed in Europe and Asia have also played a major role in the architecture of Sri Lanka.

Ritigala

Arts and crafts[edit]

Gilded bronze statue of the Bodhisattva Tara, from the Anuradhapura period, 8th century.

Many forms of Sri Lankan arts and crafts take inspiration from the Island's long and lasting Buddhist culture which in turn has absorbed and adopted countless regional and local traditions. In most instances Sri Lankan art originates from religious beliefs, and is represented in many forms such as painting, sculpture, and architecture. One of the most notable aspects of Sri Lankan art are caves and temple paintings, such as the frescoes found at Sigiriya, and religious paintings found in temples in Dambulla and Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. Other popular forms of art have been influenced by both natives as well as outside settlers. For example, traditional wooden handicrafts and clay pottery are found around the hill country while Portuguese-inspired lacework and Indonesian-inspired Batik have become notable. Its has many different and beautiful drawings.

Performing arts[edit]

Traditional Sri Lankan harvesting dance.

People in Sri Lanka love the performing arts. The main style of performance is Bollywood.

Dance[edit]

Main article: Dances of Sri Lanka
See also: Kandyan dance

Sri Lanka is famous around the Indian ocean for Kandyan dancing.

Music[edit]

Main article: Music of Sri Lanka

The two single biggest influences on Sri Lankan music are from Buddhism and Portuguese colonizers. Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka after the Buddha's visit in 300 BC, while the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century, bringing with them cantiga ballads, the ukulele, and guitars, along with African slaves, who further diversified the musical roots of the island. These slaves were called kaffrinha, and their dance music was called baila. Traditional Sri Lankan music includes the hypnotic Kandyan drums - drumming was and is very much a part of music in both Buddhist and Hindu temples in Sri Lanka. Most western parts of Sri Lanka follow western dancing and music.

Cinema[edit]

Main article: Cinema of Sri Lanka

The movie Kadawunu Poronduwa (The broken promise), produced by S. M. Nayagam of Chitra Kala Movietone, heralded the coming of Sri Lankan cinema in 1947. Ranmuthu Duwa (Island of treasures, 1962) marked the transition cinema from black-and-white to color. In recent years, Sri Lankan cinema has featured subjects such as family melodrama, social transformation, and the years of conflict between the military and the LTTE. Their cinematic style is similar to Bollywood movies. In 1979, movie attendance rose to an all-time high, but a gradual downfall has been recorded since then. Undoubtedly, the most influential and revolutionary filmmaker in the history of Sri Lankan cinema is Lester James Peiris, who has directed a number of movies which led to global acclaim, including Rekava (Line of destiny, 1956), Gamperaliya (The changing village, 1964), Nidhanaya (The treasure, 1970), and Golu Hadawatha (Cold Heart, 1968).There are many cinemas around Sri Lanka in city areas.

Media and technology[edit]

Radio and TV[edit]

Sri Lanka was introduced with many technologies.

Lifestyle[edit]

Cuisine[edit]

Main article: Sri Lankan cuisine
Kiribath with lunumiris

The cuisine of Sri Lanka draws influence from that of India, especially from Kerala, as well as colonists and foreign traders. Rice, which is usually consumed daily, can be found at any special occasion, while spicy curries are favourite dishes for lunch and dinner. A very popular alcoholic drink is toddy or arrack, both made from palm tree sap. Rice and curry refers to a range of Sri Lankan dishes. Sri Lankans also eat hoppers (Aappa, Aappam), which can be found anywhere in Sri Lanka.

Much of Sri Lanka's cuisine consists of boiled or steamed rice served with spicy curry. Another well-known rice dish is kiribath, meaning milk rice. Curries in Sri Lanka are not just limited to meat or fish-based dishes, there are also vegetable and even fruit curries. A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of a "main curry" (fish, chicken, or mutton), as well as several other curries made with vegetable and lentils. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and "sambols" which can sometimes be fiery hot. The most famous of these is the coconut sambol, made of scraped coconut mixed with chili peppers, dried Maldivian fish and lime juice. This is ground to a paste and eaten with rice, as it gives zest to the meal and is believed to increase appetite.

In addition to sambols, Sri Lankans eat "mallung", chopped leaves mixed with grated coconut and red onions. Coconut milk is found in most Sri Lankan dishes to give the cuisine its unique flavor.

As noted above many of Sri Lanka's urban areas are host to American fast food corporations and many of the younger generation have started to take a liking to this new style of cuisine although it is rejected by many, particularly the more traditional elder members of the community.

Spices[edit]

Sri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. The best known is cinnamon which is native to Sri Lanka. In the 15th and 16th centuries, spice and ivory traders from all over the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. Lamprais rice boiled in stock with a special curry, accompanied by frikkadels (meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked as a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish. Dutch and Portuguese sweets also continue to be popular. British influences include roast beef and roast chicken. Also, the influence of the Indian cooking methods and food have played a major role in what Sri Lankans eat.

Sri Lankans use spices liberally in their dishes and typically do not follow an exact recipe: thus, every cook's curry will taste slightly different. Furthermore, people from different regions of the island (for instance, hill-country dwellers versus coastal dwellers) traditionally cook in different ways. Sri Lankan cuisine is known to be among the world's spiciest, due to the high use of different varieties of chili peppers referred to as amu miris (Chili pepper), kochchi miris, and maalu miris (Banana pepper) (capsicum) and in Tamil Milakaai, among others. It is generally accepted for tourists to request that the food is cooked with a lower chilli content to cater for the more sensitive Western palette. Food cooked for public occasions typically uses less chillie than food cooked in the home, the latter where the food is cooked with the chilli content preferable to the occupants.

Tea culture[edit]

Tea plantation near Kandy

Being one of the largest producers of tea in the world, Sri Lankans drink a lot of tea.There are many tea factories around mountainous areas. Many Sri Lankans drink at least three cups a day. Sri Lanka is also one of the best tea-producing countries in the world and the Royal Family of the United Kingdom has been known to drink Ceylon tea. Tea is served whenever a guest comes to a house, it is served at festivals and gatherings or just for breakfast.

Festivals and holidays[edit]

New Year[edit]

The Sinhala and Tamil new year ("Aluth Avurudhu" in Sinhala, "Puthiyathandu" in Tamil) is a very large cultural event on the island. The festival falls in April (also known as the month of Bak) when the sun moves from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries). Unusually, both the end of one year and the beginning of the next occur not at midnight but at separate times determined by astrologers with a period of some hours between (the "nona gathe" or neutral period) being a time where one is expected to refrain from all types of work and instead engage solely in relaxing religious activities and traditional games. During the New Year, festivities both children and adults will often don traditional outfits. But the clothes must be washed and very clean because it should be southam (pure).

List of holidays[edit]

January Tuesday Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day (In honour of Lord Buddha's first visit to Sri Lanka) *†#
January Tamil Thai Pongal Day *†#
4 February Monday National Day *†#
February Navam Full Moon Poya Day (The Buddha proclaims for the first time a code of fundamental ethical precepts for the monks) *†#
March Thursday Maha Sivarathri Day *†
March Thursday Milad-Un-Nabi (Muhammad's birthday) *†
March Medin Full Moon Poya Day (Commemorates the visit of The Buddha to his home to preach to his father King Suddhodana and other relatives) *†#
March Friday Good Friday *†
13 April Day prior to Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day (the month of Bak) when the sun moves from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries) Sri Lankans begin celebrating their National New Year *†#
14 April Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day *†#
April Friday Additional Bank Holiday
April Bak Full Moon Poya Day (commemorates the second visit of The Buddha to Sri Lanka) *†#
1 May Thursday May Day *†#
May Vesak Full Moon Poya Day (The Buddhist calendar begins) *†#
May Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day *†#
June Poson Full Moon Poya Day (Commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka) *†#
July Esala Full Moon Poya Day (Commemorates the deliverance of the first sermon to the five ascetics and setting in motion the Wheel of the Dhamma by Buddha) *†#
August Nikini Full Moon Poya Day (conducting of the first Dhamma Sangayana (Convocation)by Buddha) *†#
September Binara Full Moon Poya Day (Commemorates The Buddha's visit to heaven to preach to his mother and celestial multitude) *†#
October Wednesday Id-Ul-Fitr (Ramazan Festival Day) *†
October Vap Full Moon Poya Day (King Devanampiyatissa of Sri Lanka sending envoys to King Asoka requesting him to send his daughter Arahat Sanghamitta Theri to Sri Lanka to establish the Bhikkhuni Sasana (Order of Nuns)) *†#
October Monday Deepavali Festival Day *†
November Il Full Moon Poya Day (Celebrates the obtaining of Vivarana (the assurance of becoming a Buddha)) *†#
December Tuesday Id-Ul-Adha (Hajj Festival Day) *†
December Monday Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day (Sanghamitta Theri established the Bhikkhuni Sasana (the Order of Nuns)) *†#
25 December Saturday Christmas Day *†#

* Public holiday, † Bank holiday, # Mercantile holiday All full-moon days are Buddhist holidays referred to as Poya. The actual date on which a particular Poya day will fall changes every year.

Religion[edit]

Main article: Religion in Sri Lanka
A Hindu temple in Colombo

Sri Lanka's culture also revolves around religion. The Buddhist community of Sri Lanka observe Poya Days, once per month according to the Lunar calendar. The Hindus and Muslims also observe their own holidays. Sri Lankans are very religious because the history of the island has been involved with religion numerous times. There are many Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka associated with ancient times. The religious preference of an area could be determined by the number of religious institutions in the area. The Northern and Eastern parts of the island have several notable Hindu temples due to the fact that the majority of the population living in these areas areTamil. Ethnic conflict has severely affected other communities living in these areas during the times of LTTE strife. Many churches can be found along the southern coast line because of former Roman Catholic and Protestant colonial heritage. Buddhists reside in all parts of the island, but especially in the south, the upcountry, and the western seaboard. Buddhists are the largest religious group in Sri Lanka.

Languages of Sri Lanka[edit]

While the Sinhalese people speak Sinhala as their mother tongue, the Tamil people speak Tamil. English is also widely spoken.

Sinhala is spoken by about 16 million people in Sri Lanka, about 13 million of whom are native speakers. It is one of the constitutionally-recognized official languages of Sri Lanka, along with Tamil, which originates from South India.

Sports[edit]

Main article: Sport in Sri Lanka

Sports plays a very important part in Sri Lankan culture, because the society was quite rich in educated people, therefore the people found playing a sport to be an important aspect of life. Sri Lanka's main sport is cricket. But after the age of Englishman's cricket, being the most popular sporting event in Sri Lanka. Every child in Sri Lanka knows how to play cricket, and there are many cricket fields scattered across the island for children and adults to play the sport. The biggest pastime of the Sri Lankan population, after cricket, is watching the Sri Lankan national team play cricket. It is common for businesses to shut down when very big matches are televised. This was the case in 1996, when the Sri Lankan team beat Australia in the finals to win the Cricket World Cup. The whole country was shut down, although there was a curfew imposed upon the whole island.

Cricket[edit]

Main article: Cricket in Sri Lanka

Cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka. After the 1996 Cricket World Cup, triumph of the Sri Lanka national cricket team, the sport became the most watched event in the country. But in recent years, the politicians and the businessmen getting into the sport has raised many concerns.

Volleyball[edit]

Volleyball is the national game Sri Lanka but it is not as popular as cricket.

National symbols[edit]

Tourism and Cultural Change in Sri Lanka[edit]

The uniqueness of Sri Lanka with its lengths of undiscovered beaches, welcoming people, famous tea and affordable prices has attracted many people to the country. For example, visitor numbers are steadily rising year by year - with some 133,000 tourist arrivals in March 2014 compared to 113,000 in March 2013.[5]

Sri Lanka aborigines vedda at work

As with any influx of tourism there are of course a number of negative influences that can arise. Sri Lanka’s natural areas have, for instance, been impacted by increased pollution with discharges into the sea and natural habitat loss, as well as the depletion of natural resources, which have arisen thanks to excessive water use in hotels, golf courses and swimming pools - which consume unnaturally large amounts of water.In response to this, the Department of Forest Conservation (Sri Lanka) and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (Sri Lanka) have instigated a number of protected areas of Sri Lanka - there are currently 32 forests under their protection - and in total - a little over 25% of the island is now a protected area. Emerging trends in the tourism industry in Sri Lanka points the way to tourists seeking more traditional experiences over conventional ideals such as tours and resorts. Consequently, these tourists seek out cheaper accommodation where they can be exposed to authentic villages and richer more rustic experiences - this gives indigenous identities a chance to be preserved and not overtaken as tourism takes hold in the more remote areas, with Sri Lankan indigenous people taking their place as a part of the attraction for tourists and are thus protected and provided with support.[5]

Sri Lanka aborigines vedda
Sri Lanka aborigines early vedda

Part of Sri Lanka’s post-conflict development process is to build on the ever-growing tourism industry - this has meant refurbishing hotels, building new hotels and the country-wide revival of traditional handicraft industries, as well as traditional cultural displays - such as traditional dances of Sri Lanka - such as the Kandyan Dances (Uda Rata Natum), Low Country Dances (Pahatha Rata Natum), Devil Dance, and Folk Dances which are now a common site in hotels and villages that are keen to entertain tourists with traditional and ‘authentic’ cultural displays. Because of this, much of the modernisation of the tourist industry is taking place in and around the capital Colombo, with a 1/3 of the estimated 9000 new hotel rooms being built in Sri Lanka in 2013, concentrated in the Colombo area.

This kind of construction though comes at a cost - with a number of environmental concerns - the most pressing of which is Deforestation in Sri Lanka. In the 1920s, the island was almost 50% (49%) covered by trees but by 2005 - this number had already fallen by 20%. The worst hit area is the northern tip of the island - largely due to pre-existing environmental protection schemes in the south of the island. This isn’t though, all because of tourism, as well as making way for new developments - hotels and resorts, much of Sri Lanka’s forests have been removed to make way for agricultural land and plantations (especially tea plantations - which are mostly farmed by Indian Tamils - which require a substantial amount of land) to provide fuel and timber. An area where over building of hotels has already shown negative impacts is the Yala area - where there are serious concerns of over visitation of the Yala National Park. Though a more positive side to the influx of tourists can be seen at the Esala Perahera festival in Kandy - which has grown substantially in size over the years, incorporating colourful parades and processions into what was already one of Asia’s most prolific religious festivals. Traditional cultural dress is also rising in popularity - with chic hotels using formalised versions of traditional costume for their hotel staff, and foreigners marrying in Sri Lanka are incorporating traditional dress codes into their wedding attire.

[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]