Provinces of Sri Lanka

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Provinces of Sri Lanka
ශ්‍රී ලංකා පළාත්
இலங்கை மாகாணங்கள்
Sri Lanka provinces.svg
Category Unitary state
Location Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Number 9 provinecs
Populations 1,058,762 (Northern) – 5,821,710 (Western)
Areas 1,422 square miles (3,680 km2) (Western Province) - 4,043 square miles (10,470 km2) (North Central Province)
Government Provincal government, Central government
Subdivisions District
Coat of arms of Sri Lanka, showing a lion holding a sword in its right forepaw surrounded by a ring made from blue lotus petals which is placed on top of a grain vase sprouting rice grains to encircle it. A Dharmacakra is on the top while a sun and moon are at the bottom on each side of the vase.
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, provinces (Sinhalese: පළාත, Tamil: மாகாணம்) are the first level administrative division. They were first established by the British rulers of Ceylon in 1833. Over the next century most of the administrative functions were transferred to the districts, the second level administrative division. By the middle of the 20th century the provinces had become merely ceremonial. This changed in 1987 when, following several decades of increasing demand for a decentralization, the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils.[1][2] Currently there are nine provinces.


After the British took control of the entire island of Ceylon in 1815 it was divided into three ethnic based administrative structures: Low Country Sinhalese, Kandyan Sinhalese and Tamil. In 1829 the British established the Colebrooke–Cameron Commission to review the colonial government of Ceylon, including its administrative structures.[3] The Commission recommended that the existing three ethnic based administrations be unified into a single administration divided into five geographic provinces.[3] Accordingly on 1 October 1833 five provinces under one administration came into being:[4][5][6][7]

  • Central Province - composed of the central Kandyan provinces.
  • Eastern Province - composed of the maritime districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee, and the Kandyan provinces of Bintenna and Tamankaduwa.
  • Northern Province - composed of the maritime districts of Jaffna, Mannar and Vanni, and the Kandyan province of Nuwara Kalawiya.
  • Southern Province - composed of the maritime districts of Galle, Hambantota, Matara and Tangalle, and the Kandyan provinces of Lower Uva, Saffragam and Wellassa.
  • Western Province - composed of the maritime districts of Colombo, Chilaw and Puttalam, and the Kandyan provinces of Three Korales, Four Korales, Seven Korales and Lower Bulathgama.

Over the next fifty years four additional provinces were created, taking the total number to nine:[6][7][8]

  • North Western Province was created in 1845 from northern Western Province (districts of Chilaw, Puttalam and Seven Korales).[9]
  • North Central Province was created in 1873 from southern Northern Province (district of Nuwara Kalawiya) and north-western Eastern Province (district of Tamankaduwa).[10]
  • Uva Province was created in 1886 from parts of Central Province, Eastern Province (district of Bintenna) and Southern Province (district of Wellassa).[10]
  • Sabaragamuwa Province was created in 1889.[11]

The number of provinces remained static until September 1988 when, in accordance with the Indo-Lanka Accord, President Jayewardene issued proclamations enabling the Northern and Eastern provinces to be one administrative unit administered by one elected Council, creating the North Eastern Province.[12] The proclamations were only meant to be a temporary measure until a referendum was held in the Eastern Province on a permanent merger between the two provinces. However, the referendum was never held and successive Sri Lankan presidents issued proclamations annually extending the life of the "temporary" entity.[13] The merger was bitterly opposed by Sri Lankan nationalists. On 14 July 2006, after a long campaign against the merger, the JVP filed three separate petitions with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka requesting a separate Provincial Council for the East.[12] On 16 October 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that the proclamations issued by President Jayewardene were null and void and had no legal effect.[12] The North-East Province was formally de-merged into the Northern and Eastern provinces on 1 January 2007.

Sri Lanka currently has nine provinces, seven of which have had provincial councils from the start.[2]



All population data are from the most recent census of Sri Lanka, in 2012.

Province Area map Provincial
in km2 (mi2)
in km2 (mi2)
in km2 (mi2)
per km2
(per mi2)[a]
 Central Area map of Central Province of Sri Lanka Kandy 1 October 1833 70095575000000000005,575 (2,153) 700799000000000000099 (38) 70095674000000000005,674 (2,191) 2,558,716 7002459000000000000459 (1,190)
 Eastern Area map of Eastern Province of Sri Lanka Trincomalee 1 October 1833 70099361000000000009,361 (3,614) 7008635000000000000635 (245) 70099996000000000009,996 (3,859) 1,551,381 7002166000000000000166 (430)
 North Central Area map of North Central Province of Sri Lanka Anuradhapura 1873 70099741000000000009,741 (3,761) 7008731000000000000731 (282) 701010472000000000010,472 (4,043) 1,259,567 7002129000000000000129 (330)
 Northern Area map of Northern Province of Sri Lanka Jaffna 1 October 1833 70098290000000000008,290 (3,200) 7008594000000000000594 (229) 70098884000000000008,884 (3,430) 1,058,762 7002128000000000000128 (330)
 North Western Area map of North Western Province of Sri Lanka Kurunegala 1845 70097506000000000007,506 (2,898) 7008382000000000000382 (147) 70097888000000000007,888 (3,046) 2,370,075 7002316000000000000316 (820)
 Sabaragamuwa Area map of Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka Ratnapura 1889 70094921000000000004,921 (1,900) 700747000000000000047 (18) 70094968000000000004,968 (1,918) 1,918,880 7002390000000000000390 (1,000)
 Southern Area map of Southern Province of Sri Lanka Galle 1 October 1833 70095383000000000005,383 (2,078) 7008161000000000000161 (62) 70095544000000000005,544 (2,141) 2,464,732 7002458000000000000458 (1,190)
 Uva Area map of Uva, Sri Lanka Badulla 1886 70098335000000000008,335 (3,218) 7008165000000000000165 (64) 70098500000000000008,500 (3,300) 1,259,900 7002151000000000000151 (390)
 Western Area map of Western Province of Sri Lanka Colombo 1 October 1833 70093593000000000003,593 (1,387) 700791000000000000091 (35) 70093684000000000003,684 (1,422) 5,821,710 70031620000000000001,620 (4,200)
Total 701062705000000000062,705 (24,211) 70092905000000000002,905 (1,122) 701065610000000000065,610 (25,330) 20,263,723 7002323000000000000323 (840)


Province Area map Provincial
Time Period
Maya Rata Area map of Malaya Rata, Sri Lanka
Pihiti Area map of Rajarata, Sri Lanka
Ruhuna Area map of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Population density has been calculated using the land area rather than the total area.


  1. ^ Law, Gwillim (2010). "Provinces of Sri Lanka". Retrieved 19 January 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Introduction". Provincial Councils. Government of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 16 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "The Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms". Sri Lanka. Library of Congress. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  4. ^ Mills, Lennox A. (1933). Ceylon Under British Rule 1795-1932. London: Oxford University Press/Humphrey S. Milford. p. 68. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  5. ^ Mendis 1946, p. 39.
  6. ^ a b Samarasinghe, L. M. (21 March 2003). "River basins as administrative divisions". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  7. ^ a b "Sinhala Colonisation in the Hereditary Tamil Regions of the Island of Sri Lanka". UN Commission on Human Rights 56th Sessions: March/April 2000. Tamil Nation. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  8. ^ Karalliyadda, S. B. (4 February 2009). "Independence Struggle for a Hundred and Thirty Three Years". Daily News (Sri Lanka). Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  9. ^ Mendis 1946, p. 51.
  10. ^ a b Mendis 1946, p. 84.
  11. ^ Mendis 1946, p. 85.
  12. ^ a b c Selvanayagam, S. S. (17 October 2006). "North-East merger illegal: SC". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka). 
  13. ^ Sambandan, V. S. (14 November 2003). "Sri Lanka's North-East to remain united for another year". The Hindu. 


External links[edit]