Sri Lankan Malays

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Sri Lankan Malays
Melayu Langkapuri
Melayu Sri Lanka
ශ්‍රී ලංකා මැලේ
இலங்கை மலாய்
Sri Lankan Malay Father and Son.jpg
Sri Lankan Malay man and child, 19th century.
Total population
(0.20% of the population) (2012)[A]
Regions with significant populations
 North Western1,675
Languages of Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan Malay language, Sinhala
Some Tamil & English
Islam (Sunni)
Related ethnic groups

Sri Lankan Malays, also known in Sinhalese as Ja Minissu (Sinhala: ශ්‍රී ලාංකා මැලේ; Tamil: இலங்கை மலாய், literally "Javanese"), are Sri Lankans with full or partial ancestry from the Malay Archipelago (most of whom are of Javanese descent). The term is used as a catch-all term historically used for all natives of the Malay Archipelago who reside in Sri Lanka. They number approximately 40,000 and make up 0.20% of the Sri Lankan population, making them the fourth largest ethnic group in the country and are one of the five main ethnic groups of the country.

Sri Lankan Malays first settled in the country when both Sri Lanka and Indonesia were Dutch colonies, while a second wave (1796–1948) came from the Malay Peninsula, when both Malaya and Sri Lanka were in the British Empire. However, Sri Lanka has had a longer history of Malay presence dating back to as early as the 13th century.[2] Distinct to the present day Sri Lankan Malay population, these Malay migrants were primarily Buddhists who intermarried into the Sinhalese population.[2] Sri Lankan scholars suggest that the Sinhalese population possess a notable Malay connection due to this, meaning a significant portion of the Sri Lankan population would have at least some Malay ancestry.[2]


Significant Malay presence in Sri Lanka dated as early as 13th century, when Chandrabhanu Sridhamaraja, a Malay of Tambralinga managed to occupy northern part of the island in 1247, nonetheless the followers of Chandrabhanu assimilated into the local population.[3] Many of the ancestors of present-day Sri Lankan Malays coming from soldiers posted by the Dutch which later continued by the British for colonial administration to Sri Lanka, who decided to settle on the island. Other immigrants were convicts or members of noble houses from Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) who were exiled to Sri Lanka and who never left. The main source of a continuing Malay identity is their common Malay language, the Islamic faith and their ancestral origin from the Malay Archipelago. Many Sri Lankan Malays have been celebrated as courageous soldiers, politicians, sportsmen, lawyers, accountants and doctors.



Distribution of languages and religious groups of Sri Lanka on D.S. division and sector level according to the 1981 Census of Population and Housing
Historical population
1881 8,900—    
1891 10,100+13.5%
1901 11,900+17.8%
1911 13,000+9.2%
1921 13,400+3.1%
1931 16,000+19.4%
1946 22,500+40.6%
1953 25,400+12.9%
1963 33,400+31.5%
1971 43,500+30.2%
1981 47,000+8.0%
1989 (est.) 48,000+2.1%
2001 54,800+14.2%
2011 40,189−26.7%
Source:Department of Census
& Statistics
Data is based on
Sri Lankan Government Census.


Depending on where they live in the country and other socio-economic factors Sri Lankan Malays speak Sinhala, Tamil and / or English. According to the 2012 Census 79.2% or 28,975 Sri Lankan Malays also spoke Tamil and 66.2% or 24,202 Sri Lankan Malays also spoke English.[5]


Like their ancestors in present-day Indonesia and Malaysia, Sri Lankan Malays are Muslim.[6] Mosques were erected by the local Malays along the coasts of Sri Lanka in places like Hambantota, Beruwela, and Galle. The Jawatte mosque in Colombo and Masjidul Jamiya, the military mosque in Slave Island, are acclaimed mosques renowned for their architecture and long history.[citation needed] The first two storeys of the Grand Mosque in Sri Lanka was built by Mohammed Balankaya, an exiled Malay noble of the royal house of Gowa (in present-day Sulawesi, Indonesia).[7] Today the mosque is of great significance and is a symbol of Muslims in Sri Lanka and is the Grand Mosque of Sri Lanka where decisions made here affect the lives of the island's Muslim population.[8]

Sri Lankan Malay names[edit]

First and last names among Sri Lankan Malays are mostly of Sanskrit origin and are similar (including equivalents) to names used by Sinhalese people.[9][10] Common last names among Sri Lankan Malays include Jayah, Weerabangsa, Sinhawangsa/Sinhawansa, Jayawangsa, Singalaxana, Bangsa Jayah and Wangsa.[9] Malay-origin last names common among Sri Lankan Malay include Lye, Chunchie, Doole, Kitchilan, Kutinun, Kanchil, Sainon, Bongso, Bohoran, Kuppen and Lappen.[9] Arabic names are also used by Sri Lankan Malays including Saldin, Rahman, Drahaman, Bucker, Ramlan, Rajap, Jumat and Mannan. Prefixes of Malay origin such as Tuan, Maas and Raden for males and Gnei, Nona, Sitti Nona and Gnonya for females are commonly used as first names among Sri Lankan Malays.[9][10]



  • All Ceylon Malay Political Union
  • Colombo Malay Cricket Club
  • Sri Lanka Malay Association
  • Malay Association Kolonnawa Electorate (MAKE)
  • Conference of Sri Lanka Malays

.Dunia Melayu Dunia Islam

  • Kurunegala Malay Association

Malay place names in Sri Lanka[edit]

Some place names in Sri Lanka have references, indicating the presence of Javanese and Malay communities or contribution to the location.[6] Some of these are:

and names of streets such as Malay Street, Java Lane, Jalan Padang [11]

Notable Sri Lankan Malays[edit]


  1. ^ This number represents the number of Sri Lankans with Malay ancestry who settled in Sri Lanka after the 13th century, primarily during the colonial era. It is distinct from the ancient waves of migration of Malays and Javanese who settled in Sri Lanka during and prior to the 13th century who intermarried into the Sinhalese population thousands of years ago.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A2 : Population by ethnic group according to districts, 2012". Census of Population & Housing, 2011. Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka.
  2. ^ a b c d Goonewardene, K.W. (July 1843). "Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Vol. VII". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 7: 257. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Malays in Sri Lanka".
  4. ^ "Population by ethnic group, census years" (PDF). Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Census of Population and Housing 2011". Department of Census and Statistics. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b Kalabooshana S. B. C. Halaldheen (25 January 2002). "Features: Sri Lanka Malays in focus". Daily News. Archived from the original on 2003-04-27.
  7. ^ B. D. K. Saldin (1996). Orang Melayu Sri Lanka Dan Bahasanya. Sridevi Printers Publication. p. 17. ISBN 95-594-1902-1.
  8. ^ DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sri Lanka. Dorling Kindersley Ltd. 2016. p. 69. ISBN 02-412-8997-1.
  9. ^ a b c d Hussainmiya, Bachamiya Abdul (1987). Lost Cousins: The Malays of Sri Lanka. Institut Bahasa. p. 8.
  10. ^ a b "Names in Sri Lanka". Asian-Recipe. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mohammed Zameer Careem (Tuan) (2016). Persaudaraan (brotherhood): Malay Life in Sri Lanka. S. Godage & Brothers.