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Sri Lanka*Sri Lanka flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Sri Jayawardenepura (legislative) Colombo (administrative)
Area: 65,610 sq km; 25,332 sq miles
Population: 19,408,635 (July 2001 estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 23 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 77 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Garments and textiles, tea, diamonds, other gems, petroleum products, rubber and other agricultural products, marine products, graphite

Industry: Processing of rubber, tea, coconuts and other agricultural commodities; clothing, cement, petroleum refining, textiles, tobacco

Agriculture: Field crops: rice, sugar cane, grains, pulses, oilseeds, roots, spices; cash crops: tea, rubber, coconuts; animal products: milk, eggs, hides, meat

Currency: 1 Sri Lankan rupiyala (rupee) (SLRe), consisting of 100 cents

Natural resources: Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay


The people

Ethnic: Sinhalese 74 per cent, Tamil 18 per cent, Moor (Arabs) 7 per cent, Burgher (Dutch), Malay and Vedda 1 per cent

Language: Sinhalese 74 per cent, Tamil 18 per cent NOTE: English is widely used as a second language

Religion: Buddhist 69 per cent, Hindu 15 per cent, Christian 8 per cent, Muslim 8 per cent. Since the introduction of Buddhism by the Indian Prince Mahinda in the 3rd century BC, Sri Lanka has been a stronghold of Theravada Buddhism. Nearly 70 per cent of the people are Buddhist, primarily the Sinhalese. Theravada Buddhists adhere to the original Pali texts of Buddhism and believe in the ideal of Nirvana for a select few. Although freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution, the Government has given special status to Buddhism. Many Buddhists also honour various Hindu deities and the Hindu caste system, while not as strong as in India, retains some influence. About 15 per cent of the people, mostly Tamil, are Hindu. Their worship centres on the god Shiva; however, many gods exist in the hierarchy, each having a specific purpose. For instance, women pray to Paththini for health and fertility; businessmen seek the blessings of Kataragama, or Skanda; and students can ask for help with learning from Ganesh or Saraswathi. The Moors and Malays are mostly Muslim and 8 per cent of the population is Christian.


The history

Independence: 4 February 1948 (from the United Kingdom).

Government: Under the 1977 constitution, the President holds executive power. Each of the eight provinces has substantial control over local affairs. The President serves a six-year term. The National Parliament has 225 members. Rural villages often have a chief or headman. The voting age is 18.

*Sri Lanka
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