About Sri Lanka
Serendipity is defined as the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate while searching for something else. The word traces its origins to the ancient Persian name for Sri Lanka, Serendip.
Sri Lanka is a tropical island in the Indian Ocean off the southeast tip of India, about 65,000 square km in size. It is an independent country with a native language (Sinhala) and strain of Buddhism (Theravada), unique to it. Many religious groups claim an affinity for Sri Lanka; Adam and Eve are said to have been offered refuge on the island upon being expelled from the Garden of Eden, and it is referred to in the Indian epic, The Ramayana. Sri Pada, which is honored by Buddhists as carrying the footprint of the Buddha, is also known as Adam’s Peak by Christians. Sri Lankans celebrate every major religious event for Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus and Christians with national holidays. It has the highest number of public holidays in the world which includes the above as well as Poya or full moon days, and holidays whenever the Sri Lankan cricket team wins a tournament which, thankfully, is not too difficult.
Sri Lanka’s heritage dates back to over 2,500 year and parts of it are designated as world cultural heritage sites. It is famous for claiming 40 out of 75 of the world’s gems. King Solomon was said to have given an enormous ruby from Ceylon to the Queen of Sheba, and the 400 carat sapphire called the Blue Belle which adorns the British Crown is from the island, as was the sapphire in the engagement ring given to Diana, the Princess of Wales. The sapphire (misnamed the Star of India) displayed in New York’s Museum of Natural History also comes from Sri Lanka.
The island is home to a variety of endemic species of animals and about a quarter of the country is designated wild life reserves. It is known for its flora and fauna including ebony, mahogany and teak, a multitude of spices and a cornucopia of colorful fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs. Traveling through the length and breadth of the country, one could experience rain forests, cold waterfalls and high plains as well as pristine, warm oceans and dry zones similar to deserts.
Rural life remains relatively unchanged in remote areas, while the cities, particularly the capital, Colombo, are cosmopolitan and replete with the usual insignia of Western culture.
Sri Lanka is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, ecumenical nation. 70% of the country practices Buddhism, 8% Islam, 7% Hinduism and 6% Catholicism. Schools are required to instruct each child in the religion of their birth regardless of the denomination of the institution. Sinhala is the national language of Sri Lanka while Tamil and English are used as official languages. Most Sri Lankans speak and/or understand English. The literacy rate is 92% and Sri Lanka has the highest per capita income in South Asia.