Sri Lanka Facts
Pidurutalagala (2,524 m) is Sri Lanka's highest point.
Sri Lanka was formerly known as Ceylon.
Sri Lanka was mentioned in the Ramayana, the great Indian epic, written around 500 BC.
Buddhism (founded by Siddartha Gautama) arrived in Sri Lanka in the third century BC.
The ancient people of Sri Lanka built reservoirs and canals to water their crops and by the first century a number of large irrigation systems had been built.
Today, many reservoirs can be seen throughout the country.
The Veddha were the earliest people known to have inhabited Sri Lanka. Small villages in the rainforest are still home to the Veddha people who account for one percent of the population.
Between 500 and 300 BC Sinhalese people migrated to Sri Lanka from northern India and Tamil people arrived from southern India.
Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka founded in the fifth century BC, was built around a sapling of the Buddha's fig tree.
The Ancient City of Sigiriya was built towards the end of the fifth century by King Kassapa I.
From the sixteenth century Europeans colonised the island of Sri Lanka. These included the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.
The British plantations in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) produced cinnamon, tea and rubber. Tea was introduced to the island in 1867 and rubber was brought to Ceylon in 1876.
Trincomalee, one of the world's best natural harbours, was a British naval base until 1957.
Ceylon became independent in 1948 but kept its ties with the UK as part of the Commonwealth.
In 1960 Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Ceylon became the world's first female Prime Minister.
In 1972 the name Ceylon was changed to Sri Lanka.
In May 2003 Sri Lanka suffered terrible floods. Around three hundred people were killed and two hundred thousand people needed food and shelter.
On 26 December 2004, a quake occurred under the sea near Aceh in north Indonesia (8.9 on the Richter scale); this produced tsunamis causing flooding and destruction in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and the east coast of Africa (Kenya and Somalia).
On 20 February 2009 two Tamil Tiger light aircraft were shot down when they bombed Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital city.