As some of you might have gathered, I'm in Sri Lanka for a few week. I don't know if there are any students from here. I have been asked a few times what is the difference between Sri Lanka and India, so I thought it worth putting the record straight. Sri Lanka is very different in many ways.
Sri Lanka might have been part of the British Empire, but these days is far from being anything like India. That has never been part of India, having a distinctive culture of its own. Located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of southern India the island is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital is in fact a suburb of the largest city, Colombo.
Its documented history goes back 3,000 years but there's evidence of prehistoric settlements reaching back 125,000 years. Known as Ceylon under British colonial rule, it gained independance just after India, in 1948, adopting its present name in 1972. Sri Lanka's more recent history has been damaged by a 26-year civil war between the government and Tamil Liberation Tigers that ended in 2009. More recently (April), Colombo hit the headlines when there were some suicide bomb attacks, the responsibility claimed by Muslims.
A founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), member of the UN, Commonwealth of Nations, G77, and Non-Aligned Movement, Sri Lanka plays an active role in the international arena. Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian countries rated "high" on the Human Development Index (HDI), with its HDI rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations. (The Maldives shares this status.)
It is a small island but is the home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. Most people are Sinhalese, who are mainly Buddhist, but there is a large minority population of Tamils (Hindu), as well as Moors (Muslim), Burghers, Malays, Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda. There are also Christians and the country celebrates all religious festivals. It is second only to Cambodia for the number of days of national holidays.