Sri Lanka has seen many rulers and much historical turbulence. This tear-drop land mass was at one point in time an extension of the southern Deccan plateau of India. The Sinhalese people are said to have come to Sri Lanka from India, around 500 BC. Buddhism, too, was introduced from the same neighbouring country, in 260 BC.
Though initially divided into different states and under different rulers, it soon became united under the rule of King Dutthagamini, with its capital at Anuradhapura. The rulers of Sri Lanka ensured that their people were not short of water for irrigation. They built a complex system of canals, dams and reservoirs.
Trade brought prosperity to Sri Lanka during the 2nd to 4th. centuries AD. Thereafter, there were repeated invasions from India's Chola Empire. Even though they eventually became free of Chola supremacy, Sri Lankan rulers could not keep the entire region united. By the 13th. century, it was again divided into three main parts, the northern one under the Tamils who had come in from India, and the other two under the Sinhalese, in the south-west and centre-east part of the country respectively.
By 1505, the colonial phase began in Sri Lanka with the entry of the Portuguese. They were followed by the Dutch and lastly by the British. All sought the much-popular spice, cinnamon.
Following India's independence from British rule in 1947, Sri Lanka also made a similar demand. It received its independence on February 4th, 1948.
This port-city has an ancient past, having been known by the Romans, Arabs, Persian and Chinese traders of yore. At the time when the European powers were vying with each other to access the all-important spice trade (cinnamon being the main one) of that time, this port became most significant. The Portuguese, in 1505, were the first to recognise it as being of great value. They were responsible for calling it 'Colombo' after its Sinhalese name, Kola-amba-thota, or 'harbour with leafy mango trees'.
Thereafter, the importance of Colombo was retained as it became the country's capital. In 1978, however, the administrative capital was shifted to Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte; but, Colombo still retained its prominence as the country's commercial centre.
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