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What Should I Know About Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka lies below India in the Indian Ocean.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, most commonly referred to as simply Sri Lanka, is an island south of India. Sri Lanka covers a surface of 25,332 sq mi (65,610 kmĀ²) and is home to over 20 million people. The capital city, Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, is not the largest. Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, however, is home to the main administrative venues of the country, including the parliament and Urban Development Council. Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka, houses the main universities, as the area is an international metropolis that attracts many foreigners for both business and pleasure.

Sri Lanka was a monarchy until well into the 20th century. In 1948, Sri Lanka won independence from Ceylon. The government is now a democratic, socialist republic where the president is also the army's commander and the one who appoints the primer minister to rule over the parliament. Sri Lanka maintains amicable foreign relations with a number of countries, especially other Asian nations.

The population of Sri Lanka is mainly from the Sinhalese ethnic group, a unique group who lives mainly in Sri Lanka. In fact, 98 percent of Sinhalese reside in the island, with small groups of expatriates living in Southeast Asia, the UK, and Australia. Most people adhere to Buddhism, although some practice a combination of Buddhism with indigenous gods.

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Tamil communities, native to northern Sri Lanka, are also a big part of the population, although they have mixed with the rest of the residents throughout the past century. While English is widely used for official business, less than eight percent of the population actually speaks it. The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhalese and Tamil.

Agriculture, especially of Ceylon tea, sugar, and rubber, is a traditional economic resource of Sri Lanka. Food processing is a relatively new industry, but one that is developing fast. The tea industry, however, remains Sri Lanka's largest industry.

Sri Lanka is home to several World Heritage sites, including the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which dates back to 495 AD and is surrounded by the Sinharaja forest reserve. The golden Temple of Dambulla and the city of Polonnaruwa are also in the list of protected places.

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