Pre History of Sri Lanka
The story of ancient Lanka has its beginning in the culture of the stone age. An ageless, timeless period, the stone age have inhabited Sri Lanka as early as 125,000 years ago and possibly 500,000 or more.It is during the period that we find trance of early man appears to have lived almost everywhere along the coast, on the plains and amongst the rolling grasslands of the hill country. The richest evidence however survives in canes. It is only then that stone age begins to take shape in our minds. At caverns like Fahienlena (c 35,000-3400 BC) Batadombalena ( c 29,000-9500 BC). Sri Lanka has an enthralling recorded history of civilization. Its unique and proud historical record of a great civilization spans over 25 chronicled centuries, and is documented primarily in three books; the Mahavamsa (Great genealogy or Dynasty), Dipavamsa and culavamsa. Sri Lankan histroy is distinctive as it has a historical record, which is ancient, continuous and trustworthy, and begins with the occupation of the island by civilized men in 5th century, Bc. The story continues under each successive king for over 20 centuries. The Mahavamsa is primarily a dynamic and religious historical record. In additional to this record, there are over 2500 inscriptions in Sri Lanka. The realist inscriptions are contemporary with the introduction of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. More than 1000 epigraphs, mostly inscribed on caves, belong to the third, second and first centuries Bc.
Pre- Historic period Beyond 1000 Bc ( Pre Anuradhapura period)
Prince Vijaya was the first recorded king of Sri Lanka. His reign is traditional dated to 543- 505 BCE. According to the legends, he and several hundred of his followers came to Sri Lanka after being expelled from an Indian kingdom. In Sri Lanka, they displaced the island’s original inhabitants Yakkhas, established a kingdom and became ancestors of the modern Sinhalese people. The Sinhala kingdom existed as successive kingdoms known by the city at which its administrative center was located.
Chronological order of Sri Lankan kingdom
- Kingdom of Tambapanni |(543 BC -505 BC)
- Kingdom of UpatissaNuwara (505BC-377BC)
- Kingdom of Anuradhapura (377BC- 1055 AD)
The Anuradhapura Kingdom was the first established kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka. Founded by King Pandukabhaya in 377 BC, the kingdom’s authority extended throughout the country, although several independent areas emerged from time to time, which grew more numerous towards the end of the kingdom. Nonetheless, the king of Anuradhapura was seen as the supreme ruler of the country throughout the Anuradhapura period. Anuradhapura is one of the most sacred cities in Sri Lanka as it is home to the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree which is a cutting from India’s Sri Maha Bodhi Tree under which the Prince Siddharta attained enlightenment. This cutting of the most revered Bodhi Tree was brought to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC by the Buddhist nun Sanghamitta, daughter of the great Buddhist emperor of India Ashoka. Also she founded the order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka.
Introduction of Buddhism also took place in Anuradhapura during the reign of King Devanapiyatissa (247-207 BC). Arhat Mahinda, son of Ashoka, the great Buddhist emperor of India, was the missionary sent by Ashoka to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Further, it was in Anuradhapura where Sinhalese civilization began. Hence, Anuradhapura is the cradle of the Sinhalese Buddhist civilization in Sri Lanka.
This ancient capital city fell many times to invading armies from India, but was famously recaptured and established as the pinnacle of the country’s development and culture by King Dutugamunu; during his reign (161-137 BC) he embarked on a massive construction project which created many of the magnificent monuments which are visible even today, chief amongst them the Ruwanweliseyastupa, the Mirisavetiya temple and Lohapasada. King Valagamba, who reigned towards the end of 3rd Century BC, built the 230ft high Abayagiristupa, while King Mahasena is created with having built 16 irrigation tanks and built Sri Lanka’s tallest stupa, the Jethavanaramaya, which at 400 ft is one of the highest stupas in the world.
- Kingdom of Polonnaruwa (AD 1056–1236 AD)
Polonnaruwa was established as the city of the land in 11th century AD. Replacing Anuradhapura as the capital city of Sri Lanka, due its constant south Indian invasions, it remained as the capital until 13 AD. The Sinhalese royal capital was relocated to Polonnaruwa as the second capital of Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa was also the royal capital of the South Indian Chola dynasty but they were warded off in 1070 by King Vijayabhahu I and then he kept Polonnaruwa his capital.
Under King Parakramabahu I (AD1153–1186 AD), Polonnaruwa reached its zenith. The king erected huge buildings, planned beautiful parks and, as a crowning achievement, created a 25-sq-km tank, which was so large that it was named the ParakramaSamudra (Sea of Parakrama).
Parakramabahu I was followed by NissankaMalla (AD 1187–1196 AD), who virtually bankrupted the kingdom through his attempts to match his predecessors’ achievements. By the early 13th century Polonnaruwa was beginning to prove as susceptible to Indian invasion as Anuradhapura was, and eventually it, too, was abandoned and the centre of Sinhalese power shifted to the western side of the island.
- Kingdom of Dambadeniya (AD 1232–1293 AD)
The first king to choose Dambadeniya as his capital was Vijayabahu III. He was able to bring about the unity among the Sangha that had fled in various directions due to the hostile activities of the invader Kalinga Magha and succeeded in holding a Buddhist convention in 1226 to bring about peace among the Buddhist clergy.
The Dambadeniya period is considered as the golden era of Sinhala literature.
- Kingdom of Yapahuwa (AD 1270 – 1283 AD)
Yapahuwa was one of the ephemeral capitals of medieval Sri Lanka. The citadel of Yapahuwa lying midway between Kurunagala and Anuradhapura was built around a huge granite rock rising abruptly almost a hundred meters above the surrounding lowlands.
- Kingdom of Kurunegala (AD 1293 – 1341 AD)
- Kingdom of Gampola (AD 1341–1408 AD)
- Kingdom of Kotte (AD 1408–1597 AD
- Kingdom of Kandy (AD 1469–1815 AD)
Senkadagalapura was established as a city by the King Wickramabahu III (of Gampola Era) during his reign from 1357-1374 AD. SenasammataWickremabahuascended the throne in the 15th century (1473-1511) making it the new capital of the Kandyan Kingdom. Until the 19th century, Kandy was the capital city and thus the home of the Royal Palace and the “DaladaMaligawa” (Temple of the Tooth relic).
Despite fall of coastal regions to the foreign invaders (Portuguese, Dutch and English) the Kingdom of Kandy managed to hold its independence surviving many invasions due to the torturous access routes through mountains. Kandy finally submitted to the British in 1815 when its chieftains voluntarily submitted to British rule by signing a pact with Britain at the “Magul Maduwa” which stands to this day near the Dalada Maligawa by the Kandy lakeside.
The last king of Sri Lanka, King Sri Wickrama Rajasinhe was imprisoned by the British and sent to a prison in India and lived as a prisoner until his death. With his capture, probably the longest Royal Dynasty in the world which survived since 6th century BC (over 2350 years) came to an end .
The Sinhala Kingdom ceased to exist by 1815.
The Colonial Era
Sri Lanka had always been an important port and trading post in the ancient world, and was increasingly frequented by merchant ships from the Middle East, Persia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia. The island were known to the first European explorers of South Asia and settled by many groups of Arab and Malay merchants.
Portuguese (AD 1597–1658 AD)
A Portuguese colonial mission arrived on the island in 1505 headed by Lourenço de Almeida the son of Francisco de Almeida. At that point the island consisted of three kingdoms, namely Kandy in the central hills, Kotte at the Western coast, and Jaffna) in the north. In 1592, Don Juan or KonappuBandara defeated Portugese in Danthure battle and became the King of the Upcountry by the name Vimaladharmasuriya and affirmed DhonaKathrina his Queen marking the beginning of the Upcountry kingdom. Accordingly the upcountry kingdom rises as a powerful free state from the Kotte and Seethawakakingdoms and king Vimaladharmasuriya made his kingdom the pinnacle of the Buddhist civilization.
Dutch (AD 1640–1796 AD)
The Dutch arrived in the 17th century. Although much of the island came under the domain of European powers, the interior, hilly region of the island remained independent, with its capital in Kandy. From the mid-1630s, the King of Kandy helped the Dutch to dispossess the Portuguese; by 1656 the island had become a Dutch possession except for Kandy. Later the Dutch also seized Kandy’s coastal areas. British interests developed in the late 18th century when its army invaded and forced the Dutch to accept its protection.
British (AD 1796-1948 AD)
The British East India Company established control of the island in 1796, declaring it a crown colony in 1802, although the island would not be officially connected with British India. The fall of the kingdom of Kandy in 1815 unified the island under British rule.In 1815 the British rulers conquered the Upcountry through an agreement signed by both the British & Upcountry rulers. However, before this agreement the upcountry rulers won the Danthure and Gannoruwa battles victoriously against the British. The first rebellious act against the British invasion of the upcountry was performed by a Kandyan Buddhist monk named Wariyapola Sri Sumangalathero.
In 3 years’ time from the agreement of 1815, the first freedom struggle against the British rose from Wellassa. The Battle was led by many Kandyan leaders such as MonaravilaKappetipola, HangurankethaDingirala, and Kohukumbure Rate Rala. This is a fine example of the bravery of the people of the upcountry. In 1829 British Colonial Office sends a Royal Commission of Eastern Inquiry–the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission–to assess the administration of the island. In 1833 adoption and enforcement of the Colebrook-Cameron Commission Proposals under the Charter of Justice. In 1910 A small electorate of Sri Lankans gains permission to send one of their members to the Legislative Council. Other seats held by Sri Lankans retained the old practice of communal representation. In 1927 A royal commissions under the Earl of Donoughmore visits Sri Lanka to ascertain why representative government as chartered by the 1924 constitution had not succeeded and to suggest constitutional changes necessary for the island’s eventual self-rule. In 1931 the Donoughmore Constitution Universal adult franchise and an experimental system of government to be run by executive committees is established. In 1944 Lord Soulbury is appointed head of a commission charged with the task of examining a new constitutional draft that the Sri Lankan ministers had proposed. The commission makes recommendations that lead to a new constitution. The constitution was amended to incorporate a provision giving Sri Lanka dominion status at the end of World War II. Even though this first freedom struggle was brutally suppressed through the British gun power, the strength and courage of the Kandyans couldn’t be defeated. The second freedom struggle of 1848 led by PuranAppu from Matale had the ability to put the British rulers in a very difficult situation. Therefore till the gaining of freedom in 1948, it is noticed that the people of the upcountry has performed an important role in the History of Sri Lanka. The Ceylonese now demanded their independence and in June 1947 the British agreed to make Sri Lanka a dominion. Sri Lanka became independent on 4 February 1948.
The first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon was one of the leaders of the independence movement, D. S. Senanayake. He was the head of the United National Party (UNP, the former Ceylon National Congress supported by the Tamil Congress). After a split in the UNP in 1951, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
In 1956 the nationalist SLFP won the elections, but in September 1959 Bandaranaike was assassinated. After elections the following year, his widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, led the SLFP to victory. In March 1965, the UNP was voted back to power with Dudley Senanayake (son of Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister) as Prime Minister until 1970, when the elections returned the SLFP.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s new government introduced a new constitution in 1972 – whereby Sri Lanka became a republic. The country’s name was also changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka – ‘Lanka’ being an ancient name for the island and ‘Sri’ meaning ‘resplendent’ or ‘venerable’. In 1978, a further constitution under the government of J. R. Jayewardene, introduced the executive presidency. Throughout this period, Ceylon’s government developed programmes of welfare and nationalization, leading to improvements in health and literacy, but the economy began to decline. In 1971 there was a serious internal crisis with an armed revolt by a communist youth organization.
In July 1983 communal riots took place due to the ambush and killing of 13 Sri Lankan Army soldiers by the Tamil Tigers. Using the voter’s list which contained the exact addresses of Tamils, the Tamil community faced a backlash from Sinhalese rioters including the destruction of shops, homes and savage beatings. Also, around 18,000 Tamil homes and 5,000 homes were destroyed, with 150,000 leaving the country. Many rulers tried to drag wars against them, with the military unable to defeat the separatists and the government opposed to negotiations. By defeating LTTE’s leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, under the excellent supervision of the president Mr.Mahinda Rajapaksha and the efforts of Military forces, finally Sri Lankan government declared total victory on Monday, 18 May 2009 Following the
LTTE’s defeat, Sri Lanka, emerging after a 26-year war, has become one of the fastest growing economies of the world. As Sri Lanka is now the fully independent country, visitors from all over the world tour Sri Lanka to witness the beautiful
natural creatures in the island and travel to Sri Lanka in everywhere with the full of freedom.
Presidents of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a Democratic Republic with an executive presidency based on the French model. Under the 1978 constitution, the head of state and government is the President. The President, directly elected for a five-year term, is head of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces. There is universal adult suffrage with proportional representation; presidential elections are held every Five years.
William Gopallawa (17 September 1896 – 31 January 1981) was the last Governor-General of Ceylon from 1962 to 1972 and became the first (non-executive) President of Sri Lanka. After him Sri Lanka had six executive presidents. Mr. JR Jayewardene was first executive president in Sri Lanka. Hon. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was elected as the seventh Executive President of Sri Lanka following the Presidential Election of 16 November 2019. He is the current president in Sri Lanka.
Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka
Don.Stephen Senanayake was sworn in as the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on September 24, 1947. Since 1978, most prime ministers have served as mere deputies to the executive presidency, while at times served as the de facto head of government. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the first female Prime Minister in the world.
On 19 November 2019, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as the Prime Minister for the 3rd time. He is the current prime minister in Sri Lanka.
Parliament of Sri Lanka
The Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is the supreme legislative body of Sri Lanka. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the island. It is modeled after the British Parliament. The first Parliamentary Election in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) after attaining dominion status was held in August 1947.
The Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is the most senior Member of Parliament in the cabinet of ministers in Sri Lanka which is collectively accountable for their policies and actions to parliament.
The President of Sri Lanka has the power to summon, suspend, prorogue, or terminate a legislative session and to dissolve the Parliament. President can dissolve Parliament only after the lapse of 4 1/2 years or if 2/3 majority of Members of Parliament requests him. The action of the President to either suspend or dissolve the Parliament is subject to legal scrutiny of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The Speaker or, in his absence, the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees or the Deputy Chairman of Committees, presides over Parliament.
Parliament has a single chamber with 225 members. Members are directly elected, but vacant seats occurring during the life of a Parliament go to nominees of the party holding the seat. Members are elected by proportional representation for five-year terms, with universal suffrage. Parliament reserves the power to make all laws.
Provincial Council structure
Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987—and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution—the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve some authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for 5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province’s Chief Minister with a board of ministers; a provincial governor is appointed by the president.
The Provincial Councils have full statute making power with respect to the Provincial Council List, and shared statute making power respect to the Concurrent List. While all matters set out in the Reserved List are under the central government.
Local government structure
Below the provincial level are elected Municipal Councils and Urban Councils, responsible for municipalities and cities respectively, and below this level Pradeshiya Sabhas (village councils), again elected. The main Acts relating to third-tier local authorities are the Urban Councils Ordinance 1939, the Municipal Councils Ordinance 1947 and the Pradeshiya Sabhas Act (No. 15 of 1987). The Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils is responsible for policy and legislation at the national level, while the provincial ministers of local government are responsible for the day to day administration and supervision at local level. There are nine second-tier provinces and 341 third-level local governments: 24 municipal councils, 41 urban councils and 276 Pradeshiya Sabhas (village councils).
Civil Service Structure
The country is divided into 25 districts, each of which has a district secretary (the GA, or Government Agent) who is appointed. Each district comprises 5–16 divisions, each with a DS, or divisional secretary, again, appointed. At a village level Grama Niladari (Village Officers), Samurdhi Niladari (Development Officers) and agriculture extension officers work for the DSs.