SAARC Tourism
Sri Lanka

Culture of Sri Lanka

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Culture of Sri LankaCulture of Sri Lanka has moved through several phases in the course of history. It is a rich amalgamation of diverse cultural patterns. So many of the cultural strains of Sri Lanka are indigenous while several of them have been derived by the influences of migration, trade, religions and western colonisation. Culture of Sri Lanka has always grown under the umbrella of Buddhism, the dominant religion.

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Influence of Buddhism
Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka more than 2300 years ago. Before the arrival of Buddhism Hinduism was practised in the country. Influence of Hinduism did not vanish completely despite the coming of Buddhism. In Buddhism Sri Lankan society had accepted a religious philosophy based on the rational, where tolerance played significant part. Buddhism did not develop in Sri Lanka as a state religion. It was liberal in its philosophical content to let other winds flow into the country. Sri Lanka has adopted the Hinayana or Theravada sect, which is regarded as the tradition coming down Buddha's own disciples

Influence of Other Religions
Neighborhood to South India assisted Hinduism, but influence of Buddhism did not lessen. There was lesser influence of Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity, in addition to the pre-Buddhist worship of deities and animism. Some of ancient ways of worship still remain in the traditions and rituals of Sri Lanka. Trading relations with the Arabs, after the rise of Islam, saw the country coming in contact with Islam. From the early 16th century, Sri Lanka came under strong influence of the Christians, who came in search of its much valued spices, peacocks, gems and elephants. Gradually they also became rulers of the country.

Construction Work and Architecture
Rulers of Sri Lanka undertook lot of construction work and, in the process, promoted architecture. The science of hydraulics achieved new heights. Rulers encouraged the construction of "dagabas" or relic chambers for the spiritual upliftment of the people. They always gave importance to the Buddhist clergy. Great irrigation works were also undertaken to take care of the temporal needs of the country.

Evolution of Arts
All types of arts, especially sculpture and painting evolved in Sri Lanka. . The temples, palaces and gardens of the ancient Anuradhapura period (3 BC - 9 AC) and the later Polonnaruwa period (10 - 13 AC) have some of the best examples of architecture and sculpture in the South Asian region. Polonnaruwa also proves that Buddhist and Hindu traditions existed simultaneously in Sri Lanka. Buddhist temples were embellished with paintings. The most renowned specimen of the finest Sri Lankan art are the frescoes seen at the rock fortress at Sigiriya, (6th Century AD). Elegant frescoes have been painted on the face of a rock. It is now a UNESCO recognized site reminding us of the artistic heritage of Sri Lanka.

Culture of Sri Lanka StatesSociety
People of Sri Lanka always believed in simple livelihood. Festivals coincided with the collecting of the harvest, and the important events in the Buddhist calendar. Pageantry cannot be kept apart from the cultural traditions of Sri Lanka. Most renowned event globally is the "Kandy Perehera", the religious-festive procession held in Kandy in July/August each year, in honour of the Tooth Relic of the Buddha. It is known as the festival of sight and sound. Sri Lanka is basically an agriculture based society.

Musical Traditions and Dances
Music traditions in Sri Lanka vary from folk music to religious chants. North India has left easily recognised influence on the music conventions of the country. In northern part of Sri Lanka, impact of Karnataka music of South India is obvious. As for the dances they have been developing from the very ancient days. North and South India, both have had their own influences on Sri Lankan tradition of dances. In modern days western ways have also influenced Sri Lankan traditions.

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