Eleven Facts About Sri Lanka You Might Not Know
1. It is nicknamed Pearl of the Indian Ocean and teardrop of India
Sri Lanka is known for these two lovely names. Pearl of the Indian Ocean is given to this small island nation probably due to its incredible natural beauty, extraordinary biodiversity as well as its precious gemstones. Besides, the island has a teardrop shape and is off the coast of India, which is easier to see from the map. That’s why it is also called the teardrop of India. Below is a Google map snapshot of Sri Lanka to give you an idea of its location and shape.
2. Tea is a big business in Sri Lanka
If you’re a tea drinker, your cuppa may come from Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, a name synonymous with tea. Brought from China in 1824 by the British, the first tea plant on the island was displayed in the Royal Botanical Gardens outside Kandy and has grown into a huge business. This teardrop island nation is still a leading tea producer and exporter, with over 1 million of its 22 million people working in the tea industry.
3. Adam’s Peak is the most sacred mountain in the country
Perched in the picturesque area of the southern Hill Country, this holy peak has been a mecca for people of various beliefs in Sri Lanka for over a thousand years. In Buddhism, the peak is known as Sri Pada, meaning sacred footprint, and is believed to have been left by the Buddha when he was going to paradise. For Hindus, it is Lord Shiva’s footprint. When asking Christians and Muslims, they would say it is the footprint of Adam as he was banished from the Garden of Eden.
4. The Sri Lankan national flag is one of the oldest in the world
The Flag of Sri Lanka, also known as Lion Flag, is considered one of the world’s oldest, dating back to 162 BC. It is also thought to be the only flag in the world to recognize different religious beliefs, with the bo leaves representing Buddhism, orange standing for Hinduism, and green for Islam.
5. One of Buddha’s Teeth is housed in a temple in Kandy
A sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, brought from India in the 4th century CE, is still preserved in the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. Every summer, there’s a grand festival known as Esala Perahera (Festival of the Tooth), one of Sri Lanka’s 7 best festivals, to honor the tooth. Learn more about this amazing festival: Kandy Festival of the Tooth.
6. It is the first country in the world to have a female prime minister
In July 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, won the victory in the general election and became the first woman prime minister in the world. She served the country for three terms before she resigned in August 2000 because of failing health. At the age of 84, Sirimavo Bandaranaike died of a heart attack in the same year after her vote in the parliamentary elections.
7. It has the highest literacy rate in South Asia
Sri Lanka attaches great importance to education and makes it a fundamental right in its Constitution. The country is said to have a literacy rate of 92%, making it the highest in South Asia as well as one of the highest in Asia.
8. It is home to the world’s oldest human-planted tree
The oldest tree planted by the human being rather than by natural seeding is in Anuradhapura, one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka. It is a sacred fig or bo-tree aged 2,300 years old and called Sri Maha Bodhiya. The tree was planted in 288 BC. Its mother tree is said to be the famous Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment when he was meditating.
9. Eat with your hands
If you want to eat like a local Sri Lankan, learn to eat with your hands (it’s harder than it sounds!). Many restaurants have sinks in the corner for guests to wash their hands before and after they eat for this reason. Take your right hand and gather rice and other food on your plate and mix it together. Then, pass it into your mouth. Traditionally, your left hand is used for holding the plate you’re eating from.
10. There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country
There are several beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. They are: The Sacred City of Kandy, The Ancient City of Sigiriya, The Sacred City of Anuradhapura, The Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications, The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.
11. The Sri Lankan Flag is the oldest in the world
One of my favourite historical facts about Sri Lanka, is that Sri Lanka’s flag dates all the way back to the 5th Century AD, making it officially the oldest flag on the planet. The golden lion on the flag was removed and then reintroduced, holding a golden sword, after Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948.