History of Sri Lanka
As Colombo possesses a natural harbour, it was known to Romans, Arabs, and Chinese traders over 2,000 years ago. Traveller Ibn Batuta who visited the island in the 14th century, referred to it as Kalanpu. Arabian Muslims, whose prime interests were trade, began to settle in Colombo around the 8th century CE mostly because the port helped their business and controlled much of the trade between the Sinhalese kingdoms and the outside world. They now comprise the local Sri Lankan Moor community.
Portuguese explorers first arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505. During their initial visit they made a treaty with the King of Kotte Parakramabahu VIII (1484-1508) enabling them to trade. In 1638 the Dutch signed a treaty with King Rajasinha II of Kandy. The British captured Colombo in 1796.
This era of colonialism ended peacefully in 1948 when Ceylon gained independence from Britain. Colombo's colonial heritage is visible throughout the city, many historical building are still in use, including the Old Parliament Building, which is now the Presidential Secretariat. The influence of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British is clearly visible in Colombo’s architecture, names, clothing, food, language and attitudes. Buildings from all three eras stand in their glory as reminders of the turbulent past of Colombo.
Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees to the Buddhist Sangha. The garden and palace were built by Kashyapa. Following Kasyapa's death, it was again a monastery complex up to about the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. The ruins were discovered in 1907 by British explorer John Still. The Sigiri inscriptions were deciphered by the archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana who published a renowned two volume work, published by Oxford, known as "Sigiri Graffiti". He also wrote the popular book "Story of Sigiriya".
Dating back to the 1st century BC, this is the most impressive cave temple in Sri Lanka. In 1938 the architecture was embellished with arched colonnades and gabled entrances. The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and remains the best-preserved ancient edifice in Sri Lanka. This complex dates from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, when it was already established as one of the largest and most important monasteries. King Valagambahu is traditionally thought to have converted the caves into a temple in the 1st century BC. Exiled from Anuradhapura, he sought refuge here from South Indian usurpers for 15 years. After reclaiming his capital, the King built a temple in thankful worship. Many other kings added to it later and by the 11th century, the caves had become a major religious centre and still are. King Nissanka Malla gilded the caves and added about 70 Buddha statues in 1190. During the 18th century, the caves were restored and painted by the Kandyan Kings.
According to some historians, Galle was the ancient seaport, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. Certainly, cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC and the root of the word itself is Hebrew, so Galle may have been the main entrepot for the spice. Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians were doing business through Galle port. The "modern" history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship, under Louren�o de Almeida was driven there by a storm. However, the people of the city refused to let the Portuguese enter it, so the Portuguese took it by force. In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present Fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as "sun", "moon" and "star". After the British took over the country from the Dutch, they preserved the Fort unchanged, and used it as the administrative centre of Galle.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.