The history of Sri Lanka begins around 30,000 years ago when the island was first inhabited. Chronicles, including the Mahawansa, the Dipavamsa, the Culavamsa and the Rajavaliya, record events[1][2]from the beginnings of the Sinhalese monarchy in the 6th century BC;[3] through the arrival of European Colonialists in the 16th century; and to the disestablishment of the monarchy in 1815. Some mentions of the country are found in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Lankavatara Sutra Mahayana Buddhism texts of Gautama Buddha's teachings. Buddhism was introduced in the 3rd century BC by Arhath Mahinda (son of the Indian emperor Ashoka the Great).

From the 16th century, some coastal areas of the country were ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Sri Lanka was ruled by 181 kings from the Anuradhapura to Kandy periods. [4] After 1815 the entire nation was under British colonial rule and armed uprisings against the British took place in the 1818 Uva Rebellion and the 1848 Matale Rebellion. Independence was finally granted in 1948 but the country remained a Dominion of the British Empire.


Part of the the ruined ancient Sri Lankan city of Polonnaruwa, photographed in the mid-1890s, looking very much as it would have appeared in its wild jungle setting to the artist Andrew Nicholl in the later 1840s. 




Established in 4th century BC

It was the first capital of Sri Lanka and remained so until 8th century AD. Anuradhapura is an archaeologist's delight and contains several monuments of historical importance. The city is considered very sacred by the Buddhists and is home to the largest dagobas in Sri Lanka

This seat of ancient civilization is also located in the Cultural Triangle, and was one of the capital cities several centuries ago. Anuradhapura is 205km from Colombo and contains some ruins of ancient palaces and buildings that have been preserved quite well.
The city also had some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world. Most of the great reservoir tanks still survive today, and some many be the oldest surviving reservoirs in the world. After an invasion in 993 AD, Anuradhapura was permanently abandoned
The city lies on the banks of the Malvathu Oya and is revered by Buddhists because of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a Bo Tree that has been grown from a sapling of the tree under which the Lord Buddha was enlightened.


 While Vijayabahu's victory and shifting of kingdoms to the more strategic Polonnaruwa is considered significant, the real "Hero of Polonnaruwa" of the history books is actually Parakramabahu I. It was his reign that is considered the Golden Age of Polonnaruwa, when trade and agriculture flourished under the patronage of the king, who was so adamant that no drop of water falling from the heavens was to be wasted, and each was to be used toward the development of the land; hence, irrigation systems that are far superior to those of the Anuradhapura Age were constructed during Parakramabahu's reign, systems which to this day supply the water necessary for paddy cultivation during the scorching dry season in the east of the country. The greatest of these systems, is the Parakrama Samudraya or the Sea of Parakrama. It is of such a width that it is impossible to stand upon one shore and view the other side, and it encircles the main city like a ribbon, being both a moat against intruders and the lifeline of the people in times of peace. The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was completely self-sufficient during King Parakramabahu's reign.

With the exception of his immediate successor, Nissankamalla I, all other monarchs of Polonnaruwa were slightly weak-willed and rather prone to picking fights within their own court.They also went on to form more intimate matrimonial alliances with stronger South Indian kingdoms, until these matrimonial links superseded the local royal lineage and gave rise to the Kalinga invasion by King Kalinga Magha in 1214 and the eventual passing of power into the hands of a Pandyan King following the Arya Chakrawarthi invasion of Sri Lanka in 1284. The capital was then moved to Dambadeniya.




Established in 477AD

Located in Sri Lanka’s Cultural  Triangle, Sigiriya is the unofficial 8th Wonder of the World. It is part palace and part fortress and was used in the 4th Century AD by King Kasyapa. Even though it was lived in centuries ago, there is evidence of how advanced the people were in areas such as culture and engineering. The flat rock surface has ruins of an upper palace, a terrace at mid-level with the Lion Gate, mirror wall and beautiful frescoes, a lower palace and of course the walled gardens and moats at the bottom.
The view from the top of the rock is stunning and extends for miles. The palace situated there even contains cisterns cut into the rock wall and these still retain water, an example of the ingenuity of the ancient people.




The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which is an integral part of Sri Lankan Buddhism is situated in the hill capital of Kandy. The relic itself is a tooth of the Lord Buddha which was saved from his funeral pyre and is venerated by all Buddhists. Historically this relic has been very important since whoever had it in his possession was considered the ruler of the country. For this reason the kings who ruled in the past went to great lengths to protect it.
Worship rituals are conducted daily in the Inner Chamber by monks of the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters of the temple. Services are held at dawn, noon and every evening. The Sacred Relic is bathed in a symbolic ceremony on Wednesdays with a herbal preparation of fragrant water and flowers. This ritual is called Nanumura Mangallaya and people believe that this water has healing powers and is therefore distributed among devotees present.






The Dambulla Cave Temple or the Golden Temple of Dambulla is located 148km from Colombo and is considered the biggest cave temple complex in the country as well as the best preserved. The rock stands 160m or 525ft above the nearby plains and there are over 80 recorded caves. These contain paintings and statues of the Lord Buddha, Kings of Sri Lanka, Gods and Goddesses including those of the Hindu faith.
The temptation of the Lord Buddha by Mara (the demon) and his first sermon are some of the events depicted on the cave walls.