Language and Religion

Sinhala and Tamil are official languages in Sri Lanka. Sinhala, a language of Indo-Aryan origin is the language of the majority. English is widely spoken and understood. Place names and sign-boards on buses and trains are usually in all three languages. Sri Lanka is a land of religious freedom and tolerance. Wherever you travel you will come across a Buddhist Temple or Dagaba, a Hindu Kovil, a Christian Church or a Mosque, each with its own distinctive architecture. When visiting holy places please conform to the requirements as regards dress in order not to show disrespect.


Buddhism is the main religion of Sri Lanka where it was officially introduced in the third century B.C. during the reign of King Devanam Piyatissa by Venerable Mahinda who was son of Emperor Asoka of India.  No sooner than it was introduced here the new teaching caught up with the inhabitants of the country so rapidly that within a few months’ time the entire country became Buddhist.  In Sri Lanka it has found its most congenial permanent home.

Buddhism is the practical system of psychological and philosophical ethics taught to humanity by the Indian prince Siddhartha Gauthama in the 6th century B.C.  He was born on the full - moon day of May in the year 623 B.C. as the son of Suddhodana, a provincial ruler of the kingdom of Kapilavastu in Central India.  His teaching has today become a world religion providing inspiration and guidance to nearly one fourth of the world’s population.

He lived the house - hold life for twenty-nine years, the last thirteen years of which constituted his married life with princes Yasodhara.  As a royal prince born with the silver spoon in the month he led a luxurious life.  However, he had been a very contemplative person from his young days and this nature of his did not make him happy amidst his royal luxury.  To him such enjoyment did not make any appeal because he saw that it was fleeting and temporary and as such, in the ultimate analysis, life is painful.  All so-called pleasures are delusive.  Amidst comfort and prosperity he realized the university of sorrow inherent in human existence.

Despite all the efforts of man to achieve happiness in this world, human suffering stares in the face of all living beings.  Search after worldly pleasures available to him and donning the simple garb of an ascetic, alone and penniless, he wandered forth from home to homelessness in search of Truth and Peace, which to him appeared as an attainable objective.

Initially, he went to all the distinguished teachers at the time all of whom failed to meet his demands.  He was determined to find it for himself.  This was followed by six years of painful austerities which too proved futile.  However, by directing the searchlight inward, followed by a severe mental and an emotional struggle, he ultimately achieved his cherished goal on the full moon day of May 588 B.C. under the Bodhi Tree at Buddhagaya in India.

(Associate Editor Buddhist Publication Society)

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  Information provided by Sri Lanka Tourism Board.


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