Sri Lanka, Democratic Socialist Republic of [formerly Ceylon] (Sinh. Sri Lanka Prajathanthrika Samajavadi Janarajaya)
- Anne Sheeran
[formerly Ceylon] (Sinh. Sri Lanka Prajathanthrika Samajavadi Janarajaya)
Country in Asia. It is an island in the Indian Ocean, roughly 38 km from the southern tip of India and 960 km north of the Equator. With an area of approximately 65,610 km², it has a population of around 18·8 million (2000 estimate).
From the standpoint of music and musical performance practice, one of the most significant features of Sri Lanka is its long involvement in the political and commercial life of the region. Situated with the Arabian Sea to the west and the Bay of Bengal to the east, Sri Lanka has since ancient times participated in an intricate East-West economy, negotiating the sale of its sought-after natural resources (pearls, spices and elephants). The destinies of three important kingdoms in Sri Lanka – Anuradhapura (137–1000), Polonnaruva (1055–1255) and Kotte (1371–1597) – were tied to shifting centres of trade between the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Anuradhapura remained the capital until the 12th century, when trading networks in south India shifted trade from the west to the east coast of India, more strategically located for Polonnaruva. The south-western kingdom of Kotte became dominant during the 14th century, when the centre of trade moved back to the western coastal areas in response to the international demand for commodities associated with the southwest (pearls and gems). Strategic alliances between influential families in India and Sri Lanka were not uncommon. In the 16th century Sri Lanka’s strategic location and its natural resources became a focus of European imperial expansion. The Portuguese colonized parts of the south and south-west in ...