To understand the Sri Lankan religion and culture, the need to understand the people and their history is important. As history isn’t detached from people and understanding people, one needs to understand their history. Hence, consideration will be given to the people of Sri Lanka before we can understand their religion and culture.
HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA
For the importance of the topic, Sri Lankan religion and culture, consideration will only be given to the colonial history (especially of the Europeans) in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was first colonized by the Portuguese who arrived on the island in 1505. The Portuguese founded a fort named Colombo and later extended their influence into the coastal areas of the island. At this, the extension into the lowland led to the forceful conversion of the Sinhalese, a native tribe, into Christianity.
However, with the arrival of a Dutch captain in 1602, the Kandy king, –a land where the Sinhalese had moved to for self-protection– appealed to him for protection. Following this, the Dutch gained total control of the whole island of today’s Sri Lanka except the kingdom of Kandy in 1660.
At this, there was a race of mixed coloured persons. That is, the Dutch and the Sinhalese. A colour that was regarded by the Burgher people who are today’s heritage and reference to Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka. Following this ruthless phase of colonization, the British took over.
With the official cession of the island to British rule by the Dutch in 1802, a series of wars followed. The island became a crown colony and with the British invasion, history records the First Kandyan War in 1803. The Second Kandyan War also started in 1815 and lasted till Sri Lanka got independence in 1948.
Knowing this history of colonialism on the island has set the background for understanding the fusion of cultures on the island.
It should be added that before the first European invasion and colonialism, Sri Lanka had strong ties with India. It was, at a time, regarded as the Indian Ocean. Many powerful kings of this period married Indian princesses which allowed for the multiple nature of their culture.
RELIGIONS IN SRI LANKA
Following the fusion and mixture of other cultures into theirs, Sri Lankans practice a lot of religions. However, the most important religions are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.
Following the 2011 population census, the variety of religions and their worshippers were recorded. At this, there are 70.1% Buddhists, 12.6% Hindus, 9.7% Muslims and 6.2% of the population were Roman Catholic believers, that is, Christians.
In respect of this religious diversity, the people of Sri Lankan withhold respect for themselves, and they associate themselves with a maximum account of humility. It should be added that the arrival of Muslims from India between the 19th to 20th centuries is responsible for the population of Muslims.
Seeing that the people of Sri Lankan still permit themselves, their cultural prestige should be fascinating.
SRI LANKAN CULTURE
As written and deduced from above, Sri Lanka is an island of fascinating varieties of cultures. The cultural diversity preeminent in their social society is influenced by religion. Of course, religion influences many aspects of life as it constitutes the fundamentals of basic differences.
As expected, religion itself is culture. At this, Buddhist temples, Hindus temples, Muslim mosques, and Christian churches have all tried to exist differently yet, are closely knit in social interactions.
These gatherings have their form of ritual and worship due to varying levels of colonial impact, western knowledge, modernization as well as individual wealth.
Closely tied to this is language. As language is known to be a significant cultural feature of any group of people, so do Sri Lankans who have language mixed with their cultural identity.
There are 3 main and official languages on the island. The first is known as Sinhalese. Sinhalese is the language of the tribe that resisted colonialism until they were eventually subjugated by the British till independence in the middle of the 20th century.
The second main language is Tamil.
The third main language is the English language. As expected, the influence of British colonialism is protected on the island. As it occurred in every British colony, language and other cultural features notable in British culture are being shared with the colony.
These 3 languages are the main languages spoken in Sri Lanka. A typical Sinhalese and Tamil man has a bit of English language understanding while the younger generations are making conscious attempts to learn the language.
As expressed, Sri Lanka is one of the few countries with vast cultural diversities which is also individually rich. The culture is also reflected in arts, architecture fashion or dressing, and other fundamentals of cultures which include food.
Hospitality, humility, and happiness are important features of society. This is a result of the extent to which they permit themselves. This grants them the ability to appreciate things the more, as much as they create a connection with nature.
These traits are influenced by the prominent religions of the island. Knowing that without religious understanding and tolerance, a reasonable society will remain unachievable.
Dance is also another important feature of any culture. Sri Lanka has 3 dimensions of traditional dances. The first is the Kandyan Dance, followed by the Low Country dance, while the third notable dance is regarded as the Sabaragamuwa dance. These dances are performed at important cultural rituals in various temples and shrines. All these add flavour to the true Sri Lanka culture.
There are also traditional attires which are also of huge importance to the people. Attires such as the sari, sarong, diyareddha, and others. All these constitute an important recognition of traditional dressing.
There is a kind of magic associated with Sri Lankan food. Although, some food processing and style are influenced by the Indian culture as a result of Sri Lankan kings’ intermarriages with them. However, a huge ingredient in some food can only be found in Sri Lanka.
The indigenous medicines of Sri Lanka are also very potent. Some medicines can cure terminal diseases which is a threat to the western world. This is also a feature of the peoples’ society which made it a fine inspiration for tourists.
As expressed above, Sri Lanka went through stages of European colonialism. This influenced the culture as religions and languages are introduced. However, Sri Lankan religion and culture are religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. The notable languages also include Sinhalese, Tamil, and English.
Culture has played a great role in making Sri Lanka a friendly nation as it is today.