For a small tropical island, Sri Lanka is packed with a myriad of places to see, things to do and experiences to be had. It is truly an island of DIVERSITY in every sense. The history of Sri Lanka is as diverse as the island itself.
From prehistoric caves to ancient cities and colonial fortresses, Sri Lanka’s unique history is more than enough to tickle even the most hardcore history buff.
Prehistoric Sri Lanka
It is no wonder that the small island of Sri Lanka that once broke off from the great continent of Africa itself shares with it signs that it was a cradle of evolution for early man. There is enough evidence to suggest that humans called home as far back as 130,000 BC. Some of the earliest fossils of anatomically modern human beings dating back to about 30,000 BC have been found in prehistoric caves. Sites like ‘Fa-Hien Cave’ and the ‘Batadombalena Cave’ are fine examples of dwellings of these early humans.
The Kingdoms of Sri Lanka
‘Anuradhapura’ the first city was established about 2500 years ago and gave rise to a kingdom that lasted for about 1400 years. Polonnaruwa was the 2nd kingdom and the ruins of the grand fortified medieval city is still an awe-inspiring sight. Many other archaeological sites dot the country for the benefit of the enthusiast. Kandy, the last kingdom of Sri Lanka is now a busy modern city, while still retaining much of its ancient heritage. Here you can visit the last royal palace and the temple of the ‘Tooth relic of the Lord Buddha’
Next came the colonial time period during which time the island was under the rule of Portuguese, Dutch and finally the English. The legacy they left behind still remains as well preserved fortified cities, unique architecture and rolling tea estates around the country. In Galle, the old Dutch Fortress is one of the most iconic remnants from that time and has earned its place as a UNESCO heritage site. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Sri Lanka today.
If you are a history buff, Sri Lanka also has a diverse collection of excellent museums ranging from the natural history museum of Colombo to many other regional, cultural, industrial and archaeological museums all over the country. The archaeological museums at Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy are home to some first-rate exhibits of their corresponding time periods. If you are passing by the Southern coastal town of Koggala, make sure to stop and visit the Martin Wickramasinghe cultural museum to get a better understanding of the historical culture of Sri Lanka.