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perjantai 19. elokuuta 2016

Sri Lanka, Cool Facts #131

<= 130. Maledives                                                                                            132. The Philippines =>

1. Many Names of Sri Lanka 

Sri Lanka - The country's name since 1972. 
Ceylon - British Ceylon 1815-1948 and as the independent country of Ceylon between 1948-1972. 
Ceilão - Name given by the Portuguese when they arrived to the island in 1505. The British translitterated the name to Ceylon later. 
Sarandīb - Name used by the ancient Arabs and Persians
Taprobanē - Name used by ancient Greek cartographers 
Tambapanni - Name given by the legendary Prince Vijaya according to the Mahavamsa 
Eelam - Tamil name for Sri Lanka 
Lanka - Name used of the island in Hindu mythology such as the Mahabharata

Ancient map of Sri Lanka

2. Prince Vijaya Mythology 

Founder of Sri Lanka
Prince Vijaya is the first recorded King of Sri Lanka. According to legend Prince Vijaya reached Sri Lanka on the same day as Gautama Buddha died in northern India. Prince Vijaya had been born in Sinhapura, which is believed to be somewhere in the present-day Bengal.

Prince Vijaya was expelled from an Indian kingdom where he was living because of his violent deeds. His father, the king didn't want to kill him like the citizens had demanded but expelled Vijaya and his 700 followers.

First Kingdom
In Sri Lanka Vijaya and his followers displaced the mythical Yakkhas, the island's original inhabitants, established the Kingdom of Tambapanni and became the ancestors of the modern Sinhalese people.

Political importance
Various genetic tests have given mixed results, some demonstrate that the Sinhalese are genetically the closest to the people from Bengal and some display close affinity with the Tamils. The issue has political importance because the Sinhalese scholars have used the legend of Prince Vijaya to propose the Indo-Aryan origin of the Sinhalese people distinguishing them from the Dravidian Tamils with whom the Sinhalese had the long civil war.

The coronation of Vijaya (Ajanta cave mural of cave no. 17)

3. Kingdoms of Sri Lanka  

The Sinhalese monarchy was established in 543BC by Prince Vijaya, who founded the Kingdom of Tambapanni.

The British ended the Sinhalese monarchy in 1815 after winning the Kandyan Wars against the Kingdom of Kandy. This meant the end of 2357 years of Sinhalese independence and the beginning of the British colonial rule.

The longest-lasting kingdom was the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, which ruled in Sri Lanka for 1394 years.

543-505 BC Kingdom of Tambapanni 
505-377 BC Kingdom of Upatissa Nuwara
377 BC- 1017 AD Kingdom of Anuradhapura 
1017-1070 Chola occupied Anuradhapura 
1056-1236 Kingdom of Polonnaruwa 
1220-1335 Kingdom of Dambadeniya
1345-1412 Kingdom of Gambola
1412-1597 Kingdom of Kotte
1590-1815 Kingdom of Kandy

Flag of Kingdom of Kandy
Illustration of the Kandyan War

4. Sri Lankan Civil War 

The Sri Lankan Civil War lasted almost 26 years, starting in 1983 and ending in 2009.

Sri Lankan government against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. India supported the LTTE until 1987.

LTTE's goal
Fought to create an independent Tamil state called Tamil Eelam in the northern and eastern part of the country.

Tension between Tamils and Sinhalese people
The British started bringing Tamil workers from southern India to work in the plantations during the colonial era. Sri Lanka already had native Tamil and Sinhalese people living in the country. The tensions escalated when Sri Lanka became independent.

In 1949 many Tamil workers were deprived of citizenship and things got worse when Solomon Bandaranaike became president. Bandaranaike escalated ethnic tensions by making Sinhala the only official language. The were protests by the Tamils and against the Tamils, where a lot of Tamils and other people got killed.

Formation of LTTE
In 1976 the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was formed as tensions in Tamil-dominated areas had increased.

Wars and peace negotiations 
The First Eelam War started in 1983 and the second in 1990 and the third one in 1995. During the civil war there were four failed peace talks. Human rights were violated by both parties during the fights.

End of the civil war
The government managed to get control over the whole area previously controlled by the LTTE, military bases and forcing the LTTE to drop their demand for a separate state in favor of a federal solution. The rebel leader of LTTE, Vellupilai Prabhakaran, was killed in a fight before the defeat of the LTTE.

Sri Lankan soldiers

5. Buddhist Country 

Before Buddhism Sri Lanka was a Hindu country.

Sri Lanka became a Buddhist country during the Anuradhapura period during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura. Buddhism spread to Sri Lanka from India with the arrival of Mahinda, the son of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, and a Buddhist monk or bhikkhu like they were called.

Mahinda and the Buddhist monk arrived in Mihintale talking about Buddhism to the monarch. Devanampiya Tissa embraced the faith and started propagating Buddhism throughout the Sinhalese population.

Since then Sri Lanka has been a Buddhist-majority country. Most of the Sinhalese are today Buddhists, Theravada Buddhism being predominant. Hinduism is the second largest religion and Hindus are mainly Tamils.

Sri Lanka religiosity: 

Buddhism 70%
Hindu 13%
Islam 10%
Christian 7%

Mihintale Buddha statue 


400s BC Indo-Aryan migrants from northern India settle on the island
200s BC The Tamil migration from India started
1505 The Portuguese arrived in Colombo
1658 The Dutch force out the Portuguese and control the whole island except the central Kingdom of Kandy
1796 Great Britain starts taking over the island
1815 The British defeat the Kingdom of Kandy and start bringing Tamil workers from southern India to work in the plantations
1833 The whole island is united under one British administration
1948 Ceylon gains full independence
1949 Many Tamil plantation workers deprived of citizenship
1956 Solomon Bandaranaike elected as president. Bandaranaike made Sinhala the only official language. Over 100 Tamils were killed after Tamil parliamentarians protested the new laws
1958 Anti-Tamil riots leave more than 200 people dead
1959 Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk and his widow Sirimavo became the new president in 1960
1971 Sinhalese Marxist uprising led by students and activists
1972 Ceylon changes its name to Sri Lanka and Buddhism become the primary religion of the country
1976 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam formed as tensions increased in Tamil-dominated areas
1983 First Eelam War started
1987 First Eelam War ended after government forces pushed LTTE back into the north. Sri Lanka and India negotiated a peace deal. Sri Lankan troops withdrew from the northern part of the country and handed the control over the area to Indian peacekeeping troops
1990 Indian troops leave and the violence between the separatists and Sri Lankan army escalates. The Second Eelam War begins.
1993 President Premadasa killed in LTTE bomb attack
1995 Third Eelam War begins when rebels sink a naval craft
2002 The government signed a Norwegian-mediated ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers
2003 Sri Lanka's worst-ever floods cause 200 deaths and drive over 4000 people from their homes
2004 More than 30,000 people died in the tsunami
2005 State of emergency after the foreign minister was killed by a suspected Tiger assassin
2006 Worst clashes between with the Tamil Tigers since the 2002 ceasefire
2009 The government defeats the Tamil Tigers and their rebel leader Vellupilai Prabhakaran was killed in the fighting
2015 Maithripala Sirisena became president


maanantai 15. elokuuta 2016

Maldives, Cool Facts #130

<= 129. Nepal                                                                                                            131. Sri Lanka =>

1. Explorers in Maldives

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit the islands in the 1500s. The Dutch and British followed them in the following centuries and before becoming independent, Maldives was a British Protectorate. 

Before the Europeans, Maldives had already visitors from Arabic countries, Madagascar, South-East Asia and China. Somalian people visited Maldives and the islands were also used by pirates as a hide-out. 

Different goods were exported from Maldives to Sindh, China, Yemen and the Persian Gulf. This centuries-long exposure to influences from Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia can be seen in borrow-words, material culture and Maldivian phenotype

One of the reasons of being influenced by so many different cultures is the location of the Maldivian islands in the Indian Ocean, which have been in the crossroads of the different trade routes. 

Maldives atolls

2. Muslim Country with Buddhist Past  

- Buddhism probably spread to Maldives in the 200s BC at the time of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka the Great
- Maldives was a Buddhist country until the mid-1100s
- Muslim traders introduced Sunni Islam
- Many Buddhist temples were destroyed after the conversion to Islam
- According to legend, Maldives converted to Islam in 1153
- Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary from North Africa was responsible for converting first the king and later the rest of the population to Islam in Maldives
- The Malé Friday Mosque is the oldest mosque in Maldives, it was built in 1658 close to the tomb of Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary
- Sunni Islam is the official religion of Maldives
- Adherence to Islam is required to get the Maldivian citizenship
- Open practice of any other religion than Islam is forbidden and liable to prosecution

Malé Friday Mosque

3. Sultanate of Maldives 

Maldives was a monarchy for 853 years. In 1153 the last Buddhist king converted to Islam and became the first Sultan of Maldives. The importance of Arab traders in the Indian Ocean might have been an important factor in the conversion.

In 1932 the Sultans became elective and in 1968 Maldives became a republic after a referendum, thus ending monarchy in Maldives.

The monarchy lasted for 853 years in Maldives. King Koimala was the first king to rule the whole of Maldives after he reclaimed the northern atolls from the Indian invaders. His sister's son Dhovemi was the one who converted to Islam.

So Dhovemi was first a king and then the first Sultan of Maldives. After Dhovemi all the monarchs were Sultans until the abolition of monarchy. Muhammad Fareed Didi was the last monarch.

Dynasties of Maldives: 

1117-1388 Lunar Dynasty (Theemuge Dynasty later)
1388-1632 Hilaalee Dynasty
1632-1692 Utheemu Dynasty
1692 Hamawi Dynasty
1692-1704 Isdhoo Dynasty
1704-1759 Dhiyamigili Dynasty
1759-1766 Huraa Dynasty
1766-1774 Dhiyamigili Dynasty (restored)
1774-1952 Huraa Dynasty (restored)
1952-1954 First Republic of Maldives
1954-1968 Huraa Dynasty (second restoration)

The last monarch, Muhammad Fareed Didi

4. President For 30 Years 

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was the president of Maldives for 30 years between 1978 and 2008. Gayoom became the president when the previous president Ibrahim Nasir fled to Singapore after having resigned because of corruption charges against him.

Gayoom's presidency:

+ Positive sides
- Period of political stability
- Tourism flourished
- Economic development

- Negative sides
- Freedoms were limited
- Political favoritism
- Autocratic rule
- Human rights abuses
- Corruption

- Won six consecutive elections without opposition
- Coup attempts in 1980, 1983 and 1988
- In 2008 lost the elections to Mohamed Nasheed

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Maldives is the lowest country in the world. The highest point of the country is only at 2,4 meters of elevation. 

Geography facts of Maldives: 

- The capital city, Malé, is only 90 centimeters above sea level
- Asia's smallest country by area 
- Maldives consists of 1192 islands of which 220 are inhabited 
- The land is infertile and vegetation is scarce
- Tourism is the biggest source of revenue, because of the beautiful nature and warm climate, which attract people to visit Maldives 

Maldives Beach


Dravidian people from the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka inhabited the islands first
543-483 BC Earliest written history when the Sinhalese people from Magadha landed in Sri Lanka and some in the Maldives
200s BC Buddhism came to the Maldives and became the dominant religion there until the 1100s
1000s Chola Empire conquered parts of the Maldives
1100s Islam spread to the Maldives
1153 The ruler of the Maldives ordered Islam to be the religion of his subordinates and he took the title of Sultan for himself
1300s The Ad-Din family established a Sultanate, which ruled until the 1960s
1558-1573 The Portuguese got control over the islands before the local Sultans banished them
1656 The Dutch East India Company took control over Maldives as they conquered Ceylon
1796 The British defeated the Dutch in Ceylon and they got also the Maldives
1887 The Maldives officially became a British Protectorate retaining its internal self-government
1953 The Maldives became a republic and the Sultanate was abolished
1954 The Sultanate was restored
1959-1962 United Suvadive Republic formed by the southern atolls, with Abdulla Afif Didi as president
1963 The United Suvadive Republic rejoined the Maldives 
1965 Maldives gained independence from Great Britain
1968 Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir deposed the last Sultan and ended the 800-year old Muslim Sultanate, Maldives became a republic
1978 Nasir fled to Singapore and resigned after corruption charges, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom became the next president
1983 Gayoom re-elected with more than 90% of the votes
1988 People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam staged a coup to displace president Gayoom. The attempt failed after India sent troops to save Gayoom's government
1998 Gayoom re-elected to fifth term as president
2003 Gayoom re-elected to sixth term becoming the longest-serving Asian head of state
2005 Multi-party system was allowed after pro-democracy demonstrations
2008 Mohamed Nasheed won Gayoom in the first multi-party presidential elections
2012 President Nasheed resigned and Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik became the president 
2014 After six decades, Maldives readopted death penalty to be used for certain crimes