Sri Lanka is a beautiful island nation located on the shores of the Indian Ocean. In recent years this country has gained immense popularity for travelers. And no wonder, because Sri Lanka has a rich history, a mild and pleasant climate, a huge number of attractions that will not leave anyone indifferent. Today’s article is dedicated to a quite interesting topic – religion in Sri Lanka. Many of us mistakenly believe that Sri Lanka is an exclusively Buddhist country, but this is not entirely true. Certainly Buddhism is the number one religion in the country, but Hinduism, Islam and Christianity (Catholicism to be exact) are practised on the island on a par with it. I will not give boring statistics, % ratio of each religion, you can easily find it on the internet if you want. I would, however, like to immerse you in the wonderful world of religion in Sri Lanka, features and traditions.
Buddhism in Sri Lanka
There is a cult in the country, the exaltation of Buddha. Countless Buddha figures can be found in all cities, towns and villages. The roots of Buddhism reach as far back as 250 B.C., when the appearance of Buddhism in Sri Lanka was first mentioned in primary sources. For many centuries there was only one religion on the island, Buddhism, but with the arrival of Europeans Christianity was introduced. Today in Sri Lanka there is a large number of Catholic churches, which are as decorated as European and American temples.
History knows of periods when the number of practicing Buddhists has greatly diminished. During these periods there have been so-called societies for revival of the faith which have been supported by the government.
Hinduism in Sri Lanka
Until the 3rd century B.C. there was only one religion in Sri Lanka, Hinduism, but with the arrival of the invaders and with the change of power Hinduism had superseded Buddhism. Today, it is estimated that there are about 8-10% Hinduism practitioners in Sri Lanka. As you already know, Sri Lanka has a sea border with India, precisely because of its proximity to such a strong and powerful state, Hinduism is still present in Sri Lanka. No matter how you spin it, a neighbour influences the development of a weaker state. Hinduism is spread unevenly in the country, with the largest concentration of this denomination being found in the north of the country, on the island of Ceylon. The island of Ceylon itself is very close to the culture of India: there are many temples decorated in the Indian style. The most famous of these temples are:
- Sri Kailavasanathan Swami Devashtana, located in Colombo.
- Shri Munneshvaam Devasthanam. It is believed that Rama himself prayed to Shiva in this temple in an attempt to seek forgiveness for his sins.
- Koneshwaram temple, which is entirely dedicated to shiva.
- The Sita Amman Temple and the Ravana Cave, very beautiful Hindu temples shrines located in central Sri Lanka.
There are a large number of other sights present in Sri Lanka which are recommended by all the guidebooks to visit. I, on the other hand, have highlighted the main Hindu related shrines above.
Islam in Sri Lanka
From sources, Islam is known to have originated in Sri Lanka in the 8th century AD. Historically it is known that Islam was introduced to the island by European merchants, who at that time dominated the Indian Ocean. Along with other religions, Islam has defended its right to exist on the island ever since its inception. Numerous military confrontations and civil wars, regarded as a kind of “cleansing” of the population from Muslims, prove this fact.
There are several branches of Islam on the territory of Sri Lanka, we shall now describe each of them:
- The Sri Lankan Moors. The earliest representatives of Muslims in Sri Lanka, it was their ancestors who were the European merchants who brought Islam to the country. Arabic words are found in their language, they strictly adhere to Shariah, and their kinship is defined by their mother.
- Malays. They are believed to be descended from the Dutch soldiers who settled on the island during the time when Sri Lanka was a Dutch colony.
- Tamil Muslims. This ethnic community consists mostly of Tamil Muslims, an ethnic community consisting for the most part of immigrants from India who have preserved their faith.
- Indian Muslims. The very name of this ethnic entity speaks for itself. Indian Muslims are none other than Muslims with Indian roots, who for a variety of reasons have been forced to migrate from India to Sri Lanka.
At the moment the Muslims in Sri Lanka are governed by the Muslim Council dealing with issues of culture, faith. This council settles all disputes and conflicts, as there is tension between all the religions represented on the island.
Christianity in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka there are the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Pentecostal religions. Christianity is the least represented religion on the island and is the latest to be born on the island. There are many historical facts about the beginnings of Christianity, but they are all rather “cloudy” and based only on speculation.
Sri Lanka is a very interesting country with a rich history. One of these facts is the presence of four religions on the island. One cannot say that they coexist peacefully. From time to time there are clashes, confrontations, terrorist attacks and the burning of holy places. For the most part, Christians and Muslims oppose each other. In spite of these conflicts, internal divisions within the country, Sri Lanka deserves your attention and a trip to its shores is a must. It will fill and inspire you with its colour, local traditions, abundance of fruits and seafood, and variety of succulent colours.