LANGUAGE
   
HISTORY

Sri Lanka is a place where history seems to fade into the mist of legend. Is not Adam's Peak said to be the very place where Adam set foot on earth, having been sent out of heaven? Isn't that his footprint squarely on top of the mountain to prove it? Or is it the Buddha's footprint on Sri Pada? And isn't Adam's Bridge (the chain of islands linking Sri Lanka to India) the very series of stepping stones Rama, aided by his faithful ally, the monkey god Hanuman, stepped across in his mission to rescue Sita from the clutches of the Rawana,King of Lanka, in the epic Ramayana?

The first entries in the Mahavamsa – or “Great History” – date back to 543BC, which coincides with the arrival of Prince Vijaya in Sri Lanka . Some 300 years later, commenced the early Anuradhapura Period, with King Devanampiya Tissa as the first ruler. It was in this period that a sapling of the sacred Bo Tree, under which the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was brought to Sri Lanka . The late Anuradhapura Period, which began in the year 459, saw the reign of King Kasyapa, and the construction of Sigiriya. The Polonnaruwa period, witnessed the transfer of the capital from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa in 1073. Famed explorer, Marco Polo, arrived in Sri Lanka in the period between 1254 and 1324, and, in 1505, the Portuguese landed, and occupied the island's coastal regions.
 

The Portuguese Period

At this time Sri Lanka had three main kingdoms – the Kingdom of Jaffna in the north, the Kingdom of Kandy in the central highlands and Kotte, the most powerful, in the south-west. In 1505 the Portuguese, under Lorennso de Almeida established friendly relations with the king of Kotte and gained, for Portugal , a monopoly in the spice and cinnamon trade, which soon became of enormous importance in Europe . Attempts by Kotte to utilize the strength and protection of the Portuguese only resulted in Portugal taking over and ruling not only their regions, but the rest of the island, apart form the central highlands around Kandy . Because the highlands were remote and inaccessible, the kings of Kandy were always able to defeat the attempts by the Portuguese to annex them, and on a number of occasions drove the Portuguese right back down to the coast.