The civilisational history of Srilanka is more than 2500 years old. In earlier times it was known as Ceylon. Sri Lanka's first settlers were the nomadic Veddahs. They were conquered by the Sinhalese around the 5th or 6th century BC. A number of Sinhalese kingdoms, including Anuradhapura in the north, took root across the island during the 4th century BC. Buddhism was introduced by Mahinda, son of the Indian Mauryan emperor Ashoka, in the 3rd century BC, and it quickly became the established religion and the focus of a strong nationalism. Anuradhapura was established as capital of Sri Lanka in ancient times. Continuous struggle between South Indian kingdoms and Sinhalese kingdom went on for over 1000 years. In 11 century AD, the capital was shifted from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa.
The Portuguese arrived in Colombo in 1505 and gained a monopoly on the
invaluable spice trade. By 1597, Potuguese had taken formal control of the
island. But they failed to dislodge the powerful Sinhalese kingdom in
Kandy. With the help of Dutch the Sinhalese kings were able to expel
Portuguese from Sri Lanka in 1658. The Dutch were more interested in trade
and profits than in ruling the country. They only half-heartedly resisted
when the British arrived in 1796. In 1815 Britain defeated the Sinhalese
kingdom of Kandy and became the first European power to rule the entire
island. Coffee, tea, cinnamon and coconut plantations sprang up and
English was introduced as the national language.
Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948 and adopted democratic system of
governance. In1972, the country became a republic and adopted Sri Lanka as
its official name-hitherto it was known as Ceylon. Shortly after
independence an ethnic conflict between majority Sinhalese and minority
Tamils started. The conflict has taken a heavy toll on the island country
and has resulted in the death of thousands of people. Peace talks brokered
by Norway resulted in ceasefire in 2001 and currently the peace talks are
going on between the two sides.