Context of Sinhalese people

Sinhalese people (Sinhala: සිංහල ජනතාව, romanized: Sinhala Janathāva) are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group native to the island of Sri Lanka. They were historically known as Hela people (Sinhala: හෙළ). They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number more than 16.2 million. The Sinhalese identity is based on language, cultural heritage and nationality. The Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, an insular Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a minority of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity and other religions. Since 1815, they were broadly divided into two respective groups: The 'Up-country Sinhalese' in the central mountainous regions, and the 'Low-country Sinhalese' in the coastal regions; although both groups speak the same language, they are dist...Read more

Sinhalese people (Sinhala: සිංහල ජනතාව, romanized: Sinhala Janathāva) are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group native to the island of Sri Lanka. They were historically known as Hela people (Sinhala: හෙළ). They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number more than 16.2 million. The Sinhalese identity is based on language, cultural heritage and nationality. The Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, an insular Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a minority of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity and other religions. Since 1815, they were broadly divided into two respective groups: The 'Up-country Sinhalese' in the central mountainous regions, and the 'Low-country Sinhalese' in the coastal regions; although both groups speak the same language, they are distinguished as they observe different cultural customs.

According to the Mahavamsa and the Dipavamsa, a third–fifth century treatise written in Pali by Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese descend from settlers who came to the island in 543 BCE from Sinhapura led by Prince Vijaya who mixed with the indigenous Yakka and later settlers from the Pandya kingdom.

More about Sinhalese people

History
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    1 A section of the mural at Ajanta in Cave No 17, depicts the 'coming of Sinhala'. The prince (Prince Vijaya) is seen in both of groups of elephants and riders.
    2 The consecration of King Sinhala (Prince Vijaya) (Detail from the Ajanta Mural of Cave No 17).
    Historical populationYearPop.±%1881 1,846,600—    1891 2,041,200+10.5%1901 2,330,800+14.2%1911 2,715,500+16.5%1921 3,016,200+11.1%1931 3,473,000+15.1%1946 4,620,500+33.0%1953 5,616,700+21.6%1963 7,512,900+33.8%1971 9,131,300+21.5%1981 10,979,400+20.2%1989 (est.) 12,437,000+13.3%2001 13,876,200+11.6%2011 15,173,820+9.4%2001 Census was only carried out in 18 of the 25 districts. Source:Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka
    & Statistics[1]
    Data is based on
    Sri Lankan Government Census.

    The early recorded history of the Sinhalese is chronicled in two documents, the Mahavamsa, written in Pāli around the fourth century CE, and the later Culavamsa (the first segment probably penned in the 13th century CE by the Buddhist monk Dhammakitti). These are ancient sources that cover the histories of the powerful ancient Sinhalese kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa which lasted for 1500 years. The Mahavamsa describes the existence of fields of rice and reservoirs, indicating a well-developed agrarian society.

    Pre-Anuradhapura period

    According to the Mahavamsa, Prince Vijaya and his 700 followers left Suppāraka,[2] landed on the island at a site believed by historians to be in the district of Puttalam, south of modern-day Mannar, and founded the Kingdom of Tambapanni.[3][4] It is recorded that Vijaya made his landing on the day of Buddha's Parinirvana.[5] Vijaya claimed Tambapanni as his capital and soon the whole island went under this name. Tambapanni was originally inhabited and governed by Yakkhas, having their capital at Sirīsavatthu and their queen Kuveni.[6] According to the Samyutta Commentary, Tambapanni was one hundred leagues in extent.[7]

    At the end of his reign, Vijaya, having trouble choosing a successor, sent a letter to the city of his ancestors, Sinhapura, in order to invite his brother Sumitta to take over the throne.[8] However, Vijaya had died before the letter had reached its destination, so the elected minister of the people[9] Upatissa, the Chief government minister and leading chief among the Sinhalese became regent and acted as regent for a year. After his coronation (in 505 BC), which was held in Tambapanni, he left it, building another city Upatissa Nuwara, named after himself, 11–13 km (7–8 mi) further north of Tambapanni.[3][4][10] When Vijaya's letter finally arrived, Sumitta had already succeeded his father as king of his country, and so he sent his son Panduvasdeva to rule Upatissa Nuwara.[8]

    Anuradhapura period

    In 377 BC, King Pandukabhaya (437–367 BC) moved the capital to Anuradhapura and developed it into a prosperous city.[11][12] Anuradhapura (Anurapura) was named after the minister who first established the village and after a grandfather of Pandukabhaya who lived there. The name was also derived from the city's establishment on the auspicious asterism called Anura.[13] Anuradhapura was the capital of all the monarchs who ruled from the dynasty.[14]

    Rulers such as Dutthagamani, Valagamba, and Dhatusena are noted for defeating the South Indians and regaining control of the kingdom. Other rulers who are notable for military achievements include Gajabahu I, who launched an invasion against the invaders, and Sena II, who sent his armies to assist a Pandyan prince.

    Polonnaruwa period
     
    Ruins of the Royal palace of Polonnaruwa

    During the Middle Ages Sri Lanka was well known for its agricultural prosperity under king Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa during which period the island was famous around the world as the rice mill of the east.

    Transitional period

    Later in the 13th century the country's administrative provinces were divided into independent kingdoms and chieftaincies: Kingdom of Sitawaka, Kingdom of Kotte, Jaffna Kingdom and the Kandyan kingdom.[15] The invasion by the Hindu king Magha in the 13th century led to migrations by the Buddhists (mostly Sinhalese) to areas not under his control. This migration was followed by a period of conflict among the Sinhalese chiefs who tried to exert political supremacy. Parakramabahu VI, a Sinhalese king invaded the Jaffna Kingdom and conquered it, bringing the entire country back under the Sinhalese kingdom for 17 years. Trade also increased during this period, as Sri Lanka began to trade cinnamon and a large number of Muslim traders were bought into the island.[16]

    In the 15th century a Kandyan Kingdom formed which divided the Sinhalese politically into low-country and up-country.[16] In this period, the Sinhalese caste structure absorbed recent Dravidian Hindu immigrants from South India leading to the emergence of three new Sinhalese caste groups - the Salagama, the Durava and the Karava.[17]

    Modern history

    The Sinhalese have a stable birth rate and a population that has been growing at a slow pace relative to India and other Asian countries.

    ^ "Population by ethnic group, census years" (PDF). Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2012. ^ "483 BC - Arrival of Aryans to Sri Lanka". scenicsrilanka.com. Retrieved 6 November 2009. ^ a b Mittal, J.P. (2006). "Other dynasties". History of Ancient India: From 4250 BC to 637 AD. Vol. 2 of History of Ancient India: A New Version. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 405. ISBN 81-269-0616-2. Retrieved 6 November 2009. ^ a b "Pre-history of Sri Lanka". lankaemb-egypt.com. Embassy of Sri Lanka Cairo, Egypt. Archived from the original on 24 May 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2009. ^ "King Vijaya (B.C. 543-504) and his successors". lankalibrary.com. Retrieved 6 November 2009. ^ "Tambapanni". palikanon.com. Retrieved 6 November 2009. ^ Manathunga, Anura (4 February 2007). "The first battle for freedom". Ths Sunday Times. Retrieved 6 November 2009. ^ a b Blaze, L. E. (1933). History of Ceylon. p. 12. ISBN 9788120618411. ^ The Mahávansi, the Rájá-ratnácari, and the Rájá-vali. Parbury, Allen, and Co. 1833. ^ "Chapter i the beginnings; and the conversion to buddhism". ^ Blaze (1995), p. 19 ^ Yogasundaram (2008), p. 41 ^ Wijesooriya (2006), p. 27 ^ Bandaranayake (2007), p. 6 ^ Jawad, Afreeha. "Communal representation of 1848 – this country's bane". sundayobserver.lk. Retrieved 24 February 2012. ^ a b G. C. Mendis (2006). Ceylon under the British. Colombo: Asian Educational Services. 4. Medieval history ^ Da Silva, KM. (2015). A History of Sri Lanka. p264
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