Sri Lanka Traditions and Literature


Formerly a British colony, independent since 1948 within the British Commonwealth with the name of Ceylon, the state was constituted in the Socialist Democratic Republic on May 22, 1972, assuming the name of Sri Lanka. Under the Constitution of October 1978 (which amended that of 1972), Sri Lanka became a presidential republic. The president is elected every 6 years by universal suffrage, exercises executive power and appoints the government; the Parliament (formed by the House of Representatives, composed of 225 members), is also elected every 6 years by universal suffrage and exercises legislative power. The legal system is made up of a mixture of rules deriving from the British, and a set of other codes (Roman, German, Islamic). International law is not accepted; justice is administered by the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal. The death penalty is in force in the country. The country’s armed forces are divided into three parts according to the classic subdivision: army, navy, air force, flanked by paramilitary forces; military service is carried out on a voluntary basis from 18 years of age. The educational system, in use under British domination, was organized in such a way that only the upper and middle bourgeoisie benefited from it. Free schooling (from primary schools to university), compulsory education from 5 to 14 years and teaching in the mother tongue in primary school were proposed shortly before independence from the Special Education Committee. At an organizational level, primary school lasts 4 years and is preceded by a two-year preparatory period of infant school. The teaching’s teaches in Sinhala, Tamil and English as a second language. The secondary school is made up of two cycles: between the first and the second, pupils must take a qualification exam. Finally, higher education takes place in some professional schools and universities in Colombo, Jaffna, Sri Jayewardenepura (in Nugegoda, near the capital), Kelaniya, Moratuwa, Ruhuna (in Matara), Peradeniya. According to the 2006 estimate, the percentage of illiterate people in the country stood at 9.2%, a slight increase compared to the beginning of the millennium, probably also due to the devastation caused by the tsunami. The commitment for the reconstruction of the country started, in fact, from the school infrastructures.


Folklore is undoubtedly the area where the sign of Indian influence is clearest. At the social level, the caste system is in force and there are still uses relating to the subjection of women to men. The religious element is still very strong in the characterization of the costumes, often softened by a high cultural background. Every moment of life is the subject of very careful ceremonials. Those connected with childhood life and the celebration of the wedding are very developed and persistent. The ancient custom of selling the wife no longer exists, while polygamy is limited to the nobles (there are some cases of polyandry, especially in the villages of the interior). The custom of arranging marriages between children is still widespread, but marriage is postponed to the period of puberty (except in some more isolated groups). In funeral rites, despite the numerous (sometimes fanatical) variants, the belief in the afterlife always exists as an inspiring reason. Propitiatory ceremonies linked to agricultural life are very common. L’ animism is dominant in most of the population and superstitions are very ingrained (the astrologer practically acts as an agronomist consultant). Likewise, Ayurvedic medicine is still widely used, and not limited to the area of ​​health, but rather as a global lifestyle. Numerous songs (especially female) accompanying the work in the fields and still in vogue the peasant dances usually performed around the drum (called rabana). Throughout the year there are religious festivals in Sri Lanka, for the most part pagan and mystical, which attract every Sinhalese, to any religious faith they belong to; the feasts of the various religions often merge. The “New Year’s party”, for example, brings together Hindus and Buddhists around sumptuous lunches. One of the gayest and most animated Buddhist holidays is Wesak (May), which commemorates the birth, life and death of the Buddha. The Posom festival is held annually to celebrate the introduction of Buddhism to the island of Ceylon. But the most spectacular Sinhalese festival is the Esala Perahera, held in Kandy, on Mount Esala, and which celebrates the birth of Viṣṇu. Among the Hindu festivals are to remember the Thai Pongal (January 14), dedicated to the worship of the sun god, and Vel (August), which celebrates Srī Murugan’s victory over the forces of evil. The ceremonial dances are all inspired by mythology and are divided into two categories: the Kandyan dances, which are one of the oldest art forms in the world, and the devil’s dances, which refer to barbaric and grotesque traditions. For music, Sri Lanka is only a “province” of the Indian region. The Vedda are particularly skilled in the forms of codified dance and in various respects they recall musical forms typical of the Australian Aboriginal culture. The clothing hinges on two typical garments: the sari and the sarong, which have some variants that are sometimes characteristic. Sinhalese cuisine revolves around two cornerstones: rice and curry. The other dishes are based on fish, meat and vegetables flavored with dozens of different spices. The (from Sinhalese ” ”) are a kind of pancakes served with honey or yogurt.


According to itypeauto, the adoption of Sinhala as the official language of the island was strongly opposed from the beginning, with violent riots in the streets that culminated in 1955 in clashes as bloody as futile. Sinhala is the mother tongue of ca. 3 million individuals and is an Indo-Indian language imported to the island from India. Separated from the subcontinent, it then had the opportunity to evolve on its own, developing its own literary identity, which also maintained close contact with the Dravidian languages ​​of southern India. The elu, or ancient Sinhalese, which is traced back to the sec. XIII-XIV, he gave a literature defined as “totally Buddhist” due to its evident affinity with Buddhist literature in Piles. The Neosingalese began to develop towards the century. XV, which saw the flowering of the still popular poetic genre sandeśa (message), didactic and fabulous. Contemporary Sinhala literature has similar orientations and aims to the Dravidian sisters of India.

Sri Lanka Traditions