The Culture Of Sri Lanka

Performers at the Kandy Esala procession in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Editorial credit: SamanWeeratunga /
Performers at the Kandy Esala procession in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Editorial credit: SamanWeeratunga /

The island country of Sri Lanka is famous for its beautiful beaches, lush, green forests, and also its rich culture that is strongly influenced by Theravada Buddhism. South Indian culture and that of European powers who colonized the country in the past also add to the diversity of the Sri Lankan culture.

Ethnicity, Language, And Religion

Sri Lanka hosts a population of 22,576,592 individuals. 74.9% are Sinhalese. Sri Lankan Tamil, Sri Lankan Moors, and Indian Tamil are the biggest ethnic minority groups in the country. Sinhala and Tamil are both regarded as the national and official languages of Sri Lanka. English is spoken by about 23.8% of the population. 70.2% of the population practice Buddhism. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and other religions represent the rest of the population.


The cuisine of Sri Lanka has been influenced by several factors like contact with foreign traders from different parts of the globe. The Indian, Indonesian, and Dutch cuisines have most strongly influenced the cuisine of Sri Lanka. Rice and coconut are the staples of the diet. A wide variety of spices is also used. The most common meal involves boiled rice served with vegetable, fish, chicken, or mutton curry. Chutneys, sambol (hot sauce), etc., are served with the meals. Other Sri Lankan dishes are kiribath (rice cooked in salted coconut milk), kottu (a spicy stir-fry of vegetables and shredded roti), hoppers, etc. A wide variety of sweets like the aluwa, kokis, seenakku, etc., also characterize Sri Lankan cuisine. Some popular beverages are faluda (a sweet drink made of sugar syrup, ice cream, basil seeds, and jelly pieces), fruit juices, toddy, arrack (a distilled spirit prepared from coconut), etc.

Literature, Art, And Craft

Sri Lankan literature was primarily written in the Sinhala language but literary works have also been produced in some South Indian languages and English. The country’s writers have produced a rich collection of short stories over the years.

Sri Lankan art is greatly inspired by Buddhist traditions and other religious beliefs. It is represented in the form of sculptures, paintings, and architecture. Cave and temple paintings are found throughout the nation. Some of the most notable of these artworks can be seen in the temples in Dambulla and Temple of the Tooth Relic. Clay pottery, batik, lacework, and wooden handicrafts of Sri Lanka are also well appreciated.

Performance Arts In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is home to a variety of music and dance styles. The music of the country has been greatly influenced by Buddhism and Portuguese colonization. The latter introduced the ukulele, guitars, and cantiga ballads. The African slaves brought by the Portuguese also added to the music of the country. The slaves introduced dance music called baila. The Kandyan drums are an important instrument of traditional Sri Lankan music and have been extensively used in the country’s Buddhist and Hindu temples for centuries. There are three main styles of Sri Lankan classical dance which are the Sabaragamuwa dances, Kandyan dances, and the low country dances. A variety of folk dances associated with folk culture events like the pot dance, stick dance, etc., are also popular. Kolam is a dance drama where performers wear masks depicting various human or animal characters.


Cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka. However, volleyball has been designated as the country’s national sport by the Sports Ministry. Other popular sports played in the country are rugby, football, basketball, tennis, athletics, badminton, and water sports. The national cricket team of the country has been quite successful since the 1990s. It won the 1996 Cricket World Cup. A number of sports stadiums dot the country. Water sports like surfing, swimming, boating, and scuba diving are extremely popular in Sri Lanka.

Life In Sri Lankan Society

The status of women in the Sri Lankan society is relatively high as compared to that of women in other South Asian nations. A significant part of the workforce is formed by women. Teaching, nursing, tea picking, textile manufacturing, etc., are some of the professions with a large number of women employees. Although Sri Lankan women are expected to move in with the groom’s family after marriage, they maintain close ties with their own natal families. Child marriage is nearly non-existent in the country. In the household, however, women are expected to manage the household chores even if they are employed in jobs outside the home. Education is considered important and both girls and boys are given the opportunity to attain education. Although few women are in leadership roles, the number is increasing.

Marriages in Sri Lanka are either arranged by the families of the couple or are based on individual choice. However, marriages between individuals of the same status, ethnicity, and in some cases, the same caste, are encouraged. Cross-cousin marriages are common among the Tamil and Sinhala groups while parallel cousin marriages are preferred among the Muslims. Divorce rates are low but remarriage following the death of a spouse or divorce is possible for both men and women.

Both nuclear and extended households are common in the country. The cooking practices often determine individual households. For example, in an extended household, there may be separate kitchens for each family of husband, wife, and children. Although women have a significant influence on the family affairs, it is the men who have the ultimate authority in a majority of households. Preference for a male child is less visible in the country than in the neighboring nations. Both sons and daughters inherit the property of their parents.

Sri Lankans adore children. Children are taught cultural values since an early age. The different stages of their development are marked by various ceremonies. Education of children is highly valued in the country. Academic competition is high in the country.

Sri Lankan culture pays great emphasis on birds. Often, sparrows are allowed to build their nests in the house as these birds are believed to bring luck when they build their nest in your home. The peacock is regarded as a sacred bird.


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