What Do The Colors And Symbols Of The Flag Of Sri Lanka Mean?

By Amber Pariona on June 6 2018 in World Facts

The design of the Sri Lankan flag represents the different cultural groups and religions of Sri Lanka.

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, commonly known as Sri Lanka, is a South Asian island nation. The country has a rich cultural heritage dating back thousands of years. However, the country adopted its current name and flag in 1972.

Design of the Sri Lankan Flag

The current flag of Sri Lanka was officially adopted on May 22, 1972, although it has been in use since the 1950’s. Its design consists of a golden yellow background, which holds two images. The first of these images is located on the left hand side of the flag. It is made up of two vertical stripes that sit side by side. The stripe on the left is a dark turquoise green color, while the stripe on the right is orange in color. Together, these stripes take up approximately one-third of the available flag space. The remaining two-thirds of the flag is occupied by a maroon-colored rectangle, which holds the image of a golden yellow lion. This lion is facing left and holding a small, ceremonial sword in its right, front paw. Each corner of the maroon rectangle is marked by a golden yellow leaf. In any size, the flag of Sri Lanka is represented by a height to width ratio of one to two.

Symbolism of the Flag of Sri Lanka

Each of the images and colors utilized on the flag of Sri Lanka has a special symbolic meaning for the country. The two stripes on the left hand side, for example, are said to represent the two major minority groups living in Sri Lanka: Muslims and Tamils. The dark turquoise green color stands for the Muslim population, while the orange color is meant to represent the Tamil population. The golden yellow background is supposed to stand for the smaller minority populations also living in this country. The lion situated on the right hand side is meant to stand for the Sinhalese people, who make up around three-quarters of the population of Sri Lanka. The four leaves in each of the corners of the maroon rectangle stand for each of the primary principles of Buddhism, which is the most widely practiced religion here. Additionally, the 8 curling hairs on the tail of the lion represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. The sword is a symbol of the autonomy of Sri Lanka. Finally, the maroon background is said to stand for the many minority religions that are also practiced in this country.

Variations of the Flag

Throughout history, Sri Lanka has had a number of different flag designs. Prior to the colonial era, Sri Lanka was divided into several kingdoms. The Kingdom of Kandy, located in the central and eastern areas of the island was one of the largest of these islands. From 1798 to 1815, this kingdom utilized the same golden yellow background with maroon rectangle and sword-holding lion that is seen on the current flag design. The only difference between this image and that of the present-day flag was seen on the maroon rectangle, which was bordered by a black line. Under British colonial rule, between 1815 and 1948, the flag of this island had a solid blue background with a small Union Jack symbol in its upper left hand corner. In its right half was situated a circular image that held a monument and an elephant. Sri Lanka reverted back to the lion-only flag from 1948 to 1951, with slight changes to the image style.

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