Sinhalese is the language spoken by the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese speakers constitute a population of about 16 million, with a total of almost three million more people who speak the language as their second language. It is one of the official and national languages used in Sri Lanka. As a result of years of colonial rule, contemporary Sinhalese contains many European loanwords, with influences from Portuguese, Dutch, and English.
Country where Sinhalese is spoken:
Sinhalese Speaking Country Data:
Country: Sri Lanka
Democratic Socialist Republic: President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
GDP (ppp): $116.3 billion
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Industries: Rubber and tea processing, coconut, tobacco, minerals, and telecommunication.
Sinhalese immigrants reached Sri Lanka from Northern India around the 6th century BCE. Before their immigration the Sinhalese civilization relied on irrigation to practice intensive agriculture. This civilization prospered extensively from 200 BCE up to around 1250 BCE. They practiced trade with China and South East Asia for many years. The Sinhalese people were then driven south in 1212 BCE by Tamil invaders from the Chola Kingdom in Southern India. This drove them to their current location in Sri Lanka.
Around 1515 BCE Portuguese traders tried to control the sea lanes in South Asia which included Sri Lanka. This influence led to the coming of missionaries and the conversion of a number of the Sinhalese speakers to Catholicism. The Dutch expelled the Portuguese from Sri Lanka around 1658. Around 1815 the British, who were at the time controlling mainland India, took control of Sri Lanka up to 1931. The Island became totally independent in 1948.
The country, however, erupted into civil war in 1971 as the Tamil and the Sinhalese people rose against each other. In 2009, the government defeated the last of the Tamil Tiger insurgents and peace prevailed.
Interesting Sinhalese Facts:
• There are about 2.5 million Sinhalese speakers who live out of Sri Lanka.
• The language has its own writing system. It is used in writing official documents, including currency.
• Sinhalese is among the official languages in Sri Lanka, together with Tamil and English.
• The majority of Sinhalese speakers are Buddhist. Mahinda, the son of Ashoka from the Mauryan Empire introduced Buddhism to the Sinhalese people around 250 BCE. Even after the conversion of most mainland Indians to Hinduism, the Sinhalese remain Buddhists.