4th February

Rosa Parks Day – talk about standing up for yourself, standing up for others.



Sri Lanka Independence Day:

Sri Lanka used to be called Ceylon when it was a British colony.

There have been humans here for perhaps 500,000 years. The original inhabitants are probably the ancestors of the Vedda people, who live in modern Sri Lanka and are animists who worship the dead.

It is thought it was once connected to India by a natural limestone bridge, which is still visible underwater today.

In 250 BC Buddhism arrived. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, believed to be a sapling of the tree Buddha meditated under, is the oldest planted tree in the world.

Their reservoirs, aqueducts, giant statues of Buddha and palaces such as the ‘Fortress in the Sky’ are impressive structures from this ancient time. It was the first country in the world to have a hospital, and was the ancient world’s largest exporter of cinnamon.

They were invaded by various parts of South Asia a lot. Parākramabāhu the Great (AD 1153–1186) built 1,470 reservoirs, the most any ruler has built ever, but Kalinga Magha, a Southern Indian, invaded in 1215 and destroyed and looted everything he could find.

In 1517 the Portuguese built a port fort in Colombo and gradually took over the kingdom. In 1619 the king signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Co. to get rid of the Portuguese, but the Dutch violated the treaty and stayed in the areas they won back for Sri Lanka.

People descended from a mix of Sri Lankans and these European colonists are called Burghers.

The Kingdom of Kandy (great name) was the last independent monarchy, during which the Temple of the Tooth was built, containing one of Buddha’s teeth.

During the Napoleonic wars, France owned the Netherlands and Britain was worried the Dutch would give Sri Lanka to France, and they wanted it too. In 1815 we took the whole country.

The Brits made coffee the main export; it declined, and the governor increased taxes and made everyone work 6 days building roads for free to make up the difference, which made the natives a bit cross. Then a disease wiped out the coffee plants anyway, so the Brits switched to tea-growing, and later rubber.

In 1931 Sri Lanka became the first South Asian democracy, and the first non-white country in the European empires to have a one-man, one-vote system.

Ceylon became independent in 1948. Because we’d artificially grouped the whole country under one parliament, whereas before it had been separate kingdoms, tensions grew between the Sinhala people and the Tamil minority, so there was a bit of a civil war for 26 years.

Then in 1977 J.R. Jayawardene came to power and freed the markets, making Sri Lanka the first Asian country to step away from Chinese/Russian-inspired Communism.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam tried to create an independent state for the Tamil people; this failed and 150,000 Tamil people had to seek asylum abroad. In 2004 the tsunami hit Sri Lanka and killed 35,000 people.

Animals endemic to Sri Lanka include the purple-faced langur (great insult).

Try making wattalappam, or do a Kandyan dance.


Start of Liberation War (Angola) – see 11th November



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