Land and People
The pear-shaped island is 140 mi (225 km) across at its widest point and 270 mi (435 km) long. The narrow northern end is almost linked to SE India by Adam's Bridge, a chain of limestone shoals that, although partly submerged, present an obstacle to navigation. About four fifths of the island is flat or gently rolling; mountains in the south central area include Adam's Peak (7,360 ft/2,243 m) and rise to Pidurutalagal (8,291 ft/2,527 m), the highest point on the island. Sri Lanka has a generally warm, subtropical climate; the average lowland temperature is 80°F (27°C), but humidity is high. Rainfall, largely carried by monsoons, is adequate for agriculture, except in the subhumid north. In addition to Sri Jayewardenapura Kotte and Colombo, other important cities are Dehiwala–Mount Lavinia, Kandy, Galle, and Jaffna.
The population of Sri Lanka is composed mainly (more than 70%) of Sinhalese, who are Theravada Buddhists. Sri Lankan Moors, Indian Tamils, and Sri Lankan Tamils are the largest minorities; there are also Burghers (descendants of Dutch and Portuguese colonists), and Eurasians (descended from British colonists). In addition to the Buddhist majority, there are Muslims, Hindus, and Christians. The official language is Sinhalese (Sinhala); Tamil is a second national language, and English is commonly used in government.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.