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Sri Lanka History
Sri Lanka has a fascinating documented history dating back to 543 BC covering a period of over 2500 years of civilization. The great chronicle Mahawamsa and many other historical manuscripts such as Deepawamsa, Chulawamsa Rajavaliya and Pujavalia have provided much of Sri Lanka’s documented history. Fascinating archeological findings provide further information on the island’s earlier settlements.
The first major legendary reference to the island is found in the Indian epic - Ramayana, thought to have been written around 500 B.C. The Ramayana tells of the conquest of the island by Rama - an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu and Rama's quest to save his abducted wife, Sita from Ravanna - the demon god of Lanka.  According to scholars, this is a poetic account of the early southward expansion of Brahmanic civilization.  Legend also has it that Adam’s Peak – the 2,234 metre mountain located in the southern highlands of Sri Lanka is where Adam set foot on earth.  Archeological findings also reveal that several Stone Age settlements existed on the island dating back to pre-historic times.

According to the Mahawamsa, in 6th century B.C. Vijaya, an Indian Prince landed on the North Western shores of Sri Lanka and established himself as the ruler of the island with the help of Kuveni – a local demon worshipping princess. Kuveni's offspring are the folkloric ancestors of the present day Veddas.

A significant event in the history of Sri Lanka was the introduction of Buddhism.  The Indian  emperor Asoka sent his son Mahinda to the island in 3rd century B.C. and introduced Buddhism to the reigning Sinhalese king Devanampiya Tissa who then followed the Indian emperor’s strategy of merging the political state with Buddhism.  As a result, Buddhism became an integral part of Sinhalese culture and civilization on the island.
King Devanampiya Tissa founded the first capital city of Sri Lanka Anuradhapura.  This ancient kingdom survived for more than 1200 years amidst many foreign invasions and was ruled by more than 100 Sinhala Kings.  It was during this period that the Sri Maha Bodiya - a sapling of the sacred Bo Tree, under which the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was brought to Sri Lanka. Many other spectacular creations such as the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Dambulla Cave Temples, Ruwanweli Maha Stupa and many other Stupas, palaces and monasteries were built.  Ruins of this architectural legacy still remain.
After Anuradhapura was destroyed by the South Indian Cholas, the kingdom was established in Polonnarawa in 1073 AD by King Vijayabahu. Polonnaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka for more than 200 years. Many temples, palaces and a large number of irrigation tanks were built by the great Kings of Polonnaruwa.  These ancient irrigational tanks continue to provide water to the rural areas.  The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa ended following an invasion by Magha the ruthless Kalinga Prince from India in 1213 AD. This resulted in a shift of capitals and the population to the central and south western parts of the island where it was considered safer and more appropriate for defending against invading forces. As a result the Kingdoms were moved from Polonnaruwa to Dambadeniya and then to Yapahuwa, Kurunagala, Gampola, Kotte and finally to Kandy.