Sri Lanka, known from the beginning of British colonial rule until 1972 as Ceylon, is an island country in South Asia near south-east India. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.
A diverse and multicultural country with a long fascinating history, Sri Lanka is home to many religions, ethnic groups, and languages. In addition to the majority Sinhalese, it is home to large groups of Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils, Moors, Burhgers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. The country has a rich Buddhist heritage, and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, dates back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC.