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Encyclopedia > Sinhalese people
Total population

c. 15.0 million

Regions with significant populations
Flag of Sri Lanka Sri Lanka       14,100,000[1]
Other significant population centers:
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom 150,000
Flag of Thailand Thailand 62,000
Flag of Australia Australia 59,000
Flag of the United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 50,000 [2]
Flag of Italy Italy 45,575 [3]
Flag of Malaysia Malaysia 25,328
Flag of New Zealand New Zealand 24,000
Flag of the United States United States 20,000
Flag of Oman Oman 18,000
Flag of Qatar Qatar 17,000
Flag of Canada Canada 15,400
Flag of Libya Libya 13,000
Flag of Singapore Singapore 12,000
Flag of the Maldives Maldives 7,500
Flag of Norway Norway 300
Predominantly Theravada Buddhism. Significant Christianity, small groups of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, others
Related ethnic groups
Indo-Aryans, Dravidians, Veddahs, Bengalis

The Sinhala people are the main ethnic group of Sri Lanka. Although it is said that they originated in the north-east section of India and later settled to Sri Lanka, there are ample evidences to prove that this little island had had long held civilization which evolved to be the Sinhalese civilization in amalgamation with Buddhism. They speak Sinhala, an Indo-European language and number approximately 15 million people with the vast majority found in Sri Lanka, while more than 400,000 live in other countries, mainly in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom [4] Image File history File links Flag_of_Sri_Lanka. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Thailand. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_the_United_Arab_Emirates. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Italy. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Malaysia. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_New_Zealand. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Oman. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Qatar. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Libya. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Singapore. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Maldives. ... Image File history File links Flag_of_Norway. ... a resource to look at current viewpoints Categories: Indo-Aryan languages | Languages of Sri Lanka | Wikipedia cleanup | Language stubs ... Theravada (Pali; Sanskrit: Sthaviravada) is one of the eighteen (or twenty) Nikāya schools that formed early in the history of Buddhism. ... Topics in Christianity Movements · Denominations Ecumenism · Relation to other religions Preaching · Prayer Music · Liturgy · Calendar Symbols · Art · Criticism Christianity Portal This box:      Christianity is a monotheistic[1] religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. ... Atheist redirects here. ... Agnosticism (Greek: α- a-, without + γνώσις gnōsis, knowledge; after Gnosticism) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims — particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of God, gods, deities, or even ultimate reality — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently unknowable due to... A Muslim is a believer in or follower of Islam. ... The Indo-Aryans are a wide collection of peoples united by their common status as speakers of the Indo-Aryan (Indic/Indian) branch of the family of Indo-European and Indo-Iranian languages. ... For other uses, see Dravidian (disambiguation). ... The Wanniyala-Aetto, or forest beings, perhaps more commonly known as Veddas or Veddahs (transliteration of වැද්දා in Sinhalese, IPA væððɑː) are an indigenous people of Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. ... The Bengali people are the ethnic community from Bengal (divided between India and Bangladesh) on the Indian subcontinent with a history dating back four millennia. ... Sinhalese or Sinhala (සිංහල, ISO 15919: , pronounced ], earlier referred to as Singhalese) is the mother tongue of the Sinhalese, the largest ethnic group of Sri Lanka. ... For other uses, see Indo-European. ... Location of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia. ... A map showing countries commonly considered to be part of the Middle East The Middle East is a region comprising the lands around the southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, a territory that extends from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. ...



The Sinhalese are also known as "Hela" or "Sinhela". These synonyms find their origins in the two words: Sinha (meaning "lion") and Hela (meaning "pristine"). The name Sinhala translates to "lion people" and refers to the myths regarding the descent of the legendary founder of the Sinhalese people, the prince Vijaya. The last royal dynasty on the island was the Sinha (Lion) royal dynasty and the word Sinha finds it origins here. Landing of King Vijaya depicted in an Ajanta fresco Vijaya (c. ...


See also: History of Sri Lanka

Legendary accounts relating to the Indian epic saga, the Sanskritic Ramayana, discuss mythological stories of deities battling over the fate of the ancient island of Lanka (presumably modern Sri Lanka), including that of the legendary King Raavana. The name of the island and its various peoples are often traced to the people and places named in the saga, or their supposed analogues. The recorded History of Sri Lanka boasts of 25 chronicled centuries. ... Sanskrit ( , for short ) is a classical language of India, a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, and one of the 23 official languages of India. ... For the television series by Ramanand Sagar, see Ramayan (TV series). ... A depiction of Ravana, Hindu rakshasa King of Lanka In Hinduism, Ravana (Devanagari: रावण, Telugu: రావణాసురుడు IAST ; sometimes transliterated as Raavana or Ravan or Revana) is the principal antagonist of Rama in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. ...

According to local legend, the Sinhalese are descended from the exiled Prince Vijaya and his party of several hundred who arrived on the island between 543 to 483 BCE after having been made to leave their native regions of Orissa, Bengal and the Sinhapura kingdom in north west India. The origin legend and early recorded history of the Buddhist Sinhalese is chronicled in two historic documents, the Mahavamsa, written in Pāli roughly around the 4th century BCE, and the much later Chulavamsa (believed to have been penned in the 13 century CE by a Buddhist monk named Dhammakitti). These are unique sources with regard to age and longevity, and cover the histories of the powerful ancient kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. The Mahavansa describes the existence of fields of rice and reservoirs, indicating a well developed agrarian society. The oral tradition of the Sinhalese people also speaks of many royal dynasties prior to the Sinha royal dynasty: Manu, Tharaka, Mahabali, Raavana, etc. Landing of King Vijaya depicted in an Ajanta fresco Vijaya (c. ... , Orissa   (Oriya: ଓଡ଼ିଶା), is a state situated on the east coast of India. ... For other uses, see Bengal (disambiguation). ... Buddhism is a variety of teachings, sometimes described as a religion[1] or way of life that attempts to identify the causes of human suffering and offer various ways that are claimed to end, or ease suffering. ... The Mahavansha, also Mahawansha, (Pāli: great chronicle) is a historical record, often thought to be the oldest written record oh history, written in the Pāli language, of the Buddhist kings as well as Dravidian kings of Sri Lanka. ... Pāli is a Middle Indo-Aryan dialect or prakrit. ... The Culavamsa, also Chulavamsa, (Pāli: lesser chronicle) is a historical record, written in the Pāli language, of the kings of Sri Lanka. ... Anuradhapura, ( in Sinhala), is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, world famous for its well preserved ruins of the Great Sri Lankan Civilization. ... The second most ancient of Sri Lankas kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 CE to reunite the country once more under a local leader. ... For other uses, see Rice (disambiguation). ... A reservoir (French: réservoir) is an artificial lake created by flooding land behind a dam. ... An agrarian society is one that is based on agriculture as its prime means for support and sustenance. ... Oral tradition or oral culture is a way of transmitting history, literature or law from one generation to the next in a civilization without a writing system. ...

Buddhism was introduced to the Sinhalese from India by Mahinda, the son of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka the Great, during the 3rd century BCE. It has since been closely tied to both the Sinhalese identity and the history of Sri Lanka. Buddhism is a variety of teachings, sometimes described as a religion[1] or way of life that attempts to identify the causes of human suffering and offer various ways that are claimed to end, or ease suffering. ... Mahinda was the son of Emperor Ashoka. ... Ashoka redirects here. ... The recorded History of Sri Lanka boasts of 25 chronicled centuries. ...

Genetic and anthropological assessments

Most Sinhalese, like most Indian populations show a high degree of genetic similarity that stems from a population that formed on the island roughly 12,000 years ago. A 2003 Stanford study analyzing the origins of various South Asian populations (including 40 Sinhalese and over 90 Tamils from Sri Lanka) found that most of the population of the island and India in general: Taken together, these results show that Indian tribal and caste populations derive largely from the same genetic heritage of Pleistocene southern and western Asians and have received limited gene flow from external regions since the Holocene. These findings are corroborated by numerous other studies including a 2004 Biomedical Central Study: Gene flow from West Eurasia - Broadly, the average proportion of mtDNAs from West Eurasia among Indian caste populations is 17% (Table 2). In the western States of India and in Pakistan their share is greater, reaching over 30% in Kashmir and Gujarat, nearly 60% in Indian Punjab, and approximately 50% in Pakistan (Table 11, see Additional file 6, Figure 11, panel A). These frequencies demonstrate a general decline (SAA p < 0.05 Figure 4) towards the south (23%, 11% and 15% in Maharashtra, Kerala and Sri Lanka, respectively) and even more so towards the east of India (13% in Uttar Pradesh and around 7% in West Bengal and Bangladesh). The low (<3%) frequency of the western Eurasian mtDNAs in Rajasthan may be in part a statistical artifact due to the limited sample size of 35 Rajputs. Overall, the evidence supports the strong possibility that the Sinhalese are largely indigenous to Sri Lanka and adopted the Indo-Aryan largely by cultural diffusion. Ultimately, the genetic evidence also shows substantial genetic drift that corresponds to geography and in the case of Sri Lanka supports the notion that most Sinhalese stem from very early migrants, rather than later invaders: Modern Pakistani, Indian, and Sinhalese donors, examined for combinations of mini- and microsatellite loci, along with a number of Y chromosome and mtDNA markers (24), show varying degrees of diversity, which is expected from their geographic position and ability to receive waves of migrants pulsing from Southwest Asia and West Asia at different times. DYS287 or Y chromosome Alu insertion polymorphism also clearly demonstrate the gradual decline in insert-positive Y chromosomes from Africa to East Asia, reaching a transition point from polymorphic levels (1 to 5%) to private polymorphism in Pakistan. Thus, not surprisingly other studies done from different perspectives and goals substantiate these findings. In a 2003 American Journal of Human Genetics study entitled The Genetic Heritage of the Earliest Settlers Persists Both in Indian Tribal and Caste Populations, the 'West Asian', presumably Indo-Aryan and other, genetic indicators show that, Their frequency is the highest in Indian and Pakistani Punjab, 60%, and diminishes threefold, to an average of 7%, in the rest of the caste groups in India... These findings all include sample groups from Sinhalese populations in Sri Lanka who were thus compared to other South Asian and other Eurasian groups. From an anthropological perspective, the modern Sinhalese represent a fusion of a wide variety that nonetheless is overwhelmingly indigenous to the island of Sri Lanka and the genetic variations (based on Y-chromosomes and MtDNA only) between the Sinhalese and their Tamil and Veddah neighbors appears to be largely marginal and may be restricted to a small degree of sporadic differences rather than anything universal although some genetic drift has taken place that corresponds to language barriers.

Geographic diaspora

Percentage of Sinhalese people per district based on 2001 or 1981 (cursive) census.
Percentage of Sinhalese people per district based on 2001 or 1981 (cursive) census.[5]

The vast majority of the Sinhalese live in Sri Lanka (mostly in the south and west of the island), but there are significant expatriate communities in Southeast Asia, as well as the Middle East, where Sri Lankans are often employed as guest workers. Smaller communities also exist in Australia, Europe (notably the UK and Italy) and in North America (in particular Canada). Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... A foreign worker (cf expatriate), is a person who works in a country other than the one of which he or she is a citizen. ...


Sinhala, also known as "Helabasa", has two forms: spoken and written. The written form uses many words of Sanskrit origin, whereas the spoken form is unique. Many early Sinhala texts such as the Hela Atuwa were destroyed after their translation into Pali. Other significant Sinhala texts include Amar Wathura, Kavu Silumina, Jathaka Potha and Sala Liheeniya. For other uses, see Pali (disambiguation). ...


Most of the Sinhalese (93%) are Buddhists. They are the only ethnic group in South Asia to adhere to the Theravada sect of Buddhism; many Sinhalese Buddhists additionally venerate Hindu deities as well as indigenous gods.[6] There are also sizable Muslim-Sinhalese people who intermarried with Arab traders and become assimilated into the Sri Lankan Moor community.[citation needed] Theravada (Pāli: theravāda (cf Sanskrit: स्थविरवाद sthaviravāda); literally, the Teaching of the Elders, or the Ancient Teaching) is the oldest surviving Buddhist school, and for many centuries has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka (about 70% of the population[1]) and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia... This article discusses the adherents of Hinduism. ... There is also a collection of Hadith called Sahih Muslim A Muslim (Arabic: مسلم, Persian: Mosalman or Mosalmon Urdu: مسلمان, Turkish: Müslüman, Albanian: Mysliman, Bosnian: Musliman) is an adherent of the religion of Islam. ... For other uses, see Arab (disambiguation). ... Islam in Sri Lanka is practiced entirely by Sri Lankan Muslims, who make up approximately 8% of the population, comprise a group of minorities practicing the religion of Islam in Sri Lanka. ...

Modern Sinhalese

The Sinhalese identify themselves through their Sinhala language, heritage, (but have no physical difference to other ethnic groups) and their Buddhist faith, which sets them apart from the main ethnic minority of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Tamils. In recent times, the Sinhalese majority have displayed a political and economic dominance over the island nation. see Sri Lankan Tamils ...

Due to a policy of universal healthcare provision, life expectancy is quite high reaching 72 years. Female emancipation has led to many social changes including greater parity between the sexes - prominent female politicians have included former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and President Chandrika Kumaratunga. The Sinhalese have a stable birth rate and a population that has been growing at a relatively slow pace in comparison to India and other Asian countries. The Sinhalese make up about 74% of the Sri Lankan population. Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike (April 17, 1916 - October 10, 2000) was a politician from Sri Lanka. ... Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (born 29 June 1945) was the fifth President (and fourth to hold the office as Executive president) of Sri Lanka (12 November 1994 - 19 November 2005). ...


  1. ^ www.statistics.gov.lk
  2. ^ www.worldchristiandatabase.org
  3. ^ CNEL Statistics of registered immigrants in Italy, year 2004
  4. ^ Ethnologue report for language code:sin
  5. ^ " Department of Census and Statistics
  6. ^ http://www.statistics.gov.lk/census2001/database/csv_table2.asp


  • De Silva, K.M. History of Sri Lanka (Univ. of Calif. Press, 1981)
  • Gunasekera, Tamara. Hierarchy and Egalitarianism: Caste, Class, and Power in Sinhalese Peasant Society (Athlone, 1994).
  • Roberts, Michael. Sri Lanka: Collective Identities Revisited (Colombo-Marga Institute, 1997).
  • Wickremeratne, Ananda. Buddhism and Ethnicity in Sri Lanka: A Historical Analysis (New Delhi-Vikas Publishing House, 1995).
  • Fernando, Basil Thoughts of a Sinhalese about some Sinhala habits (Asian Human Rights Commission, 2006).

Online references

The Country Studies are works published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress ( USA), freely available for use by researchers. ... The U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1789 by a constitutional convention, sets down the basic framework of American government in its seven articles. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Sri Lanka - MSN Encarta (1282 words)
Malayan peoples, whose ancestors came from what is now Indonesia in the 1600s, constitute a small proportion of Sri Lanka’s Muslim population.
Sinhala, also known as Sinhalese, is an Indo-Aryan language that originated from a mixture of Sanskrit dialects.
Large family reunions are held during traditional festivities such as the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, which is celebrated in April according to the astrological calendar.
  More results at FactBites »



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