The history of Sri Lanka’s Independence | Sunday Observer

The history of Sri Lanka’s Independence

31 January, 2021

Our motherland, Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known earlier, occupies a very important place on the trade routes from the West to the East and vice versa. It is also called the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ it is also famed for its natural resources such as spices and gems. Therefore, in ancient times the island nation was invaded by many including the Cholas from neighbouring India.

In 1505, a Portuguese man-–of-war - under the command of Lorenzo de Almeida was blown off course by a gale and came to rest on the sea off Galle in southern Sri Lanka. This was the start of the Western rule of our country. The Portuguese and the Dutch who ruled the country after them controlled only the maritime provinces or the coastal areas of the country. The Kingdom of Kandy nestling in the central hills of the county remained fiercely independent. In 1798, the British defeated the Dutch and took control of the maritme provinces and in 1815 brought the historic Kandyan Kingdom under their rule.

From time to time the people rebelled against British rule and in time a patriotic movement began to rise to free the country from British rule. On the fourth of February 1948, Sri Lanka gained Independence after 132 years of British rule. Early morning on February 4, 1948 temple and church bells pealed and the national flag was hoisted along with the British flag at the Old Parliament. British Premier, Clement Attlee, was among those who sent good wishes to Sri l Lankan Premier, D.S. Senanayake , the first Prime Minister of Independent Sri Lanka.

The swearing-in of the first Governor General of Independent Ceylon also took place on this day. Sir Henry Monck Mason Moore, the last Governor of Colonial Ceylon took oaths as the Governor General before Patrick Gordon Walker, under Secretary of State of the British Commonwealth Relations Office. Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake and other dignitaries attended the event.

Celebrations were held island-wide and the national flag was flown everywhere. The Prime Minister and the Governor General addressed the nation and the Prime Minister planted a mango plant at the Polwatte Temple in Colombo to mark the great event.

However, the most important event of the Independence celebrations took place on February 10, 1948 at the Independence Square.

This was the first session of the maiden Parliament of Independent Ceylon with the Duke of Gloucester representing the King of England George VI (father of Queen Elizabeth the Second and the brother of the Duke of Gloucester). The Duchess of Gloucester accompanied him.

An old aircraft hangar was converted into a colourful hall for this event with traditional décor. The fourth of February was declared as National Day and also as a public holiday.

Every year since then the country celebrates Independence Day with religious ceremonies, cultural events and a mammoth meeting and parade. The event is attended by the President, Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament. Heads of the Security Forces and the Inspector General of Police, State Officials, religious and foreign dignataries and the public. The Armed Forces, the Police war heroes, school children, bands and cultural troupes are among those participating in the parade.

In 1972 Sri Lanka was declared a Republic by the then Government led by Prime Minister Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike.

This year Sri Lanka will celebrate its 73rd Anniversary of Independence.


The National bird

The Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl (Gallus lafayettii or Gallus lafayetii) is the national bird of Sri Lanka. It is also known as the Ceylon jungle fowl or Lafayette’s jungle fowl and is a member of the Galliformes bird order which is endemic to Sri Lanka. It is closely related to the red jungle fowl from which the chicken has been domesticated. Its Sinhala name is wali kukula.

The male is much larger than the female, and has more brightly coloured plumage with a highly exaggerated wattle and comb. The body plumage is orange-red body and dark purple to black are the colours of the wings and the tail. The feathers of the mane descending from the head to the base of the spine are golden, and the face has bare red skin and wattles. The comb is red with a yellow centre. The female is much smaller, with dull brown plumage with white patterning on the lower belly and breast.

The Sri Lankan jungle fowl lays 2-4 eggs in a nest either on the forest floor in the steep hill country or in the abandoned nests of other birds and squirrels. Its food includes grain, weed-seeds, berries, crickets, centipedes and termites.


The National tree

Sri Lanka’s National Tree is the Na or Ironwood tree. It was declared as the National Tree on February 26, 1986 This rainforest tree was chosen as the National Tree as from ancient times the people of Sri Lanka have had close associations with it. It is also said that the first visit of the Gauthama Buddha was to a grove of Na trees at Mahiyangana.


The Na tree grows to about 30 metres in height and is indigenous to the lower wet zone of Sri Lanka. The timber of this tree is very hard and durable and was used in days past, to build bridges and other structures but the use of Na wood for building purposes is prohibited now due to its religious associations.

The leaves of the Na tree is a bright red and turns a deep green when mature. The leaves varies from thin to thick and are narrow long and elongated.


The flowers are white and fragrant. The flowers are used in the preparation of herbal medicines, perfumes, cosmetics and soaps.


The National flower

The Blue Water Lily is the National Flower of Sri Lanka and was declared as the National Flower in 1986. An aquatic flower, it is called nil manel in Sinhala and as kamalam or alli tamararei in Tamil. The blue water lily blooms all over the island. It has eight petals and four to twelve sepals. The nil manel blooms all over the island from sunrise to sunset. It blooms all year round and is used for religious purposes, herbal medicines and decorations. This beautiful flower is also regarded as a symbol of purity.


The National game

Volleyball was officially recognised as the National sport of Sri Lanka in 1991. It was originally introduced in 1916 to Sri Lanka. Elle was recognised as a national sport before volley ball.

(Sources:Wikipedia, Whats Answer, Lakpura, lanka, the Sunday Observer, H.R. Premaratne, Vishva Karma of Ceylon’s first independence celebration by Nalaka Gunawardene – Ceylon today)