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Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan celebrities

A unexpected challenge in advance of your trip to Sri Lanka. The subject: tell everyone about the country's celebrities. Not easy I admit. The fame of local celebrities has never really left the island to reach our shores. Here, therefore, is a handy list to find out more.

People of the past.

The most ancient of all was King Kassaper the 1st, who was in power in the 5th century. When you find yourself on the summit of the giant rock at Sigiriya, remember that it was him who built his palace here.

Later in the 12th century, during the reign of Parakramabahu the 1st, Sri-Lankan culture was at its peak. He was the king who built the town of Polonnaruwa.

Later still, in the 17th and 18the centuries, the Venerable Saranankara was the country's most powerful and influential monk. He was responsible for some great changes and the reform of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Regarded as the Robin Hood of the island, Utakawande Sura Saradiel lost his life fighting against colonialism when he was hung to death by the English occupiers in 1864.

Another depiction of Buddha

Contemporary names.

During yourtrip to Sri Lanka you might hear talk of Velupillai Prabhakaran. A slightly taboo subject, he was the leader of the Tamil Tigers, who for many years was responsible for fire and violence in the north of Sri Lanka.

As regards politicians, you've probably never heard of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. She was, however,the first woman in the world to have been nominated as Prime Minister. Her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga even became President of the Republic. The current Head of State is Mahinda Rajapakse. He'll be forever remembered in the history of Sri Lanka as the politician who put an end to the war against the Tamils.

Amongst business people, Sriyani Nonis was the first woman in be in charge of a tea plantationand then to lead the Mackwoods group to the top. Harry Jayawardena is the richest man in all Sri Lanka. He is head of an industrial and commercial empire, the Stassen group.

In the artistic field, Geoffrey Bawa is an architect well-known all over Asia. If you fancy dipping into Sri Lankan literature, have a look at the works of Michel Ondaatje.

As for the filmmakers, even though Ashoka Handagama is the most famous, Vimukhti Jyasundara was recognised at the 2005 Cannes film festival where he won the Camera d'Or for his film "The Forsaken Land". Amongst actors of the moment, Padi Silva and Wijaya Kumaratunga often make the headlines. As for musicians, Ananda Sanmarakone is the one who wrote the country's national anthem. If you go to a nightclub, you'll set the dance floor on fire dancing to the music of Nanda Malani, Jothipala and Bathiya Santhush.

David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 21 August 2015
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