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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's religions

During your trip to Sri Lanka, you will notice that religion plays a large part in the daily life of the inhabitants. Even though you are only a tourist you will be involved as well because the country's most beautiful tourist sites are Buddhist or Hindu in origin.

The different religions

Almost 70% of the population is Buddhist, which makes it the most heavily represented religion in Sri Lanka. It's the number one religion in the country, the one that has the most believers. If you are on a trip to Sri Lanka during a full moon, make sure you go and participate in a poya ceremony. It is particularly popular here and the fervour of those involved makes the atmosphere magical. Sri Lanka has the oldest Buddhist traditions in the world.

Hinduism is the country's second largest religion, with 15% of the population. The Sinhalese are more likely to be Buddhist and the Tamils Hindu. Gods such as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are respected and venerated on the island.

Muslims and Christians have about equal numbers. They each represent about 7% of the population. The Christians are divided equally into Catholics and Protestants. Up 'til now, a large majority of the Muslims have been Sunni but each year they lose ground to a more militant form of Islam.

Animists, and Zorastrian Parsis form tiny minorities. They are only symbolically represented in society.

Young Buddhist monks

Religious sites that are tourist attractions

Besides the temples, mosques and churches that you are bound to see at some time or another in Sri Lanka, your trip will definitely be linked to religion. In fact, all of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Sri Lanka have religious origins, mostly Buddhist or Hindu.

So, be aware that when you visit Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Aukana, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla or the town of Kandy, for example, you are in places that are very sacred to Buddhists or Hindus. You will be required to wear clothes that cover your arms and legs in order to visit these sites.

David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 27 August 2015
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