Sri Lanka, officially the democratic socialist republic of Sri Lanka and known from the beginning of British colonial rule until 1972 as Ceylon, is an island country in South Asia near south-east India. A diverse and multicultural country, 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, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka 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.
The island consists mostly of flat to rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part. The highest point is Pidurutalagala, reaching 2,524 meters (8,281 FT) above sea level. The climate is tropical and warm, due to the moderating effects of ocean winds. Mean temperatures range from 17°C (62.6°F) in the central highlands, where frost may occur for several days in the winter, to a maximum of 33°C (91.4 °F) in other low-altitude areas. Average yearly temperatures range from 28°C (82.4°F) to nearly 31°C (87.8°F). Day and night temperatures may vary by 14°C (25.2°F) to 18°C (32.4°F).
Sri Lanka has 103 rivers. The longest of these is the Mahaweli River, extending 335 kilometers (208 ML). These waterways give rise to 51 natural waterfalls of 10 meters or more. The highest is Bambarakanda Falls, with a height of 263 meters (863 FT). Sri Lanka’s coastline is 1,585 km long. The coastline and adjacent waters support highly productive marine ecosystems such as fringing coral reefs and shallow beds of coastal and estuarine sea grasses.
Lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, Sri Lanka is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Although the country is relatively small in size, it has the highest biodiversity density in Asia. A remarkably high proportion of the species among its flora and fauna, 27% of the 3,210 flowering plants and 22% of the mammals are endemic. Sri Lanka has declared 24 wildlife reserves, which are home to a wide range of native species such as Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, the unique small Loris, a variety of deer, the purple-faced langur, the endangered wild boar, porcupines and Indian pangolins.
In April, Sri Lankans celebrate the Buddhist and Hindu new year festival. Esala Perahera (The Esala procession In kandy of temple of the tooth) is a symbolic Buddhist festival consisting of dances and decorated elephants held in Kandy in August. Fire dances, whip dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances are integral parts of the festival. Christians celebrate Christmas on 25 December to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Tamils celebrate Thai Pongal, Maha Shivaratri and Muslims celebrate Hajj, Ramadan in their respective days of the year.