Kandyan Bride and Groom

Kandyan Bride and Groom in traditional dress

Sri Lanka’s largest group of people

The Sinhalese are the principal ethnic group in Sri Lanka and its earliest colonisers. According to legend, they are descendants of the exiled Prince Vijaya and his party of seven hundred followers who arrived on the island from the city of Sinhapura in west Bengal, east India in 543 BC.

The Sinhalese identity is based on language, heritage and religion. Sinhalese history and culture is unique, dating back twenty-six-hundred years.  Nourished by Buddhism, its sculpture, fine arts, literature, dancing, poetry and a wide variety of folk beliefs and rituals have grown traditionally throughout this period.  Between the third century BC and the twelfth century AD they developed a great civilization centered on the cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

They speak Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravāda Buddhists.  Sinhala, also known as ‘Helabasa’, is an Indo-Aryan language brought to the island by northeast Indians in the 6th century BC.  It has been influenced by many languages, prominently Pāli and Sanskrit and has borrowed words from other Indian languages and the colonial languages of the Portuguese, Dutch and English.

Since the 3rd century BC, Buddhism has became the predominant religion of the Sinhalese who practice the Theravada (School of Elders) form of the religion.