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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Ethnic Groups in Sri Lanka: A small island with diversity
Joanna James Joanna James
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Ethnic Groups in Sri Lanka: A small island with diversity

Sri Lanka, despite being a small island, is valued for its ethnic diversity. There are five distinct ethnic groups dispersed around the country in an apparent way they are settled.



The Sinhalese are the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka consisting of 74.9% of the country's population. They are fundamentally recognized by their language, Sinhala, which is a member of the Indo-European linguistic group. Among Sinhalese, there are Buddhists and Christians. However, Buddhism is the religion followed by the majority of the people.
The Sinhalese are highly concentrated in the South-west, Central and North-central Parts of Sri Lanka. This has also given rise to two different kinds of Sinhalese; "Kandyan" and the "low-country" Sinhalese.



They are the second highest ethnic group in Sri Lanka with a population of 11.2%. They too are recognized by their native language, Tamil. Like the Sinhalese Community, the Tamils are grouped based on their religious faith as Hindus and Christians. This religious divide is a recognition of their community rather than the divide of a country.
There are two groups of Tamils in Sri Lanka owing to the history of our country; the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Indian Tamils. The Sri Lankan Tamils live predominantly in the northern part and a few in the eastern part of the country. They are effectively a native minority. The Indian Tamils are predominantly based in the central highlands. This group comprises the descendants of immigrants from India who were brought down by the British to work in the plantation sector and still continue to do so.



Comprising a 9.7% of Sri Lanka's population, Muslims form the minority group who follow Islam. The Muslim community became incorporated into our society as descendants of Arab merchants and traders who settled into Sri Lanka and married local women.
They are densely populated in the southern parts with a considerable amount in the East, Central and North Western part of Sri Lanka. Though most of the Muslims speak their language, Arabic, they also consider either Tamil or Sinhalese as their mother tongue. Additionally, owing to different traditions and history, the Muslims are divided as Sri Lankan Moors, Indian Moors and Malays.



Originally used to refer the European nationals living in Sri Lanka during the Dutch rule, it is now used to indicate the permanent Sri Lankan residents who are descendants from the European Nations; both Dutch and Portuguese. They are generally Christians and largely live in urbanized areas such as Colombo. The Burgher community is now a shrinking population in Sri Lanka due to most migrating to other countries.



They are a unique ethnic community and are the last descendants of the ancient inhabitants to have lived in our island even prior to the Sinhalese. There still are a very few them living in small rural settlements. Due to their very small numbers and the way of living, has evolved them to become more of a caste than a separate ethnic group.
Despite the presence of different ethnicities, the languages or religion isn't what promotes the social segregations in the country. Instead, it's the culture and traditions. Throughout the history, there have been different occasions in which one or more of the groups have been favoured and this has resulted in many of the historical sites relevant to those times. These historical sites and culture are what is primarily used to promote tourism as it is one of the main contributors to the economy. Thus, many hotels and accommodations, like Cinnamon Life, focus on integrating luxury apartments in Sri Lanka, giving the tourists a chance to mingle with the locals and gain more perspective of the country and what it has to offer.