ETHNIC GROUPS IN SRI LANKA
Ethnic groups in Sri Lanka: Sinhalese 74.9 percent, Sri Lankan Tamil 11.2 percent, Sri Lankan Moors 9.2 percent, Indian Tamil 4.2 percent, other 0.5 percent (2012 estimate). According to 2002 data, the Sinhalese made up 74 percent of the total population, followed by Tamils (both Sri Lankan and Indian) at 18 percent and Sri Lankan Moors, 7 percent. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020; “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”, 2007]
Sinhalese values dominate public life in Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese are mainly Theravada Buddhists (92 per cent). The rest are mainly Christians. They speaks Sinhala, the national language. Sri Lankan Moors are predominately Muslims. Tamils are mostly Hindus. They speak Tamil. There are also Burghers (descendants of Dutch, British and Portuguese colonists), Eurasians (descended from unions between local people and British colonists), Malays and Veddas Veddas are a small aboriginal tribe located in the most inaccessible forest regions of southeastern Sri Lanka. They make up around one percent of population.
Sinhalese are concentrated in the densely populated southwest. Tamils live predominantly in the north and east. Most Christians are Roman Catholics. The Moors include Muslim descendants of Arab traders but mostly are descendants of Tamils and to a lesser extent Sinhalese. Many Muslims, speak Tamil as their main language. Most Burghers are descendants of Dutch and Britain colonists. Malays (mostly of Arab extraction)
Ethnic Groups Divisions in Sri Lanka
According to the “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”: “ Ethnic groups are mostly divided along religious and linguistic lines; the vast majority of Sinhalese are Buddhists and speak Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language. The vast majority of Tamils are Hindus and speak Tamil, a Dravidian language. A small but significant number of Tamils and Sinhalese, about 7 percent of the population, converted to Christian denominations (primarily Roman Catholicism). All Moors and Malays are Muslims, and Burghers are Christians. The Vedas, presumed to be the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka, live in dwindling numbers in the south-central and eastern forests. The Vedas adhere to a local mixture of Buddhist and folk beliefs and customs; they are reputed to possess powerful forms of magic. [Source: Robert T. Francoeur, Victor C. de Munck, Ph.D., Patricia Weerakoon, Ph.D., “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”, 2002]
. Each of the main ethnic groups is subdivided into several major categories, depending on variables of religion or geography. There also are sizable Christian minorities among the Sinhalese and Tamil. People living in the central highland region of the country generally adhere more closely to their traditional ethnic customs than lowland dwellers. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]
The Tamils in Sri Lanka can be divided into two groups: Sri Lankan ("Ceylon") Tamils and the "Indian" Tamils. Sri Lankan Tamils are descendants of Tamils that arrived beginning in ancient and medieval times through migration and invasion. The "Indian" Tamils are mainly descendants of plantation workers and laborers indentured by the British colonial government during the 19th and 20th centuries. They are mainly Hindus but a minority is Christian. The Moors (both Ceylon and Indian) and Malays who are all Muslims. The Burghers and Eurasians are mostly Christians. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association]
Ethnic groups conflicts have dominated public life in Sri Lanka since the nineteenth century. The two main characteristics that mark a person's ethnic heritage are language and religion, which intersect to create four major ethnic groups — the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, and the Burghers. Ethnic divisions are not based on race or physical appearance; some Sri Lankans claim to determine the ethnicity of a person by his facial characteristics or color, but in reality such premises are not provable. There is nothing in the languages or religious systems in Sri Lanka that officially promotes the social segregation of their adherents, but historical circumstances have favored one or more of the groups at different times, leading to hostility and competition for political and economic power. *
History of Ethnic Groups in Sri Lanka
Among the main ethnic groups, the Sinhalese were the earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka. They are descendants of people that took control of island around the 5th century B.C. Their language, Sinhala, is derived from several Indo-Aryan languages. Many of the Sri Lankan Tamils are the descendants of the early Dravidian invaders from southern India. Tamil is one of the major Dravidian languages of southern India. Indian Tamils are mainly descendants of laborers brought by the British planters in the 19th century to work on tea and rubber plantation and they remain concentrated in the tea-growing region of south-central Sri Lanka. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies”, The Gale Group Inc., 2002]
Many Muslims (Moors) are the descendants of early Arab traders that began settling in Sri Lanka in significant numbers in the 10th century. The Burghers are the descendants of the Portuguese, Dutch, and British who occupied the island from the 16th to the mid-20th century. The Burghers are predominantly Christian and have traditionally spoken English as their first language.
Bambi L. Chapin and Kalinga Tudor Silva wrote in “Countries and Their Cultures”: “Sri Lanka has always been home to a multiethnic and multireligious society. Because of the historic fluidity in migration and marriage patterns, the physical attributes of the principal ethnic groups are widely distributed. While conflicts between various groups have periodically flared up, beginning in 1956 the ethnic rivalry between the Sinhala-Buddhist majority and the Sri Lankan Tamil minority has intensified to an unprecedented level and led to the eruption of civil war in 1983. Since that time, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a militant organization of Sri Lankan Tamils, have been fighting for an independent Tamil state in the north and east. [Source: Bambi L. Chapin and Kalinga Tudor Silva, “Countries and Their Cultures”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]
In accordance with a 1964 agreement with India, Sri Lanka granted citizenship to 230,000 "stateless” Indian Tamils in 1988. Under the pact, India granted citizenship to the remainder, of whom about some 200,000 lived in India in the 2000s. Another 75,000 Indian Tamils, who themselves or whose parents once applied for Indian citizenship, chose to remain in Sri Lanka and have since been granted Sri Lankan citizenship. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, Gale]
Ethnic Tensions in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has history of ethnic and religious violence. In the late 19th century there were clashes between Sinhalese and Christians. In 1915. Sinhalese battled with Muslims. The Sinhalese control the government, military and economy. See Violence Between Sinhalese and Tamils.
Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: “Under the British, tensions festered between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, with seventeen per cent. (There was also friction with other ethnicities; in 1915, Sinhalese mobs attacked the island’s Muslim minority.) The Tamils were seen as having unfairly benefitted from colonial rule; they held a disproportionately high number of civil-service jobs and university enrollments, and more of them were fluent in English. After Ceylon gained its independence, in 1948, Sinhalese nationalists grew increasingly insistent that the Tamils were “invaders,” whose presence threatened the very existence of the Sinhalese culture.” [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
In 1915 communal rioting broke out between the Sinhalese and Muslims on the west coast. The British panicked, misconstruing the disturbances as part of an antigovernment conspiracy; they blamed the majority ethnic group and indiscriminately arrested many Sinhalese, including D.S. Senanayake — the future first prime minister of Sri Lanka — who had actually tried to use his influence to curb the riots. The British put down the unrest with excessive zeal and brutality
See TENSIONS, VIOLENCE AND DISCRIMINATION INVOLVING TAMILS AND SINHALESE IN SRI LANKA and articles on the SRI LANKAN CIVIL WAR: THE WAR WITH THE TAMIL TIGERS under History
The term Burgher was applied during the period of Dutch rule to European nationals living in Sri Lanka. By extension it came to signify any permanent resident of the country who could trace ancestry back to Europe. Eventually it included both Dutch Burghers and Portuguese Burghers. Always proud of their racial origins, the Burghers further distanced themselves from the mass of Sri Lankan citizens by immersing themselves in European culture, speaking the language of the current European colonial government, and dominating the best colonial educational and administrative positions. They have generally remained Christians and live in urban locations. Since independence, however, the Burgher community has lost influence and in turn has been shrinking in size because of emigration. In 1981 the Burghers made up .3 percent (39,374 people) of the population. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]
The census in 1871 counted s were 14,817 Burgher. The census in 1901 counted 23,482 Burghers and 6.300 "other" Europeans. In 1921 there were 29.439 Burghers. In 1946 there were 41.926 Burghers (0.8 percent) of the population. The census in 1963 counted 45,900 Burghers (0.43 percent of the population ). In 1981 there were 39.374 Burghers (Dutch and Portuguese) (0.3 percent of the population).
In the 1980s about 80 percent of the Burghers could speak English, 72 percent could speak Sinhalese, 18 percent could speak Tamil. About 72 percent of the Burghers lived in Colombo.
Common Dutch Burgher surnames included: Andriesz, Anthonisz, Antonisse, Arndt, Bagot Villiers, Baldesinger, Bartholomeusz, Beekmun, Beven, Brohier, Claasz, Crozier, Da Silva, Daniels, de Hoedt, de Kretser, De Zilwa, Deutrom, Ebert, Engelbrecht, Foenander, Frugtniet, Hepponstall, Herft, Jansz, Joseph, Keegal, Kelaart, Landsberger, Loos, Lourensz, Martinus, Melder, Meynert, Milhuisen, Neydorff, Passe, Peiris, Philipsz, Prins, Scharenguivel, Scharff, Spittel, van Arkadie, van Cuylenburg (Culenberg), van Dersil, van der Straaten, van Dort, van Hoff, Van Langenberg, Van Rooyen, Vander Gucht, Werkmester, Wille, Willenberg.
History of the Burghers
Under the command of Admiral Joris Van Spilbergen, the first Dutch ships that visited Ceylon anchored off the port of Batticaloa on the 31 May 1602. Marco Ramerini wrote in the “Burghers of Ceylon”: “After their conquest, the Dutch also attempted to found some colonies of Dutch citizens dubbed "Burgher". This was attempted particularly first under Maetsuyker (governor from 1646 to 1650), but at the end of his government and later under Van Goens (governor from 1662-1663 and 1665-1675), there were only 68 married free-Burghers on the island. Such policy was clearly a failure as only a few Dutch families settled on the island. In the first 30 years of Dutch rule in Ceylon, the Burgher community never exceeded 500 in number and it was mainly composed by sailors, clerks, tavern-keepers and discharged soldiers. [Source: “Burghers of Ceylon” by Marco Ramerini, Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com ]
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) to support this emigration facilitated in any case the Burgher: Burghers alone had the privilege to keep shops, were given liberal grants of land with the right of free trade. Whenever possible they were preferred to natives for appointment to office. Only Burghers had the right of baking bread, butchering and shoemaking. Most of them were civil servants of the Company.
In the 18th century a growing European community (a mixture of Portuguese, Dutch, Sinhalese and Tamil) had developed in Ceylon. They dressed European, were adherents to the Dutch Reformed Church and spoke Dutch or Portuguese. The marriage between a Burgher and a native woman (often an Indo-Portuguese woman) was permitted only if she professed the Christian religion. However, the daughters of this union had to be married to a Dutchman. Like Van Goens said: "… so that our race may degenerate as little as possible".
With the passing of time, the Burgher community developed into two different communities: Dutch Burghers and Portuguese Burghers. The Dutch Burghers were those who could demonstrate European ancestry (Dutch or Portuguese) through the male line, were white, Dutch reformed and Dutch speaking. The Portuguese Burghers (called later Mechanics) were those who had a supposed (but not sure) European ancestry, had dark skin, were Catholics and spoke Creole Portuguese.
Although there aren’t demographic studies available on the Burgher community in Ceylon, during the Dutch period it is clear that the growth of the community was constant. A small, but steady, influx of newcomers from Europe mixed with the families, which had settled on the island for generations. Thanks to this, the Burgher community was able to retain its open character and the heterogeneous cultural traditions. The European community produced all the priests (Predikants) of the Dutch Reformed Church. In the last decades of Dutch rule in the island, the Burgher formed a detachment of citizen soldiers. They defended the ramparts of Colombo during the fourth Anglo-Dutch war.
Burghers Under British Rule
At the time of the British conquest, in 1796, there were about 900 families of Dutch Burghers residing in Ceylon, concentrated in Colombo, Galle, Matara and Jaffna. During the British times the Burghers were employed in the Colonial administration like clerks, lawyers, soldiers, physicians, and were a privileged class on the island. [Source: Marco Ramerini, Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com ]
The Dutch Burghers, now under the British, quickly abandoned the use of the Dutch language and adopted English as their own language. By 1860, the use of Dutch among the Dutch Burghers had disappeared. In 1908, only six or eight Dutch Burghers could make any pretence to knowledge of the Dutch language.
The Creole Portuguese continued to be used amongst the Dutch Burghers families as the colloquial language until the end of 19th century. In 1899 the Dutch Burgher community formed the "De Hollandsche Vereeninging" and later, in 1907, they founded the Dutch Burgher Union of Ceylon.
The Dutch Burgher community had its own journal from 31 March 1908 to 1968 (58 numbers), the Journal of the Dutch Burgher Union of Ceylon. No volumes were published between 1968 and 1981, mostly due to the exodus of the Dutch Burghers, now the Journal continues to be published annually. By the end of the British rule the Dutch Burgher community had lost its influence and privileges, and many Burghers emigrated to Australia and to Canada, especially after the declaration of Sinhala as the official language (1961) of the country by Solomon Bandaranaike.
In spite of this, the Dutch Burgher Union of Ceylon is still in existence in Colombo to this day. The Dutch Reformed Church is now called Presbytery of Ceylon, at present the membership are 5,000, in the whole island are 24 the congregrations and 18 the ministry workers. During the last 40 years the Church has lost much of her leadership and membership due to the mass emigration of the Dutch Burgher community.
Ahikuntika, Sri Lanka’s Gypsy Clan
The Ahikuntika — Sri Lankan Gypsy people — are an ethnic group that traces their origins to Telugu-speaking regions centuries ago. They are the only nomadic group of people living in Sri Lanka. They live in small palmyra huts for two or three days in one place. Their ancestral language is a dialect of Telugu. Different government, NGOs and missionary organizations have tried to settle them and some now live in villages. The Sinhalese call them ahikuntaka; Tamils and Muslims refer to them as as Kuravar. Some make their living by fortune telling, snake charming and using monkeys and dogs in performances. Those living in villages are mainly subsistence farmers or farm laborers for other farmers. Most seem to be settled in the eastern Batticaloa district. Most follow rudimentary elements of Hinduism, while some are Christians; others are Buddhists. A 2017 survey by the Sri Lankan government of Sri Lanka counted less than 4,000 of them
Pujitha Wijetunge wrote: “Clad in a sari and with a red mouth that showed signs that she was chewing beetle, Lili didn't look any different from those fortune-tellers or palm readers who were a common sight in the streets few years back. But the next generation, Lucki, looked very much like those village boys, wearing a sarong and a gold painted wristwatch. [Source: Pujitha Wijetunge]
“When we entered their camp, there were plastic, colored buckets and pots and pans scattered on one side. A monkey all dressed up, was looking at a little girl who started poking a stick at him. There were only three tents covered with black plastic sheeting, which looked hardly enough for the more than 30 people who gathered around us. Beside Lili and the huge cobra which started moving to the tune of gypsy Lakshman's flute, was a rather untidy environment around them.
“Although Lili was very happy to talk about herself as a member of the so-called gypsy clan in the country known as 'Ahikuntika', a very reluctant Lucki said, "We are living like this because we have no place to live." "I make a living by selling joss sticks. People used to call us donkeys just because we had no place to live. We speak proper Sinhala. There is another group that speaks Telugu. We were born in Sri Lanka. We are also people and we have a right to live. No one gives us land," he said angrily. Kanmali, who looked very much a teenager, said that she doesn't go around palm reading anymore. "I look after my children. I don't go out anymore," she said, carrying an infant in her arms.
Ahikuntika’s Nomadic Lifestyle
According to Prof. Dissanayake, Ahikuntikas are believed to have come to Sri Lanka from Andra Pradesh in India. "We don't know when they came. They are called nomads since they travel from place to place. 'Ahi' means serpents. This name must have been adopted because they made a living by using snakes, monkeys and palm reading or fortune telling," he said. "It is believed that they can't stay at one place for more than seven days. This may be true because of their unhygienic lifestyle. A group of Ahikuntikas were given houses in the North Central in a village called Kuda Wewa. Since they cannot be living continually as a group of nomads this may be a good move," he said. [Source: Pujitha Wijetunge]
Anthropologist Prof. S. Hettige observed that the constant movement keeps Ahikuntikas aloof from mainstream society. "If they settle down in one place, integration and assimilation may have taken place. They do not participate in economic activities and social practices as others when they move around. It depends on their contact with others and the media, education etc. All will help change their identity and they will tend to identify with other youth and will no longer want to engage in work that is not accorded same kind of recognition," he said.
Prof. J. B. Dissanayake is of the view that the Ahikuntikas are also changing slowly as a result of economic and social factors. "This cannot be called a radical change. Just like the Rodiyas [an untrouchable-like cast], who were later absorbed into the Sinhala community, some day the Ahikuntikas will also be provided the opportunity. There is a section of these people who would prefer to remain in the clan while others want to join the Sinhala comminity like the Veddhas and Rodiyas did," he said.
Prof. Hettige said that it is difficult to say whether it is good or bad for them to change their lifestyle and identity. "It depends on what they want. What we do not want is their marginalisation and stigmatisation in society. In that sense, it is good that they have the same opportunities as others if they wish to make use of them. Some of their cultural practices may not disappear even if they are integrated, at least not soon.
The Chetty (also spelt as Chetti and Chettiar) was term used to describe members of many merchant, weaving, agricultural and land owning castes in South India, especially in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In Burma, Indian moneylenders were called chettiars
A. T. S. Paul, The Island: “The advent of the Colombo Chetty community from Nagapatnam, India is well documented from 1663 during the reign of King Rajasingha 11 of Kandy, and the governorship of the Dutch Ryckloff Van Goens. With the arrival of the westerners in search of the riches of the east, the Chetties of India used the opportunity to further their trade. Tandava, M.P. Aserappa, a wealthy ship owner, arrived in his own vessel from Nagapatnam with his brother Arthurunarayan. He was a Hindu. On his conversion to Christianity, he took the name of Anthony Pieris Aserappa, Arthurunarayan died on arrival. Anthony Pieris Aserappa married an Indian lady. Their son Louis Pieris, (Hindu name Thandaramurthi) married his cousin in India. They had ten children-six boys and four girls. [Source: A. T. S. Paul, The Island]
Famous Chetty names in Sri Lanka include the Muttukrishnas, Aserappas, Casie Chitties, Pauls, Fernandopulles and Candappas. Among their achievements were the first Ceylonese Medical Officer of Health; Founder President of the Association of Surgeons of Ceylon, who achieved the rare distinction of obtaining both the Membership of the Royal College of Physicians and the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The first Ceylonese Director of a British Company (Lewis Brown) rising to be its Managing Director; the first Ceylonese to be a member of the High Court of Justice of the Netherlands; first to act as Crown Counsel; first to import an automobile and an air conditioner; first to introduce neon advertisement (Berec. on top of the Savoy Cinema). A Chetty was admitted into the Colombo Club for Europeans only. [Source: Manel Ratnatunga, The Island Review]
Manel Ratnatunga wrote in The Island Review ATS Paul, the surgeon, tells that Chetty merchants were visiting Ceylon in their own sailing vessels carrying diamonds from Golconda, emeralds from Rajasthan, rubies from Burma and so on from various states of India from pre-Buddhist times. Their arrival here is documented in our history during the time of King Rajasinghe II and the governorship of the Dutch. Once they settled in Ceylon, these traders and money-lenders dropped out of the money-lending livelihood as it was considered repugnant and switched to the learned professions where they rose to great heights of fame.
We learn that the Chitty legal luminary, who owned one of the first imported automobiles, used a rickshaw to go from his home Stafford House to the Supreme Court. That his son drove the family American carriage drawn by an Australian horse to Royal College at about the age of ten. ATS has not explained why their neighbours objected to this. All his children were educated at home and the boys went straight into Form 1 at Royal College and walked away with many prizes.
Blacks of African descent that have lived for some time in South Asia are called Kaffirs in Sri Lanka and are mostly known Sheedis, or Siddis, elsewhere in South Asia. They are mostly descendants of black Africans that originated from the east coast of Africa. Siddhis means lord or prince in African usage. The name is derived from the Arabic word " sayyid," a Muslim title of respect, a name that reportedly has its origin in the Indian custom of giving exaggerated titles to people of low status."
Kaffirs have traditionally lived in thatch huts on the west coast of Sri Lanka and maintained a lifestyle similar to that of other Sri Lankans. Some kaffirs wear beads in their frizzy hair. Their African heritage remains very much evident in music, dance, and speech. Some participate in choral groups that sing African songs in creolized Portuguese. Kaffirs are believed to have descended from Africans brought to Ceylon by the Portuguese. They probably originated from Mozambique. Later the British brought other Africans to fight against the Ceylonese armies in "kaffir regiments." Kaffirs tend to be poor and less educated than other Sri Lankans. Their name apparently is linked the fact they are not Catholics. Kaffir" is an Arabic word that denotes someone who is not a Catholic.
According to LankaLibrary.com: The Kaffirs were brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, as a part of the naval force and for domestic work. Portuguese seafarers carried the first kaffirs to what was then Ceylon in the 1500s, most likely from Mozambique. Later, British colonists brought others to fight against Ceylonese armies in "kaffir regiments." [Source: LankaLibrary.com, July 10, 2005, Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com ]
“Whatever their African origins, the Kaffirs were exposed to and have assumed Portuguese culture. Not surprisingly, there was intermarriage between the Portuguese Burghers and Kaffirs who belonged to the same culture set ; they spoke Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole and were Roman Catholics. In addition to physical features — some Sri Lankan kaffirs wear braids or Afro hairstyles and have retained remnants of their African heritage in dance, music and speech. In Sri Lanka, the several hundred kaffirs live among the palm trees around Puttalam on the northwest coast and near the eastern city of Batticaloa.
The Kaffirs are mainly chena cultivators but a few have found employment in the Puttalam Salt Pans, the Puttalam hospital and in local government offices as peons and laborers. Although they have withstood cultural pressures from the other ethnic groups for a long period, they are now blending into multiethnic Sri Lanka due to cross-cultural marriages.
Kaffirs are very similar to the African populations in Iraq, Iran and Kuwait, and known in Pakistan as Sheedis and India as Siddis. The Siddis, Sheedis and kaffirs don't know about each other, and only a few of their educated countrymen know who they are or where they came from. But even in a part of the world where most people have dark skin, these South Asian Africans stand out.
There seems to be only a few thousand of these Kaffirs in Sri Lanka but they represent the descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the island within the past several hundred years. These Blacks have distinct recollections of Africa. The Siddis, Sheedis and Kaffirs are among the lost tribes of Africa.
Jews of Ceylon
Cecil V. Wikramanayake wrote in The Island: “The Jews were a thriving community in” Sri Lanka “till the beginning of World War II. We had a Justice of the Supreme Court in the colonial days who was a Jew, name of Schneider. The story goes that once, when on the bench, a lawyer of Dutch-Burgher origin made a rather uncalled for remark, referring to His Lordship as a "Wandering Jew". Pat came the retort from the Jewish Judge "Or like the Flying Dutchman!" I remember, as a child, seeing many Jews in this country, always dressed in the customary long white robe, head covered and kept in place with a phylactery tied round the head. [Source: Cecil V. Wikramanayake, The Island, Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com ]
“Also, till recent times, there was a Jewish Synagogue at Steuart Place, Kollupitiya (as that part of the Galle Road was called ). The low parapet wall of the synagogue, almost opposite where the Hotel Oberoi now stands, had a stone built into the wall with the words "THE SYNAGOGUE" carved on it.
“The Jews who lived in Ceylon observed the Sabbath as all Jews do around the world, from Friday evening till Saturday evening, while the Christians called Sunday the Sabbath day. I learnt that the Jews observed the Sabbath from Friday evening because the book of Genesis — the first book in the Bible as well as in the Torah, the Jewish Bible — states, whether in English or in Hebrew, that when God created the Earth in six days, each day was "the evening and the morning" It did not say "Morning and the evening".
The Jews of Ceylon were “a familiar sight in Colombo, in Kandy, in Galle and perhaps elsewhere. But they were a rather close society, rarely fraternising with the Gentiles of this country, nevertheless contributing to the common weal. Then came World War II and I lost sight and trace of the Jews. Perhaps they returned to Israel with the formation of that country in 1948.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Sri Lanka Tourism (srilanka.travel), Government of Sri Lanka (www.gov.lk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022