A British-styled pink shaded building in Sri Lanka, revealing the colonization timeline and its influences on Sri Lanka.

The great history of Sri Lanka unravels that this island remained a colonized country for over 518 years. Hence, if you are excited about exploring the delightful history of this island, this colonization history can never be missed. Sri Lankan colonization history mainly includes the Indian invasions and the European invasions of the country. So, why not? Let us start getting to all about these colonization eras in Sri Lanka. Yet, first of all, let’s get to know what colonization is!

Did you ever wonder what is meant by colonization?

In Simple terms, colonization evokes the meaning that, the action or the process of a large scale of population movement to a new territory.  The new arrivals subsequently live as permanent settlers. They continue to maintain a strong link to their originating country. Thus the transferred population establishes authority over the indigenous people of that particular area. The said power or control is significantly gained with the privileges from the links of the ancestral country. Thus, Europe colonized the majority of the countries in the world by 1914.

Further, there is a worthy purpose of colonization as well. It is the vast package of advantages that derive through the settlement. They are possible political, economic and social and religious advantages.

Here are some reasons for colonization in world history.

  • Political – Colonization is a new source of Wealth and power
  • Economic – Colonization is a new source of Wealth and power, appropriate weather conditions, and rich soil
  • Religious – To sweep off some religion of a country or to worship the same God differently.
  • Social – To escape from poverty, political turmoil or maybe deceases.

Who were the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka?

The history of Sri Lanka runs back to the 5th century B.C. The people who settled first on this land were an Indo-Aryan group who came from North India. Their nationality was Sinhalese who are generally known as a brave and talented nation.  Other ethnicities formed on the island later on with trade and the long history of colonization.

The Sri Lankan colonization history

Sri Lanka was very popular and significant for its geographical location as a major trading hub. The beauty of the shores, vegetation, and so many natural resources made it more attractive to the world.

The timeline of colonization history of Sri Lanka is as follows.

The timeline of colonization history of Sri Lanka is as follows.

  1. South Indian invasions
  • Invasion of Sena and Guttika (215-237)
  • Colonization of Elara
  • The Chola invasions (993-1070 roughly)
  • Invasion of Kalinga Maga (1215)

2. The Portuguese invasion (1505-1658)

3. The Dutch period (1658-1796)

4. The French invasion of the Trincomalee Harbour for a few months in 1796

5. British colonization (1796-1948)

During each period of invasion, Sri Lanka underwent many ups and downs in social, economic, religious, and cultural domains.  Let us study these impacts in detail in the sections below.

South Indian Invasions.

Various dynamics from South India such as Chola, Pandya, Chera and Pallawa have invaded Sri Lanka from time to time. Here are some examples of significant south-Indian invasions that took place in the history of 2.5 millennia of Sri Lanka.

Invasion of Sena and Guttika (215-237)

The very first colonization of Sri Lanka took place during the reign of King Suriyatissa. The invaders were two horse traders from South India. Their names were Sena and Guttika. Subsequently, they killed King Suriyatissa and conquered Anuradhapura. They ruled Anuradhapura for 22 years. That was between 215-237. By 237, The King Asela defeated Sena and Guttika and established the kingdom as a Sinhalese Monarchy again.

Colonization of Elara followed by a historical battle

Overthrowing King Asela, a Chola Prince in the name of Elara conquered Anuradhapura. It was a special milestone in the colonization history of Sri Lanka. Elara was in his reign for 44 years. By this time, the elder son of the sub-King Kawantissa started organizing the army against Elara from the South. His name was Dutugemunu. The brave King Dutugemunu managed to defeat Elara after a great battle.

The name of the fight was ‘The battle of Vijithapura’. Elara also organized the defense in the best way possible. As per the records in Rajavaliya, his stronghold was well secured. It had a wall around the place which was solid and high with iron gates at cardinal points. There was also a moat around the wall to strengthen security. However, none of these measures could prevent the army of King Dutugemunu, including the ten champions. Thus, he conquered Elara breaching the wall.

There were several dramas created in Sri Lanka based on this battle between Elara and King Dutugemunu. 

Chola dynasty begin to colonise in Sri Lanka (Rajaraja 1)

The Chola dynasty is one of the dynasties that hold a very long past of ruling in world history. The Chola empire is from South India. Cholas first invaded the North of Sri Lanka in 993 AD. It was a military invasion. Rajaraja1 launched this battle to triumph over the Kingdom of Anuradhapura and to absorb it to the Chola Empire. That was defeating the Sinhalese King Mahinda V. After the defeat, Mahinda V fled to the south-east province which was then ‘Ruhuna’. Thus RajaRaja1 ruled the North for twenty-nine (29) years and died. By this time Anuradhapura began its downfall. That was due to the heavy damage done by Rajaraja1.

With the death of Rajaraja1,  his son Rajendra Chola 1 succeeded the throne after 1017. Karanndai plates reveal that Rajendra Chola led an immense army into Anuradhapura and netted the crown of King Mahinda. Moreover, he captured the Queen of Mahinda along with his daughter, and a large amount of Wealth belonged to the King. Rajendra Chola did not stop from that point, but he took the King to India as a prisoner. Thus the Chola Empire absorbed Anuradapura and the south-eastern province. The name of the region ruled by him was “Mummudi-sola-mandalam”.

After the fall off of Anuradhapura the Cholas invaded Polonnaruwa and renamed it “Jananathamangalam”. Consequently, Polonnaruwa became the capital of the country under Cholas.

The invasion of Kalinga Magha (1215-1236)

Subsequently, with King Parakramabahu gaining power, Polonnaruwa became a prosperous Kingdom. Several reservoirs, other irrigation systems were built, such as Parakrama Samudraya. It was the Golden Era of Sri Lanka.

However, afterward, Kalinga Magha -a South Indian King of the Aryacakravarti dynasty invaded Polonnaruwa. It was during the reign of Parakrama Pandya II. He was also the founder of the Jaffna Kingdom. With this invasion, the collapse of Polonnaruwa kept its first step.

It was a huge turning point in Sri Lankan Colonization history. According to Mahawamsa, he was an impious king. It was Kalinga Magha who destroyed the majority of the Buddhist sculptures and pagodas built at the time of King Parakambahu the great. The destruction was unrecoverable. During his reign, many Sri Lankans fled to the South, West, and the mountain areas of the country to escape his power. Another significant, rather striking change that happened during his time was the change of capital from Polonnaruwa to Dambadeniya.

European Invasions

Sri Lanka has been an island full of attractions to the whole world. Starting from the silk road in the past, to the maritime silk road at present and external trades of this little Island were lucrative. That was the valid reason to call it by the name of  “the pearl in the Indian Ocean.” The coastal border around the country, the weather condition, and rich soil always made way for them to keep an eye on Sri Lanka. Simply, for European traders who always looked for ways to enhance their economic strength, Sri Lanka was a treasure chest!

This paved the way for the European invasions in the history of Sri Lanka.

The Portuguese invasion (1505-1658)

In the Sri Lankan colonization history, the first European invasion took place in 1505 by Portuguese. Their landing in Sri Lanka has been an accident. However, a Portuguese explorer and a military leader called Lorenzo De Almeida soon discovered the importance of the Island. Among the main attractions, there were geographical profitability and spices. (Cinnamon, Rubber, Coconut, Cocoa and Tea)

At that time, Sri Lanka was divided into several parts and ruled under different rulers. There were conflicts among those rulers. Portuguese took the benefit of this situation and subsequently got the opportunity to build a fort in the Western Coastal line in 1517. Consequently, starting from the Western coastline, they colonized all the coastal areas of the Island.

This invasion made the Sinhalese people find a secure place to get rid of the threats of the Portuguese. It resulted in King Wimaladharmasuriya I moving to the inland city -Kandy in 1592. Kandy was naturally a safe place by its geographical location that included the mountain ranges, lakes, and rivers.

Wijayaba Kollaya

Meanwhile, the reigning King of Kotte, Wijayabahu’s three sons put their father to death and partitioned the Kingdom among themselves. It was the famous “Wijayaba Kollaya” in the history of Sri Lanka. The three divided parts of the Kingdom were Kotte, Sithawaka, and Raigama.

Buwanekabahu could not stay away from being tempted by the assistance of the Portuguese. He went to the extent of agreeing between him and the Portuguese King in 1543. That is to secure the throne of his grandson Prince Dharmapala. In return, he agreed to confirm all the privileges of the Portuguese to receive the homage of Cinnamon. Then, the prince Dharmapala was baptized as well. In meantime, the King Mayadunne- an ambitious ruler died after invading most of the Kingdom of Kotte. His son succeeded the throne and continued the battle just as his father talentedly. Although, it was difficult for him to battle the sea power of the Portuguese, unlike the land power. In 1580 King Dharmapala deeded his Kingdom to the Portuguese after persuasion. By 1593, the King of Seethawaka died. However, by this time most of the Island was under Portuguese.

Konappu Bandara

Konnappu Bandara was an ambitious and renowned Sinhalese military nobleman. He was with Portuguese in 1591  when  Portuguese launched a mission to Kandy to enthrone Don Phillip –a Portuguese. Although Don Phillip received the throne, he died suspected. Then after that Konappu Bandara declared independence from Portuguese and finally enthroned himself. He took the regnal name of Vimaladharmasuriya. 

Meantime, the only protected area in the island was the central highlands under Wimaladharmasuriya. Portuguese continued to battle for their ambition of invading the whole Island. As a result, they organised their warfare in the lower lands around central highlands.

Battle of Danthure and Dona Catherina

In 1594 Portuguese attempted again to invade Kandy. This is famous in the Sri Lankan Colonization history as the “Battle of Danthure”. Portuguese planned to enthrone a Baptized Sinhalese noblewoman -Dona Catherina. Still, the mission was futile as a result of the guerilla warfare tactics successfully launched by the strong Sinhalese nobleman Wimaladharmasuriya of Kandy. He also took hold of Dona Catherina and made her his Queen. Wimaladharmasuriya thus legalized and merged his rule to the Seethawaka as well. He was the biggest threat to the Portuguese.

As a result of these battles, the Portuguese took Trincomalee and Batticaloa- the ports of the east coast under their control. In 1597, the complete ownership of the Kotte Kingdom was in the hands of the Portuguese including Jaffna being annexed in 1619.

Portuguese made high profits out of Cinnamon , elephants, pepper and areca nuts.

The biggest disadvantage for Wimaladharmasuriya was not having the sea power against the Portuguese. It is the reason for the inability to drive the invaders away from the country.

Arriving of Dutch in to the scene

By this time, the Dutch started sailing into Sri Lankan ports.

The arrival of the Dutch was taken as an opportunity by Wimaladharmasuriya to sweep off the Portuguese. It can be considered as one of the most foolish decisions of Sri Lankan colonization history. Then, the representatives of the Dutch came and offered military aid and agreed to launch a joint attack. However, it was not successful due to a conflict between the King and the Dutch representative Sebald. Finally, Sebald was killed with his men.

Subsequently, after the death of Wimladharmasuriya, his brother Senarath succeeded the throne. That was in 1604. King Senarath continued to solicit aid from the Dutch to fight against the Portuguese. In return, Senarath agreed with the Dutch to offer them a commercial concession along with a harbor for them on the east coast of the island. However, the Dutch were unable to provide as much aid as expected by the King.

Meanwhile, in 1630, Kandyans were able to invade the areas of Portuguese rule. Nevertheless, the disadvantage of not having sea power always showed results.

The story behind the proverb “It’s like exchanging Ginger to Chillie”

In 1635 the son of Senarath- Rajasinghe II became the successor of the throne. Continuing in the path of his father he too solicited help from the Dutch to expel the Portuguese. Thus, Dutch fleets came to Sri Lanka and captured Batticaloa, Trincomalee followed by Negombo.  By this time, the Dutch were given the monopoly of Cinnamon. The King also had to pay the expense incurred for the battles as well.                   

Subsequently, the Dutch refused to give the invaded harbours back to Kandyan King. It made the King understand the real intention of the Dutch. By then, the Dutch had understood the value and profitability of the Sri Lankan resources. Thus, their purpose was to win the King and gradually make the foundation to colonize in Sri Lanka.

It was a turning point in the Sri Lankan history of colonization. King Ranjasinghe II banished the Portuguese from the Island only to give it away to the Dutch! The Dutch took advantage of the strong relationship and dependency of the King and deceived the King. This incident is expressed through the famous Srilankan proverb “Inguru Deela Miris Gaththa Wagey” (It’s like exchanging ginger to Chile). The meaning of it is ‘getting free from something bad- only to get something worse.“

The wars between the three parties

In 1645, a truce was established between Portuguese and Dutch in Sri Lanka demarcating their boundaries. At this point, the war between the Dutch and the Kandyan King started. The dutch did not let go of the lands that they captured from the Portuguese. King Ranjasinghe II also did not give up. Sending his troops, he made sure to make those lands worthless for the Dutch. As a result, he destroyed the crops and deserted those areas. Due to the severe attacks, the Dutch understood that the best way was to come to terms with the King. Thus, a treaty was signed between them in 1649 agreeing to give back some of the captured lands. However, the war expense debts that the King owed the Dutch made the Dutch reluctant in giving back some of the lands.

By this time the ceasefire between the Dutch and Portuguese ended. Thus, the battles commenced again between the three parties. King Ranjasinghe and the Kandyans launched attacks. Through hardship, they managed to push back the Portuguese to the coastal areas.

In the meantime, the Dutch power strengthened by the arrival of a large fleet in 1655. The fleet was under General Gerard Hulft.  The troop laid barriers to Colombo both by land and sea. Attacked by Dutch’s emerging power, the Portuguese surrendered and left the city of Colombo to the Dutch in 1656.

The battle between the Dutch and Kandyans

Rajasinghe II attempted to come to terms with the Dutch to free Colombo which was futile. Therefore, he continued attacking by destroying the lands and depopulating the lands around Colombo.

Meanwhile, the Dutch re-started attacking the Portuguese with the power they gained through new fleet arrival. That was the fleet of Adm. Rickloff van Goens. The new fleet attacked the Portuguese strongholds of the Northern Island. Hence, they invaded Mannar and Jaffna in 1658.

Heavily beaten by the Dutch attacks, Portuguese power in Sri Lankan coastal regions thus came to an end in 1658. That was leaving the coastline in the Dutch’s hands.

Nonetheless, the Sri Lankan colonization history continued as follows.

The Dutch period (1658-1796)

Dutch rule began in Sri Lanka by a trading company called VOC (Vereenigde Oost-indische Compagnie). The mission of VOC was to protect Dutch trade interests in the Indian Ocean. Starting from the coastal lands, the Dutch slowly expanded their territory into the country. By 1665, the Dutch colonized the Southern, Western, and South Western and east coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, they could never touch the Kandyan Kingdom, which was in the central part of the island.

Meanwhile, in 1687 the King Rajasinghe died, and his son Wimaladharmasuriya II succeeded. His reign of 20 years was relatively peaceful. Nevertheless, in 1701  the Kandyans closed their borders for Dutch. As a result of this situation, the Dutch lost their trade of Areca-nut. 

Upon the death of VimaladharmasuryaII, his son Vira Narendra Sinha ascended the throne. Between the time of 1720 and 1730 several anti-Dutch uprising occurred. However, the country was back in peace by 1737 after the appointment of the Dutch governor Gustaaf Willem van Imoff.

Under the Dutch government, there were three administrative divisions in Sri Lanka: Colombo, Jaffna, and Galle.  The governor ruled Colombo. For Galle and Jaffna, there were commanders to rule. Each division had Sinhalese and Tamil officers working under a Dutch head. Those natives who worked in the Dutch government were the people who were loyal to the Dutch.

Exports and profit making.

Dutch took control of the exit and entry points of the Island. It was a good advantage for them to carry on money-making exports. Utilising the said plus points, they brought down the workforce from South India. They made the workforce work on the lands where they grew cinnamon, betel, tobacco, coffee coconut and spices. Apart from that, the Dutch took advantage of the valuable minerals and species on land and under the sea. They also brought down labour for mining gemstones and pearl collection from the ocean.  Among the famous exports in the Dutch Ceylon were lacquer, spices, coconut oil, coconut fibre products, elephant cowrie and conch shells. They already owned the monopoly of cinnamon which they gained by assisting the King against Portuguese.The Dutch wisely kept the link with the Sinhalese nobility, as it was their means of gaining knowledge of the system.

As a result of their great need of profit-making and monopolisation, the Dutch had strict control over trade promotion with neighbouring countries. Subsequently,  there came a shortage of essentials such as rice and textiles due to India’s declining trade.

Another significant aspect of Dutch Ceylon was religion. The main religion of the Dutch was protestant. Thus, Dutch persuaded many people to convert to their faith. Further, they prohibited Roman Catholicism in their territories and harassed Catholics. The reason was their belief that Roman Catholicism and Portuguese are interdependent. The Dutch restricted open observances of Buddhist and Hindu religions in urban areas as well.    

Furthermore, the Dutch tried to make their people marry locals. However it was not very successful with the upper-class people, especially women. But, military officers of the lower ranks married local women and they became Dutch-Burghers. It was a new ethnic group formed in the Sri Lankan history of Colonization.

British Colonization (1796-1948)

While Dutch colonization was still on the Island, The British began to move into Sri Lanka. It is during the reign of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. The British came from India through a company called “British East India Company”. The Dutch admitted defeat after the Netherlands coming under France due to the French revolution (1792-1801). Consequently, they gave in the Island to the British in 1796.

In 1802, the British confirmed Ceylon as a colony under the crown. Subsequently the British gained seafaring authority before long. Then, they started to establish a link with the King of Kandy. British pretended they would assist the King to safeguard the highlands. Then, the British began their administrative affairs in their territories. They found that the matters are unsmooth due to Kandy being an independent territory within the country. They found that the said independence was an obstacle, physically and administratively, especially for trade. The British had identified the profitability of building roads through the highlands for communication between east and west. The British tried unifying with the King of Kandy to reach this convenience. However, the Kandyans were not ready to change their stand regarding any foreign nation. Eventually, after Rajasinghe refused several requests to be united, the power of British called off for war.

Kandy being captured – a turning point in Sri Lankan history of colonization

The first attempt to invade Kandy was in 1803. However, the King Sri Wickrama Rajasighe had the support of a group of the nobility. The support of this nobility made it easy for the King to rout the British threats. Thus, the first attempt to capture the Kandyan Kingdom by the British became a failure. Nevertheless, as for any ruler, there were opponents to the King. Kandyan King also had such opponents because of which there were conflicts within the Kingdom. They wanted to accept the British as their new sovereign. The situation paved the way for the British to interfere in Kandyan affairs. King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe was imprisoned by the British in Vellore, and in 1815 the British took over Kandy under their rule. Thus came to an end the Kandyan Kingdom line and 2358 years of Kandyan self-rule on the Island.

The Kandyan Convention

The Kandyan convention means the treaty signed in 1815 between the British and the Kandyan Chieftains.

It was a vital document in Sri Lankan colonization history. It included the terms and conditions for Kandyans as a British protectorate and the British’s promises for the Kandyans.     

Through the treaty, the British granted privileges and rights of Kandyans and promised to preserve the customary laws and religion. Unlike the Dutch or Portuguese, the British did not impose Christianity on the population.

Uva rebellion

At the initial stages, the Kandyans went on well with the British. However, after some time they understood that the British practices lead to the reduction of the nobility status of the Buddhist faith. Buddhism was a vital part of the Kandyans. Accordingly, in 1817 the third Kandyan war commenced as the Kandyans started rebelling against British rules. It was the famous Uva Rebellion.

However, the Kandyans could not win against the power of the crown. The British killed almost all from Uva Wellassa and finally in 1817 the Kingdom of Kandy was invaded and annexed for British rule. With this incident, the whole island became a colony of British crown.

Effects of the British Colonization in Sri Lanka

Afterward, Ceylon underwent many changes. The British encouraged agriculture by increasing the production of cinnamon, coffee, sugarcane, and cotton. The lands under the British were sold for low prices to promote agriculture. Coffee was one of the central incomes that supported the economy of Ceylon. However, in the 1870s coffee plantations got destroyed due to a disease. Subsequently,  tea was introduced in the 1880s as a new plantation crop. That was after so much experimentation. Tea plantation began in the upper and lower slopes of the highlands while rubber and coconut plantation took place in the plains. The British paved the basis for the three main plantation crops of Ceylon-Tea, Coconut, and Rubber. The British brought labor required for plantation from India.

The communication between east and west was developed as they wished earlier. The road system and the railways were set up for easy transportation of agricultural products, etc. The British also expanded the harbors to support the increasing exports. The development of the infrastructure in the country reduced the isolation of the villages. Further, the country’s exports and trade delivered occupation for many people in the country, pulling them to the monetary economy.

The British also adopted a unitary administrative and judicial system islandwide. English became the official language that was to be used for governmental matters and as an instruction medium at schools. Christian missionary activity was also practiced on a large scale.

Arising of the nationalism

Meanwhile, by the 19th century, nationalism arose in the Ceylonese society. The Buddhist and Hindu population organized to defend themselves against Christian practices. Particularly, their favouritism to the semi-European burghers and other British colonial methods in the Island. This situation paved the way to social and political changes in the first half of the 20th century.

The Ceylonese National Congress (CNC) is a political party formed accordingly in 1919. It consisted of the leaders of all communities who felt the need to voice their nationalist viewpoint commonly. The founding president of the party was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam.

In 1944 the British appointed the Soulbury Commission to introduce a new constitution for Ceylon. It was in response to the CNC during World war II. The constitution in the commission allowed the CNC for internal self-government retaining defence and external affairs under their government.

Subsequently, Ceylon became a dominion in 1948 with the Ceylon Independence Act. Then onwards, Ceylon was recognized as an independent body with a link to the British crown.

However, Ceylon remained a commonwealth realm nearly for two and a half decades. Subsequently, Ceylon granted its current name ‘Republic of Sri Lanka’ on 22 May in 1972. People call it the ‘Republic Day’. It is an important milestone of Sri Lankan colonization history.

Impact of the Sri Lankan history of colonization on present Sri Lanka

As it happens for any country, Colonization impacts the domains of the colonized country in big time. There are fine examples as such in Sri Lankan Colonization history as well. 

The said changes were in the fields of social and cultural apart from the political and administrative changes which we talked about previously.

  • Cultural heritage
  • Religion
  • Names
  • Buildings and architecture
  • Area and street names
  • Culinary
  • Religion
  • Vocabulary

Here is a brief overview of some of the Colonization’s effects during the whole period of Sri Lankan Colonization history.

Cultural heritage

Sri Lanka has been a country with a glorious history of Buddhist culture. There were thousands of temples with gigantic Buddhist sculptures and structures in the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa areas. Those have been expressing the richness and the pride of the ancient Sri Lankan culture and creativity. However, at present, it is only the ruins of those structures that are left. Many bodily relics of Lord Buddha were also made disappear, which was a considerable loss. It was, as a result of the South Indian invasions mainly followed by battles between the invaders and the local Kings. Even the Mahawamsa mentions that during the attack of Kalinga Magha destruction happened both for Loka and Sasana.

Moreover, as per the history, the Cholas ruled Sri Lanka for about 75 years. The destruction done for Buddhism and the Buddhist structures during this period was priceless.


The main impact of the Portuguese invasion was the implementation of their religion on indigenous people. Notably, the Buddhists and Hindus were persuaded to convert into Christianity.Many people were compelled to convert. The best example is the conversion of Prince Dharmapala. Nevertheless, a certain number of people left the country due to this matter.


Besides, even at present, there are so many people in Sri Lanka, who are inherited Portuguese surnames. Their ancestors were those who converted from Buddhism to Christianity in the Portuguese period.

Eg: Silva/De Silva, Perera, Pereira, Almeida, Fernando, Tissera, Mendis, Costa, Corea, Cubral and so on.

Buildings and architecture

Moreover, the colonization had a considerable amount of effect on the buildings and architecture of Sri Lanka. It especially emerged in the period of the Dutch. Many forts and other buildings of Dutch architecture around the Island at present provide the best examples of the Dutch touch in Sri Lanka.


  • The Dutch Hospital in Fort – Colombo
  • The Dutch Museum, this was the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow at the beginning –Pettah, Colombo
  • Christian Reformed Church at Wolvendaa. It is the oldest Protestant church in Sri Lanka – Colombo
  • The Galle fort –it was also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988
  • The Dutch houses within the walls of the Galle Fort
  • De Groote Kerk, “The Great Church” in Galle is possibly the most beautiful building of the Dutch period.
  • The six-pointed Star Fort of Matara, built-in 1763
  • The Dutch Government House in Gall
  •  Star Fort in Matara,
  • Kalpitiya Fort
  • Jaffna Fort
  • The Hamilton Canal from Puttalam to Colombo- over 80 miles long.

Area and Street names

Many names of the places and streets were also influenced by the colonization. Especially, the areas and the street names of Colombo after the European Colonization.


  • Hulftsdorp, (Hulft’s Village) Hulfts was a general killed during the siege of the Portuguese period
  • Bloemendahl (Vale of Flowers)
  • Wolvendaal (Dale of Wolves)
  • Maliban Street (Dutch Maliebaan ) was a well-known alley in Utrecht.
  • Colombo’s Beira Lake. There was a Dutch engineer called De Beer.
  • Leyn Baan (Rope Lane) in Galle.
  • Mohrische Kramer Straat (Street of the Moorish Traders).
  • Delft in Jaffna.


The Colonization has brought impact to Sri Lankan cuisine as well. The effect is so much that, at present most of the Sri Lankan people are not even aware if those dishes originated from the Dutch period.


  • Lamprais-a specially prepared rice wrapped in banana leaves
  • Christmas cake from British


Sri Lanka was a Buddhist country, from a hundred thousands of years. Still, different religious beliefs were inherited by Sri Lankans from the Colonial past.


  • Protestant/calvinist from Dutch (at present ts only 10% from ,the Chiristian population
  • Roman Catholic from Portuguese


Another immense effect of Colonization happened on the vocabulary. Many words used by Sinhalese at present have derived from the European colonization period.


  • advakat (lawyer),
  • artapal/ala (potato)
  • baas (mason)
  • bacciya (jacket)
  • balansa (balance)
  • balcona (balcony)
  • belek (tin)
  • bonchi (beans)
  • dusima (dozen)
  • iskuruppuwa (screw)
  • istalaya (stall/stable)
  • istirikkaya (iron)
  • istoppuwa (verandah)
  • kakkussiya (toilet)
  • kamaraya (room)
  • kanala (canal)
  • kanoma (canon)
  • kanturowa (office)
  • karamaya (tap
  • ketalaya (kettle)
  • kopi (coffee)
  • koppaya (cup)
  • lachchuwa (drawer)
  • lanta (land)
  • oralosuwa (clock)
  • petora (cartridge)
  • puyar (powder)
  • tarappuwa (stairs)
  • te (tea)
  • vatal (carrot)
  • vatura (water)

When talking about the language further, the British have made the biggest influence on language in Sri Lanka. The reason is that today English has become one of the official languages in Sri Lanka. All Sri Lankan schools teach English with other local languages. Learning English has become something important too. Furthermore, all street signs in Sri Lanka display in three languages –Sinhala, English, and Tamil giving English a notable place.

The Bottom Line

Thus, the 518-years Sri Lankan colonization history came to an end with a number of ups and downs in the Sri Lankan economy, administration, culture, and people, leaving traces of colonization in and out. Hence, if you roam around Sri Lanka by chance, you will surely come across their shades beyond a shadow of a doubt. Also, their delight is worth exploring! So, why not? Make sure you arrive in Sri Lanka and explore yourself the harmonious entanglement of all these socio-cultual impacts in the present Sri Lankan society!