HISTORY OF SRI LANKA
The story of ancient Lanka has its beginnings in the culture of stone, the Stone Age. An ageless, timeless period, the Stone Age In Sri Lanka stretched from 125,000 BC to 1000 BC. Encompassing tens of thousands of years, the scales are so vast that we still cannot measure it properly. It is like peering through a telescope, looking at a world so far away that is visible only in fractions, a fleeting glimpse here and there. This era is called prehistory.' The time before the dawn of history.
It is during the period that we find traces of early man. He appears to have lived almost everywhere ; along the coast, on the plains and amongst the rolling grasslands of the hill country. The richest evidence however survives in caves. It is only then that the stone Age begins to take shape in our minds. At caverns like Fa Hsien – lena, near Buthsinhala ( c. 35,000 – 3400 BC ) Batadomba – lena in Kuruwita ( C 29,000 – 9500 BC ) and Beli lena in Kitugala ( C 28,000 – 1500 BC ).
The Balangoda Man is a popular parlance, derived from his being responsible for the Mesolithic 'Balangoda Culture' first defined in sites near Balangoda. The bones are robust, with thick skull-bones, prominent brow-ridges, depressed wide noses, heavy jaws and short necks. The teeth are conspicuously large. These traits have survived in varying degrees among the Veddas and certain Sinhalese groups, thus pointing to Balangoda Man as a common ancestor.
Sri Lanka has an enthralling recorded history of civilisation. Its unique and proud historical record of a great civilization spans over 25 chronicled centuries, and is documented primarily in three books; the Mahavamsa (Great Genealogy or Dynasty), Dipavamsa and Culavamsa. Sri Lankan history is distinctive as it has a historical record, which is ancient, continuous and trustworthy, and begins with the occupation of the island by civilised men in 5th century, BC. The story continues under each successive king for over 20 centuries. The Mahavamsa is primarily a dynamic and religious historical record. In addition to this record, there are over 2500 inscriptions in Sri Lanka. The earliest inscriptions are contemporary with the introduction of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. More than 1000 epigraphs, mostly inscribed on caves, belong to the third, second and first centuries BC, exist in the dry zone as well as in the old caves temples in Colombo, Kegalla, and Kandy.
Sri Lankan Independence and Independence Movement
Following the end of World War I and II, pressure for independence in Sri Lanka intensified. The office of the Prime Minister of Ceylon was created in advance of independence on 14 October 1947 and Don Stephen Senanayake was chosen as the first prime minister. On 4 February 1948 the country won its independence as the Commonwealth of Ceylon. On 21 July 1960 Sirimavo Bandaranaike took office as prime minister, and became the world's first female prime minister and the first female head of government in post-colonial Asia. In 1972, during Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike's second term as prime minister, the country became a republic within the Commonwealth, and the name was changed to Sri Lanka.
The historical records reveal a past intricated by a mixture of the historical and the mythological. The legend of Prince Vijaya, from whom the Sinhalese people claim descent, is one such example. Archaeological evidence reveals early settlement in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's earliest inhabitants were the Veddahs who arrived around 125,000 BC. Given its strategic placement, the country operated as an important trade port and retreat of nature for merchants of China, Arabia and Europe. Sri Lanka's history can be categorized as follows;
Maldives - a dream destination famous for its beautiful white beaches and breathtaking underwater scenery. But there is more to this unique nation, these 1190 islands spread across the Indian Ocean and circled into 26 natural atolls. Sun, sand and sea, a thousand 'Robinson Crusoe' islands, massive lagoons with different depths and infinite shades of blue and turquoise, dazzling underwater coral gardens; a perfect natural combination for the ideal tropical holiday destination. They boast rich cultural traditions, a history of kings and queens, pageants, feasts and festivals, their own language and script.
Maldives invites you for the ultimate beach holidays away from the hustle bustle of the daily grind. Maldives offers you utmost privacy amidst plush tropical foliage, shimmering white sandy beaches, and sapphire water of the Indian Ocean. If you are planning for a tranquil vacation, bathing in the sun and lazing under palm trees then travel to Maldives. Stroll on the pristine white sandy beaches in Maldives while the cool breeze softly touches your skin. There are many resorts or hotels on the beaches in Maldives, which provide you direct access to beautiful beaches surrounded by tropical vegetation.
If you are in high spirits on your holidays then enjoy various water sports. Kids building sand castles, youths playing beach volleyball, some strolling on the beach and some just relaxing and reading books are regular views at Maldives beaches. Spend an hour or a day. Sitting in the sand, people watching, breathing the sea air, bodysurfing or boogie-boarding in the gentle surf, enjoying a pizza or salad with your feet in the sand at one of the beach sides of the Maldives.
Maldives is also one of the great places for children and kids. The country offers extensive recreation and activity options exclusively meant for the children. The young tourists can have a great time taking part in the children's activities.
MALDIVES IS AN ISOLATED nation and is among the smallest and poorest countries in the world. In olden times, the islands provided the main source of cowrie shells, then used as currency throughout Asia and parts of the East African coast. Moreover, historically Maldives has had a strategic importance because of its location on the major marine routes of the Indian Ocean. Maldives' nearest neighbors are Sri Lanka and India, both of which have had cultural and economic ties with Maldives for centuries. Although under nominal Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences after the sixteenth century, Maldivians were left to govern themselves under a long line of sultans and occasionally sultanas.
Maldives gained independence in 1965. The British, who had been Maldives' last colonial power, continued to maintain an air base on the island of Gan in the southernmost atoll until 1976. The British departure in 1976 almost immediately triggered foreign speculation about the future of the air base; the Soviet Union requested use of the base, but Maldives refused.
The greatest challenge facing the republic in the early 1990s was the need for rapid economic development and modernization, given the country's limited resource base in fishing and tourism. Concern was also evident over a projected long-term rise in sea level, which would prove disastrous to the low-lying coral islands.
Maldivians consider the introduction of Islam in A.D. 1153 as the cornerstone of their country's history. Islam remains the state religion in the 1990s. Except for a brief period of Portuguese occupation from 1558-73, Maldives also has remained independent. Because the Muslim religion prohibits images portraying gods, local interest in ancient statues of the pre- Islamic period is not only slight but at times even hostile; villagers have been known to destroy such statues recently unearthed.
Western interest in the archaeological remains of early cultures on Maldives began with the work of H.C.P. Bell, a British commissioner of the Ceylon Civil Service. Bell was shipwrecked on the islands in 1879, and he returned several times to investigate ancient Buddhist ruins. Historians have established that by the fourth century A.D. Theravada Buddhism originating from Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) became the dominant religion of the people of Maldives. Some scholars believe that the name "Maldives" derives from the Sanskrit maladvipa, meaning "garland of islands." In the mid-1980s, the Maldivian government allowed the noted explorer and expert on early marine navigation, Thor Heyerdahl, to excavate ancient sites. Heyerdahl studied the ancient mounds, called hawitta by the Maldivians, found on many of the atolls. Some of his archaeological discoveries of stone figures and carvings from pre-Islamic civilizations are today exhibited in a side room of the small National Museum on Male.
Heyerdahl's research indicates that as early as 2,000 B.C. Maldives lay on the maritime trading routes of early Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Indus Valley civilizations. Heyerdahl believes that early sun-worshipping seafarers, called the Redin, first settled on the islands. Even today, many mosques in Maldives face the sun and not Mecca, lending credence to this theory. Because building space and materials were scarce, successive cultures constructed their places of worship on the foundations of previous buildings. Heyerdahl thus surmises that these sun-facing mosques were built on the ancient foundations of the Redin culture temples.
The interest of Middle Eastern peoples in Maldives resulted from its strategic location and its abundant supply of cowrie shells, a form of currency that was widely used throughout Asia and parts of the East African coast since ancient times. Middle Eastern seafarers had just begun to take over the Indian Ocean trade routes in the tenth century A.D. and found Maldives to be an important link in those routes. The importance of the Arabs as traders in the Indian Ocean by the twelfth century A.D. may partly explain why the last Buddhist king of Maldives converted to Islam in the year 1153. The king thereupon adopted the Muslim title and name of Sultan Muhammad al Adil, initiating a series of six dynasties consisting of eighty-four sultans and sultanas that lasted until 1932 when the sultanate became elective. The person responsible for this conversion was a Sunni Muslim visitor named Abu al Barakat. His venerated tomb now stands on the grounds of Hukuru Mosque, or miski, in the capital of Male. Built in 1656, this is the oldest mosque in Maldives. Arab interest in Maldives also was reflected in the residence there in the 1340s of the well-known North African traveler Ibn Battutah.
In 1558 the Portuguese established themselves on Maldives, which they administered from Goa on India's west coast. Fifteen years later, a local guerrilla leader named Muhammad Thakurufaan organized a popular revolt and drove the Portuguese out of Maldives. This event is now commemorated as National Day, and a small museum and memorial center honor the hero on his home island of Utim on South Tiladummati Atoll.
In the mid-seventeenth century, the Dutch, who had replaced the Portuguese as the dominant power in Ceylon, established hegemony over Maldivian affairs without involving themselves directly in local matters, which were governed according to centuries-old Islamic customs. However, the British expelled the Dutch from Ceylon in 1796 and included Maldives as a British protected area. The status of Maldives as a British protectorate was officially recorded in an 1887 agreement in which the sultan accepted British influence over Maldivian external relations and defense. The British had no presence, however, on the leading island community of Male. They left the islanders alone, as had the Dutch, with regard to internal administration to continue to be regulated by Muslim traditional institutions.
During the British era from 1887 to 1965, Maldives continued to be ruled under a succession of sultans. The sultans were hereditary until 1932 when an attempt was made to make the sultanate elective, thereby limiting the absolute powers of sultans. At that time, a constitution was introduced for the first time, although the sultanate was retained for an additional twenty-one years. Maldives remained a British crown protectorate until 1953 when the sultanate was suspended and the First Republic was declared under the short-lived presidency of Muhammad Amin Didi. This first elected president of the country introduced several reforms. While serving as prime minister during the 1940s, Didi nationalized the fish export industry. As president he is remembered as a reformer of the education system and a promoter of women's rights. Muslim conservatives in Male eventually ousted his government, and during a riot over food shortages, Didi was beaten by a mob and died on a nearby island.
Beginning in the 1950s, political history in Maldives was largely influenced by the British military presence in the islands. In 1954 the restoration of the sultanate perpetuated the rule of the past. Two years later, Britain obtained permission to reestablish its wartime airfield on Gan in the southernmost Addu Atoll. Maldives granted the British a 100-year lease on Gan that required them to pay 2,000 a year, as well as some forty-four hectares on Hitaddu for radio installations. In 1957, however, the new prime minister, Ibrahim Nasir, called for a review of the agreement in the interest of shortening the lease and increasing the annual payment. But Nasir, who was theoretically responsible to then sultan Muhammad Farid Didi, was challenged in 1959 by a local secessionist movement in the southern atolls that benefited economically from the British presence on Gan (see Maldives, Armed Forces in National Life , ch. 6). This group cut ties with the Maldives government and formed an independent state with Abdulla Afif Didi as president. The short-lived state (1959-62), called the United Suvadivan Republic, had a combined population of 20,000 inhabitants scattered in the atolls then named Suvadiva--since renamed North Huvadu and South Huvadu--and Addu and Fua Mulaku. In 1962 Nasir sent gunboats from Male with government police on board to eliminate elements opposed to his rule. Abdulla Afif Didi fled to the then British colony of Seychelles, where he was granted political asylum.
Meanwhile, in 1960 Maldives allowed Britain to continue to use both the Gan and the Hitaddu facilities for a thirty-year period, with the payment of 750,000 over the period of 1960 to 1965 for the purpose of Maldives' economic development.
On July 26, 1965, Maldives gained independence under an agreement signed with Britain. The British government retained the use of the Gan and Hitaddu facilities. In a national referendum in March 1968, Maldivians abolished the sultanate and established a republic. The Second Republic was proclaimed in November 1968 under the presidency of Ibrahim Nasir, who had increasingly dominated the political scene. Under the new constitution, Nasir was elected indirectly to a four-year presidential term by the Majlis (legislature). He appointed Ahmed Zaki as the new prime minister. In 1973 Nasir was elected to a second term under the constitution as amended in 1972, which extended the presidential term to five years and which also provided for the election of the prime minister by the Majlis. In March 1975, newly elected prime minister Zaki was arrested in a bloodless coup and was banished to a remote atoll. Observers suggested that Zaki was becoming too popular and hence posed a threat to the Nasir faction.
During the 1970s, the economic situation in Maldives suffered a setback when the Sri Lankan market for Maldives' main export of dried fish collapsed. Adding to the problems was the British decision in 1975 to close its airfield on Gan in line with its new policy of abandoning defense commitments east of the Suez Canal. A steep commercial decline followed the evacuation of Gan in March 1976. As a result, the popularity of Nasir's government suffered. Maldives's twenty-year period of authoritarian rule under Nasir abruptly ended in 1978 when he fled to Singapore. A subsequent investigation revealed that he had absconded with millions of dollars from the state treasury.
Elected to replace Nasir for a five-year presidential term in 1978 was Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a former university lecturer and Maldivian ambassador to the United Nations (UN). The peaceful election was seen as ushering in a period of political stability and economic development in view of Gayoom's priority to develop the poorer islands. In 1978 Maldives joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Tourism also gained in importance to the local economy, reaching more than 120,000 visitors in 1985. The local populace appeared to benefit from increased tourism and the corresponding increase in foreign contacts involving various development projects. Despite coup attempts in 1980, 1983, and 1988, Gayoom's popularity remained strong, allowing him to win three more presidential terms. In the 1983, 1988, and 1993 elections, Gayoom received more than 95 percent of the vote. Although the government did not allow any legal opposition, Gayoom was opposed in the early 1990s by Islamists (also seen as fundamentalists) who wanted to impose a more traditional way of life and by some powerful local business leaders.
Whereas the 1980 and 1983 coup attempts against Gayoom's presidency were not considered serious, the third coup attempt in November 1988 alarmed the international community. About eighty armed Tamil mercenaries landed on Male before dawn aboard speedboats from a freighter. Disguised as visitors, a similar number had already infiltrated Male earlier. Although the mercenaries quickly gained the nearby airport on Hulele, they failed to capture President Gayoom, who fled from house to house and asked for military intervention from India, the United States, and Britain. Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi immediately dispatched 1,600 troops by air to restore order in Male. Less than twelve hours later, Indian paratroopers arrived on Hulele, causing some of the mercenaries to flee toward Sri Lanka in their freighter. Those unable to reach the ship in time were quickly rounded up. Nineteen people reportedly died in the fighting, and several taken hostage also died. Three days later an Indian frigate captured the mercenaries on their freighter near the Sri Lankan coast. In July 1989, a number of the mercenaries were returned to Maldives to stand trial. Gayoom commuted the death sentences passed against them to life imprisonment.
The 1988 coup had been headed by a once prominent Maldivian businessperson named Abdullah Luthufi, who was operating a farm on Sri Lanka. Ex-president Nasir denied any involvement in the coup. In fact, in July 1990, President Gayoom officially pardoned Nasir in absentia in recognition of his role in obtaining Maldives' independence.
By virtue of its geography and its romantic setting the Maldivian resorts offer the ideal conditions for your honeymoon or for the special celebrations of your anniversary. Your honeymoon can be at a secluded bungalow removed from the rest, with your own private beach and your own little corner of the island. Or you can book one of the select water bungalows that now exist in many of the resorts that give you the ultimate in luxury and privacy.
The country is endowed with thousands of reefs. Over a 1000 species of fish inhabit these reefs, 300 of which were recorded for the first time in Maldives. Hundreds of species of hard and soft corals adorn the reefs providing dazzling colors. The reefs are so numerous that divers can literally swim from one to the other. However in spite of this, each dive site has its own special character and appeal.
The outside reefs of the atolls are the fortresses that defend the Maldives from the strong elements. They are solid and impenetrable. The channels through which currents flow through the Maldives chain feature interesting coral formations such as jagged walls, crevices and caves. Due to the high level of nutrients in the channels divers can find caves and overhangs full of soft coral, a wide range of invertebrates, gorgonians and sponges. There are also several canyons and the steep drop offs that provide for exciting dives. An exciting array of pelagics, predators and reef fish converge in these areas to feed in the colliding waters filled with nutrients.
The abundance of marine life is a source of attraction for not only divers but also for those passionate about snorkeling. Around 70 different species of colorful coral reefs make up the flora of this underwater city with more than 700 species of fishes and other aqua marine life taking the role of the fauna.
The water currents play an important role in the gathering of the big fish species. Some of the interesting fish species found here are Dogtooth Tuna, Tuna, Trevally's, Jacks, Sweetlips, Butterfly fish, Mating octopus, Wahoo and Fusiliers. What makes Maldives special for the Snorkelers is the presence of rare marine life species like the giant Napoleon Wrasse.
The Maldives is fast becoming an important surf destination. The O'Neil Deep Blue international surf competition has now become a regular annual event participated by the best known names in the surfing world.
While most of the recognized surf breaks are in Male' Atoll, several known breaks are dotted in the central atolls. Although breaks in Male' Atoll can be surfed from a resort the breaks further out can only be accessed on a surfing safari. The good news is there is still more to be discovered.
Fishing in Maldives is filled with fun and excitement. Tourists can take a 'dhoni' and go to the numerous fishing spots, or simply sit on the beach and see the fishermen take their boats to the middle of the Indian Ocean and come back with the catch of the day. Both mechanized vessels as well as the traditional fishing boats are used in fishing.
The best time to go for fishing is during the early hours of the morning. The weather is good and one can expect a good catch at this time of the day. Tourists can also go for night fishing. This type of fishing is extremely popular amongst the tourists, especially those interested in extra adventure.
One can find different varieties if fishes in the waters of Maldives. The most common varieties that are available include little tuna, dolphin fish, rainbow runner, jack, trevally and barracuda. Night fishing is suitable for special varieties of fish like groupers, snappers, emperors, jacks, squirrel fish and other types of reef fishes.
Spa resorts in the Maldives are among the finest luxury spa services in the world. Each spa resort combines the highest standards of luxury and service with world-class spa treatments for health and pampering. A spa resort in the Maldives will let you indulge yourself, relax and rejuvenate with blends that retain the best of traditional elements while enriched with modern advancements.
Over the centuries Spas have inspired beauty treatments healing massages, wellness rituals, and medication therapies all over the world. In recent times, therapies which were earlier confined to one region or country are now available worldwide the term spa is associated with water treatment or balneotherapy. The word itself is an acronym of various Latin phrases such as 'Salus Per Aquam or Sanitas Per Aquam' which means health through water.
By virtue of its geography and its romantic setting the Maldivian resorts offer the ideal conditions for your honeymoon or for the special celebrations of your anniversary.
Your honeymoon can be at a secluded bungalow removed from the rest, with your own private beach and your own little corner of the island. Or you can book one of the select water bungalows that now exist in many of the resorts that give you the ultimate in luxury and privacy.
Tourism in Russia has seen rapid growth since the late Soviet times, first inner tourism and then international tourism as well. Rich cultural heritage and great natural variety place Russia among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The country contains 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, while many more are on UNESCO's tentative lists. Major tourist routes in Russia include a travel around the Golden Ring of ancient cities, cruises on the big rivers like Volga, and long journeys on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway. Diverse regions and ethnic cultures of Russia offer many different food and souvenirs, and show a great variety of traditions, like Russianbanya, Tatar Sabantuy, or Siberian shamanist rituals.
Most popular tourist destinations in Russia are Saint Petersburg (which appeared in the list of top visited cities of Europe in 2010) and Moscow, the current and the former capitals of the country and great cultural centers, recognized as World Cities. Moscow and Saint Petersburg feature such world-renown museums as Hermitage and Tretyakov Gallery, famous theaters like Bolshoi and Mariinsky, ornate churches like Saint Basil's Cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Saint Isaac's Cathedraland Church of the Savior on Blood, impressive fortifications like Moscow Kremlin and Peter and Paul Fortress, beautiful squares like Red Square and Palace Square, and streets like Tverskaya andNevsky Prospect. Rich palaces and parks of extreme beauty are found in the former imperial residences in suburbs of Moscow (Kolomenskoye, Tsaritsyno) and Saint Petersburg (Peterhof,Strelna, Oranienbaum, Gatchina, Pavlovsk Palace, Tsarskoye Selo). Moscow contains a great variety of impressive Soviet era buildings along with modern scyscrapers, while Saint Petersburg, nicknamed Venice of the North, boasts of its classical architecture, many rivers, channels andbridges..
Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, shows a unique mix of Christian Russian and Muslim Tatar cultures. The city has registered a brand The Third Capital of Russia, though a number of other major Russian cities compete for this status, like Samara, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg andNizhny Novgorod, all being major cultural centers with rich history and prominent architecture. Veliky Novgorod, Pskov, Dmitrov and the cities of Golden Ring (Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Kostroma and others) have at best preserved the architecture and the spirit of ancient and medieval Rus', and also are among the main tourist destinations. Many old fortifications (typically Kremlins), monasteries and churches are scattered throughout Russia, forming its unique cultural landscape both in big cities and in remote areas.
Resorts and Nature Tourism
The warm subtropical Black Sea coast of Russia is the site for a number of popular searesorts, like Sochi, known for its beaches and wonderful nature. At the same time Sochi can boast a number of major ski resorts, like Krasnaya Polyana; the city is the host of 2014 Winter Olympics. The mountains of the Northern Caucasus contain many other popular ski resorts, like Dombay in Karachay–Cherkessia.
The most famous natural tourist destination in Russia is Lake Baikal, named the Blue Eye of Siberia. This unique lake, oldest and deepest in the world, has crystal-clean waters and is surrounded by taiga-covered mountains. Other popular natural destinations include Kamchatka with its volcanoes and geysers, Kareliawith its many lakes and granite rocks, Altai with its snowy mountains and Tyva with its wild steppes.
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Part fantasy, part historical drama, Russia reads as though it were a work of seminal fiction. A storybook landscape of castles, palaces and cathedrals, this romantic place sets the scene for a famous narrative of valiant champions, incredible riches, celebrated royalty and great tyrants.
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Experience Russia during its most majestic time: winter! Join us for the winter edition of our most popular private tour, the Treasures of Two Capitals. We will take you through the ancient Kremlin, the lavish Hermitage, the iconic St. Basil's Cathedral, the spectacular Catherine's Palace, and the ascetic Peter and Paul Fortress in Russia’s two most beautiful cities!