Buddhism in Sri Lanka

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The Great Stupa in Anuradhapura

In Sri Lanka, Theravada Buddhism is the official state religion and is practiced by roughly 70% of the population as of 2012.[1] Sri Lanka is the birthplace of the Theravada branch of buddhism, and this is the form of Buddhism that is practiced there.

The early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka is recorded in two famous chronicles, The Great Chronicle (Mahāvaṃsa) and "The Island Chronicle" (Dipavamsa). These chronicles tell that Buddhism was first established on the island in approximately 250 BCE when the Indian Emperor Ashoka sent his son Mahinda to Sri Lanka to instruct King Devānaṃpiyatissa. This led to the founding of the first monastery on the island, the Anurādhapura Mahāvihāra.

The island has been a centre of Buddhist scholarship and practices since the introduction of Buddhism in the third century BCE, producing eminent scholars such as Buddhaghosa, and preserving the Pāli Canon. Throughout most of its history, Sri Lankan kings have played a major role in the maintenance and revival of the Buddhist institutions of the island. During the 19th century, a modern Buddhist revival took place on the island which promoted Buddhist education.

Further reading


  1. Pew Forum (2 April 2015). "The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010–2050". www.globalreligiousfutures.org. Retrieved 12 January 2021.