Timeline of Sri Lanka


Balangoda Man

125,000 BC

Early homo sapiens aka "Balangoda Man" living in Sri Lanka
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First Sinhalese Immigrants

500 BC

C. 500:
First Sinhalese immigrants arrive in Sri Lanka

Founding of Anuradhapura

377 BC

Anuradhapura Kingdom

377 BC - 993 AD

Most historical knowledge comes from the Mahavamsa.
The Kingdom ended after being attacked and sacked by the Cholas.

First Tamil Migrations

300 BC

Mahavamsa written

200 BC

Dutugemunu takes control

161 BC

Dutugemunu defeats Elara at Anuradhapura and takes control of the island.

Kassapa establishes new capital

473 AD

Dhatusena is murdered by his son Kassapa, who establishes a new capital at Sigiriya.

Mogallana defeats Kassapa

491 AD

Mogallana defeats Kassapa at Sigiriya and returns the capital to Anuradhapura.

Pandyans sack Anuradhapura

853 AD

Anuradhapura is sacked by South Indian Pandyans

New capital is set up at Polonnaruwa

993 AD

Anuradhapura is destroyed by the Chola king, Rajaraja. He then establishes a new capital at Polonnaruwa.

Polonnaruwa Period

993 AD - 1070 AD

Sinhalese rule is re-established

1070 AD

Vijayabahu drives Cholas from the island and re-establishes Sinhalese rule.

Golden Age

1153 AD - 1186 AD

Reign of Parakrambahu the Great and the golden Age of Polonnaruwa

Reign of Parakramabahu VI

1412 AD - 1416 AD

Reign of Parakramabahu VI of Kotte
The island is reunited under Sinhalese rule for the last time.

Kotte Kingdom

1412 AD - 1597 AD

The Kandy Kingdom

1469 AD - 1815 AD

In 1815, the Kandy Kingdom falls to the British. It was the last independent Sinhalese kingdom. The island is united under British rule.

Portuguese tourists

1505 AD

A Portuguese fleet was blown off course and ended up not far from modern day Colombo.

Portuguese fort

1518 AD

The Portuguese build a fort in Colombo

Divided Kotte

1521 AD

The Kingdom of Kotte split into three different kingdoms: the kingdom of Sitawake, of Rayagama, and of Kotte.
Mayadunne, the ruler of Sitawake, begins to launch attacks against the Portuguese.

Portuguese take over

1593 AD - 1638 AD

The Portuguese capture coastal areas as far as Jaffna, and launch unsuccessful attacks against the Kingdom of Kandy.

First Dutch

1602 AD

The first dutch emissaries arrive on the island and meet with the king of Kandy.

Dutch vs. Portuguese

1638 AD - 1640 AD

The Dutch and the Kandyans ally and start attacking and driving the Portuguese out of their coastal strongholds.
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Dutch capture Colombo

1656 AD

The Dutch capture Colombo from the Portuguese and marks the beginning of Dutch rule.

British East India Company

1794 AD

The British East India Company army occupies Dutch territory after the fall of the Netherlands to France in Europe.

Sri Lanka cedes to the British

1802 AD

Sri Lanka cedes to the British under the Treaty of Amiens.

1848 Rebellion


Beginning of Tea Industry

1870 AD

c. 1870 AD
The coffee industry collapses and tea production starts. Thousands of Tamil immigrants come to the island to work on the new plantations.

Buddhist revival

1880 AD

Henry Steel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky arrive at to the island. They revive Buddhism and champion Buddhist causes as part of the island's heritage.

Ceylon National Congress

1919 AD

The Ceylon National Congress is founded. It is the first national political party.

New Constitution

1931 AD

The new constitution transfers some political power to local leaders and gives the right to vote to all Sri Lankans.


1942 AD

Sri Lanka becomes a major base for the British war effort in Southern Asia. The Japanese air force attacks Trincomalee.


1948 AD

Sri Lanka gains Independence. D.S. Senanayake becomes the prime minister at the head of the United National Party.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party

1956 AD

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike becomes prime minister at the head of the new Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Mrs. Bandaranaike

1959 AD

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike is assassinated by a Buddhist monk. His widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, succeeds him and becomes the worlds first female prime minister.

Sri Lanka

1972 AD

The name Ceylon is changed to Sri Lanka.

LTTE founded

1976 AD

LTTE stands for Liberation TIgers of Tamil Eelam or also known as the Tamil Tigers.

Eelam War I

July 23, 1983 AD - July 29, 1987 AD

Black July

July 24, 1983 AD

During Black July, thousands of Tamils were massacred and Tamil communities destroyed in the south by Sinhalese mobs.

Massacre at Anuradhapura

1985 AD

The LTTE massacred 150 civilians at Anuradhapura.
Government and LTTE fighting spreads to the north and east.

Indian Peace Keeping Force

1987 AD

When the Indian Peace Keeping Force arrives in the north and is widely opposed. Jaffna is captured after intense fighting.
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Eelam War II

1990 AD - 1995 AD

Eelam War III

1995 AD - 2002 AD

Ended with a cease fire

Asian Tsunami

2004 AD

It devastates the coast of Sri Lanka and kills more than 35,000 Sri Lankans.
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Eelam War IV

2006 - 2009 AD