Ethnic Relations

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.

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Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions

Kiribath, rice cooked in coconut milk, is part of nearly every ceremonial occasion in Sri Lanka. Kawum(sweet oil cake) and other special snacks are also popular at special events. Alcoholic beverages do not play a role in the formal rituals of Sri Lanka, being condemned by Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism alike. Alcohol is, however, a ubiquitous part of men’s social gatherings, where beer, toddy, arrack are consumed in great quantities.

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Sri Lanka’s economy is shifting away from its traditional agricultural base to include production for an international market, a shift accelerated by a major policy change in the 1977 transition from a socialist-style, state controlled economy to a free market economy lead by the private sector. By the mid-1990s, roughly one-quarter of the population was employed as skilled workers in agriculture, fishing, or animal husbandry; one quarter in skilled craft or factory production; one-quarter in administration, medicine, law, education, accounting, sales, services or clerical work; and one-quarter as unskilled laborers. In spite of this shift away from agriculture, Sri Lanka has recently achieved near self sufficiency in rice production and other staple foods.

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Our ancestors used to mix green leaves and vegetables with their meals and they were grown by themselves (Home gardening and chena cultivation). As stated in Saddarma Lankaramaya, Tuber, plantains, coconuts, areca and jak were grown in home gardens. The famous vegetable items in the past were Kekiri, Puhul,Breadfruit, rathtampala, Thiyambara, Thibbatu, Alupuhul, Mea, Chillies and Ladies’s fingers. The other food items included green leave, Brinjol, Drumstick, Kollu, Kiribadukola, Thumba, Ala Kola, Madu dalu, Welkohila, Kesel muwa, Kekatiya and Nelum ala. The scraped coconut, coconut oil and some other kind of oil were largely used for the tasting the food items. The different types of spices were mixed with curries and they comprised pepper, ginger, mustard, tamarind, garlic, turmeric, lemon, curry leave, rampe,wagapuhul, etc.

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Milk is a food item with high cultural value. The “Pasgorasa” was made of cow milk and it included a combination of items such as milk, ghee and wendaru. There was a famous sweet item called “Chathumadura” and it was a mix of ghee, jaggery and sugar cane honey.

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Sweets Culture

The confectionery items were made of rice flour and treacle. These items were named as Preenathara or Madhurahara or avulpath. The confectionery consisted of variety of items namely Aluwa, Halapa, Ingurudosi, Puhuldosi, Welithalapa, Pani Walalu, Dodol, Lalu, and Kiri rotti. The confectionary items which are famous today are ones that culturally transformed during a long period

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Food Ethics

In Sri Lankan food culture, fish and meat were widely consumed by our ancestors. The popular meats that they consumed were venison, mutton, pork, peacock meat and parrot meat. However, beef was not consumed since it had not been allowed by then rulers. The fresh water fish varieties like Lula, Magura, Kaviya, Prawn and Crab were taken for food in the past. However, there was no evidence for eating sea fish varieties. Now sea fish has become a popular food item. Among the eggs that consumed in the past Chicken eggs, Thara eggs and Kesbe eggs were very popular.

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