Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka (Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකාව, śrī laṃkāva; Tamil: இலங்கை, ilaṅkai), officially known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකා ප්රජාතාන්ත්රික සමාජවාදී ජනරජය; Tamil: இலங்கை சனநாயக சோசலிசக் குடியரசு), is a little island south of India. It became independent in 1948 and had the world's first elected female head of state. Until recently had an intermittent civil war that ended with the governmentís victory. Itís also known for producing tea and being the refuge of Arthur C. Clarke in his later years. He actually stated Sri Lanka as the ideal place to build a Space Elevator in The Fountains of Paradise (though he had to move the equator some grades up, since an orbital elevator only could be constructed on it). Sri Lanka produces many other spices and luxury products as well — it is where cinnamon originated, and is the first place where the cinchona tree (source of quinine) was cultivated outside its native South America. In the 17th century the island was fought over by the Dutch and the Portuguese. The former won, but were unable to subdue the native inland Kingdom of Kandy. This didn't happen until Britain took over due to the Dutch having been conquered by the French in The Napoleonic Wars, and "forgot" to give it back again afterwards. The fact that it produced a lot of tea had absolutely nothing to do with this. One of the most important centers of Buddhism. Also important in Hinduism, specifically the Ramayana, in which Hanuman, Rama's simian sidekick, builds a bridge from India to the island, which is identified with a real undersea causeway — plans to cut shipping channels in this causeway ran into religious controversy for this reason. Also had a massively controversial Civil War that has not been able to be fully documented, mostly due to government intrusion. A one-minute oversimplification of the war can be found here. The Sri Lankan flag
Originally the flag only consists of the right half, the flag of the Kingdom of Kandy, symbolizing the Buddhist Sinhalese majority, featuring a gold-bordered crimson field with a lion holding a sword and pinnacles of Buddhist stupas on the borders. A 1950 recommendation replaces the pinnacles with four leaves from the sacred fig tree (ficus religiosa), symbolizing the tree under which the Buddha received enlightenment, and adding green and orange vertical stripes on the hoist side to symbolize the Muslim Moor and Hindu Tamil minorities, respectively, the two largest minorities in Sri Lanka.