Its 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.
The Sri Lankan flag