It is an A to Z guide, a comprehensive general aspect of Sri Lanka.
It is packed with information, arranged in an easy-to-find manner and
written in an easy-to-read style.
There is information on places and people, history and current
affairs, races, languages and religions, art and culture, economy,
agriculture and industry, trade, banking and business, broadcasting,
telecommunications, tourism, education and health. There are entries
on caste, cinema, cricket, cuisine, ethic conflict, globalisation,
land reform, population and privatisation.
There is biographical information on artists, dramatics, film-makes,
lawyers, musicians, presidents and prime ministers, priests and
prelates, scientists, surgeons and writers.
The encyclopedia will be useful in libraries, schools, offices and
homes – wherever there is a need for information about Sri Lanka. It
will appeal to both young and old. People visiting the country will
welcome it, as will people abroad who have an interest in the
There are over 1200 entries. There is a substantial biographical
component, which serves as a Sri Lanka Who’s who. A third of the
entries are on people, and a large number of them are women.
The book has over 100 photographs, including 20 in colour, and a
number of tables for easy reference.
Charles Gunawardena was the Director of Information at the
Commonwealth Secretariat in London form 1979 to 1987. he later served
in the secretariat of the South Commission in Geneva and I the London
office of the Commission on Global Governance.
Between 1959 and 1972, he worked in information and press relations
for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the ministry in
Colombo and in Sri Lanka’s diplomatic missions in London and New
Delhi. Earlier, he was a journalist with the Ceylon Daily News in
Colombo and also reported on Sri Lankan affairs for several
international publications, including The Economist and the Christian
Science Monitor. I 1956, he visited the USA on a fellowship from the
International Press Institute.
I am glad to have the opportunity of providing a revised edition of
this encyclopedia first published in 2003. in preparing this edition,
I have brought several entries up to data, enlarged a number of
others, and made minor revisions in some. I have also introduced more
than a hundred new entries; these vary from a few words to a few
hundred lines. Among them are entries on such subjects as Sri Lankan
English, globalisation, national honours, international schools and
serendipity. There have also been significant additions to the
biographical content, along with many new pictures.
In working on this edition, I have been able to draw on the support
of family and friends who helped me with information and suggestions
for the first edition. I am especially grateful to Yasmine and
Brendon Gooneratne. Manik de Silva, D C Ranatunga and Nevile
Lalini Gautamadasa agreed to assist me with research in Sri Lanka for
some months. Her commitment to the work and her resourcefulness were
exemplary, and was very fortunate to have her assistance.
I wish to thank Upali Newspaper for providing additional
There is more than one way of compiling an encyclopedia. One is to
invite specialists to contribute articles in their respective fields.
That option would have led top a more authoritative, scholarly
publication. But it was not open to me, with my resources. In the
field of journalism, one is led to believe that one can write on
(almost) anything. Without that belief (or arrogance, if you will), I
could not have ventured in this work.
The great Dr Johnson was able to claim that his English Dictionary
was “written with little assistance of the learned”. My position was
the very opposite. I have drawn on the work of many authors and had
help from knowledgeable friends, both of whom I acknowledge
To match the excellence of the British work that inspired me was
beyond my grasp. I hope, nevertheless, that I have produced a work
that is seen as going some way to filling a gap in the source of
information on Sri Lanka. I hope also that it will encourage others
to improve on my contribution and to add to the body of Sri Lankan
I take responsibility for the selection of headwords or subjects for
entries. I have tried to cover most field of interest. Within them, I
have had to determine limits: what or whom to include – or leave out,
and how much space to allot. To some extent, these limits were forced
on me by difficulties in finding information. Readers who are
specialists in one field or another may feel I have not covered their
interests adequately. It would be impossible to meet the seeds of all
specialists in one general encyclopedia, which is what this book is
intended to be.
I have sought to achieve balance in terms of communities, gender,
interests, and of past and present. My own areas of enthusiasm and of
ignorance may have influenced these contents. I may therefore be open
to the charge of subjectivity but I hope I am not seen as capricious
or, worse, unfair.
The biographical content of this publication is more substantial than
it might otherwise have been because Sri Lanka still lacks sources of
biographical information such as a Who’s Who. In selecting persons, I
have included Sri Lankans who live or lived abroad, as well as
non-Sri Lankans who have gad a significant link with Sri Lanka.
“The encyclopedia is a unique work. It offers the reader a truly
encyclopedia view and insight into Sri Lanka in a manner which is
easily readable and authoritative… The merit of this works is its
comprehensive range of subjects and the style in which it is
communicated. This book should really be regard as the ideal handbook
on Sri Lanka.”
“The book is not only exhaustive and well researched, but it is also
a tourist guide, who’s who and encyclopedia all rolled into one.”
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