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Flag of Sri Lanka

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Title: Flag of Sri Lanka  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Sri Lanka, Emblem of Sri Lanka, List of Sri Lankan flags, Outline of Sri Lanka, Dominion of Ceylon
Collection: Flags of Sri Lanka, National Symbols of Sri Lanka
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Flag of Sri Lanka

The flag of Sri Lanka, also called the Lion Flag, Sinhala Flag, consists of a yellow lion, holding a kastane sword in its right fore paw, in front of a dark red background with four golden bo leaves, one in each corner. Around the background is a yellow border, and to its left are two vertical stripes of equal size in green and saffron, with the saffron stripe closest to the lion. The lion represents the Sinhalese ethnicity and the bravery of the nation and its yellow color represents Buddhism while the four Bo leaves represent four main concepts of Buddhism Mettā, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha. The orange stripe represents the Tamils, the green stripe represents Moors, and the maroon background represents the majority Sinhalese, like the lion.The flag has a yellow border representing unity and Buddhism .

It was adopted in 1950 following the recommendations of a committee appointed by the 1st Prime Minister of Ceylon, The Rt Hon D.S. Senanayake.


  • History 1
  • Symbolism 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


When Vijaya, the first King of Sri Lanka, arrived in Sri Lanka from India in 486 BC, he brought with him a flag with a symbol of a lion on it. Since then the Lion symbol played a significant role in the history of Sri Lanka. It was used extensively by North Indian prince who followed King Vijaya and it became a symbol of freedom and hope. In 162 BC, when King Dutugemunu embarked on the campaign in which he defeated the South Indian invader Elara, who had ruled the northern part of the island, he carried with him a banner which portrayed a lion carrying a sword on his right forepaw along with two other symbols, the Sun and the Moon.

The banner was in use until 1815, when the reign of the last King of the Union Flag as the national flag of Ceylon. The government of British Ceylon used its own flag. The Lion Flag was taken to England and kept at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Then, as the independence movement in Sri Lanka gained strength in the early 20th century, E. W. Perera, a prominent figure of the independence movement with the help of D. R. Wijewardene, the press baron, discovered the original Lion flag in Chelsea. A picture of it was subsequently published in a special edition of the Dinamina newspaper to mark 100 years since the end of Sri Lankan independence. The Lion flag then became a centrepiece of attraction to the public, who for the first time since the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom were now aware of its actual design.

In 1948 the flag was adapted as the national flag of the Dominion of Ceylon, however the flag underwent several changes in 1953 and again in 1972. During the same year four leaves of the Bo tree were added to the four corners of the Sri Lankan National flag under the direction of Nissanka Wijeyeratne. At the time, he was Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Chairman of the National Emblem and Flag Design Committee. Prior to 1972, the corners of the flag were occupied by symbols depicting spearheads.[1] The four Bo Leaves added by Wijeyeratne reflect the core principles of Mettha (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Upeksha (equanimity) & Muditha (happiness).[2][3]

1 Flag of Ceylon between 1951 and 1972.
2 Flag of Ceylon from 1948–1951.
3 Flag of British Ceylon, 1815–1948.


The national flag of Sri Lanka represents the country and its heritage as rallying device that integrates the minorities with the majority race. However, minorities are shown as such with percentage based allocation on the flag, rather than equal basis as is common elsewhere including the United Kingdom.

Most symbols in the flag have been given distinctive meanings.
Symbol Represents
The Lion and the golden color of lion Represents the Sinhalese ethnicity and the bravery of the Sri Lankan nation.
The bo leaves Buddhism and its influence on the nation. They also stand for the four virtues of Kindness, Friendliness, Happiness and Equanimity.
The sword of the lion The sovereignty of the nation and the braveness of its people.
The curly hair on the lion's head Religious observance, wisdom and meditation.
The eight hairs on lion's tail The Noble Eightfold Path.
The beard of the lion Purity of words.
The handle of the sword The elements of water, fire, air and earth that the country is made of.
The nose of the lion Intelligence.
The two front paws of the lion Purity in handling wealth.
The vertical orange stripe The Tamil ethnicity.
The vertical green stripe The Muslim faith and Moor ethnicity.
The yellow border round the flag People from all cultures living together in Sri Lanka in including some Dutch burghers and Portuguese.
The maroon background This represents the majority of Sinhalese people,it was used in early flags of Sri Lanka by Kings .

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Amara Samara in Sinhala. Rivira, Retrieved on 4 January 2009.
  3. ^ Salute the Flag. The Bottom Line, Retrieved on 4 February 2009.
  • Lanka Library
  • The Proposer of the lion flag. Mudaliyar Sinnalebbe
  • Sri Lanka Government Web Portal
  • The Sri Lankan Lion flag -how it came to be

External links

  • A few examples of European Heraldic Lions and the Sri Lankan national flag
  • Sri Lanka at Flags of the World
  • Lion Flag as depicted in the Constitution of Sri Lanka
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