Sri Lanka (, //, or //;Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකාව, Tamil: இலங்கை), officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia. Known until 1972 as Ceylon ( //, //, or //), Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest across the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait, and the Maldives to the southwest.
As a result of its location in the path of major sea routes, Sri Lanka is a strategic naval link between West Asia and South East Asia. It was an important stop on the ancient Silk Road. Sri Lanka has been a center of the Buddhist religion and culture from ancient times, being the nation where the Buddhist teachings were first written down. Sri Lanka boasts a diverse range of cultures, languages and religions. The Sinhalese people form the majority of the population; Tamils, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island, form the largest ethnic minority. Other minorities include Moors, Burghers, Kaffirs, Malays and the aboriginal Vedda people.
Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state which is governed by a semi-presidential system with its official seat of government in Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, the capital. A civil war that ravaged the country for 3 decades was brought to a decisive close in 2009.
The country is famous for the production and export of tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber and cinnamon, the last of which is native to the country. Alluding to its shape and location, Sri Lanka has been called The Pearl of the Indian Ocean. The island contains tropical forests, and diverse landscapes with high biodiversity. The country has one of the longest documented histories in the world, spanning three thousand years. Sri Lanka's rich culture can be attributed to the many different communities on the island. The country is a founding member state of SAARC and a member of United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, G77 and Non-Aligned Movement. Despite declining press freedom and challenges to independence of the judiciary, Sri Lanka reports one of the fastest economic growth rates of the world.