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English was introduced during British rule and continues to be the language of commerce and the higher levels of both public and private sector administration.Language has been a volatile issue in Sri Lanka, particularly following independence when the "Sinhala Only" campaign came to the political fore, provoking resistance from the Sri Lankan Tamils in particular, and thus paving the way toward the civil war. The official symbols of Sri Lanka are largely drawn from those representing the Sinhala Buddhist majority.The northern tip of the island is the traditional home to the Sri Lankan Tamils who consider Jaffna, its principal city, their cultural and political center.

For instance, the color blocks on the nation's flag represent each of Sri Lanka's three major ethnic groups.

The Sri Lankan elephant is a symbol of national heritage and of prosperity, both for its long association with wealth and royalty and for its association with Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god of wealth.

These differences and the exclusive policies of the Sinhala-dominated central government have led to escalating ethnic conflicts, including the current civil war in which Sri Lankan Tamil rebels are fighting for an independent nation in the northern and eastern regions of the island to be called Eelam. Sri Lanka is a small tropical island off the southern tip of India.

The island nation covers approximately 25,332 square miles (65,610 square kilometers) and is divided ecologically into a dry zone stretching from the north to the southeast and a wet zone in the south, west, and central regions.

The southern coastal lowlands are the site of coconut, rubber, and cinnamon estates, an active fishing industry, and beautiful beaches.

Located on the west coast is the island's largest city, Colombo, a hub of international commerce as well as the seat of government administration located on its outskirts in Sri Jayawardenepura. According to the islandwide census in 1981, there were nearly 15 million inhabitants of Sri Lanka.Besides the majority Sinhala Buddhists, the nation also includes Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamils of recent Indian origin, Muslims, semitribal V├Ąddas, and Burghers, descendants of intermarriages between Sri Lankans and Europeans.Although the members of these groups share many cultural practices, beliefs, and values, ethnic differences have become especially marked since the nation's independence in 1948.In Sinhala, the language of the majority, Sri means "blessed" and Lanka is the name of the island.The island's history of immigration, trade, and colonial invasion has led to the formation of a variety of ethnic groups, each with its own language and religious traditions.The central highlands are famous for tea plantations and, in the southwestern part, gem mines.