ABSTRACT

If Sri Lanka were to be identified on a contemporary world map depicting the geography and history of religions, it would no doubt be shaded categorically, along with Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, as a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country. Characterizing Sri Lanka’s religious culture exclusively in this way, however, would be quite innocent, even less apt than categorizing Indonesia, for instance, as a Muslim country. Although the majority (approximately two thirds) of Sri Lankans are indeed Buddhist, like the vast majority of Indonesians in that country are now certainly Muslim, religious and cultural constructions in both contexts are extraordinarily complex and multilayered indeed. Deeper inquiries reveal how these two remarkable religious cultures continue to bear the stamp of how other religions (particularly Hinduism) have inscribed their influences upon them over many centuries of history.1