Today Sri Lankans celebrate 60 years of freedom from the colonial Hush Puppy.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic country, with a population of 18m people. It is an ancient centre of Buddhism. It also has a significant number of Hindus, Christians and Muslims. There are also a number of smaller communities such as the Burghers and the Veddas.
The civil war has killed about 64,000 people, displaced one million and held back the island's growth and economic development.
The origins of the current violence go back to the island's independence from Britain in 1948.
Although the years immediately following the end of colonial rule were largely peaceful, from the outset there were tensions between the majority Sinhalese community - who are mostly Buddhist - and the Tamil community who are mostly either Hindu or Roman Catholic.
The communities speak different languages - Sinhala and Tamil - and both claim their ancestors were original settlers on the island.