Archaeological evidence suggests Sri Lanka has been inhabited since at least the Mesolithic era 34,000 years ago, possibly by ancestors of the Vedda people, small numbers of whom live in the central highlands. The island’s recorded history begins in 483 BC, when, according to the Sinhalese chronicle Mahavamsa, several hundred men led by Vijaya, a prince from Bengal, reached the island. Anuradhapura was founded in 377 BC, becoming the principal settlement. Introduced in 250 BC by the Indian Emperor, Ashoka, Buddhism was gradually adopted, becoming central to the developing Sinhalese culture even while its influence in India declined. Elaborate irrigation systems enabled rice cultivation and brought prosperity to the northern plain around Anuradhapura, which became a target for south Indian raiders. South Indian Chola kings controlled Anuradhapura in the second century BC until King Dutugemunu wrested control in 161 BC.
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