Provinces of Sri Lanka

Category First level administrative division
Location Sri Lanka
Created 1 October 1833
Number 9 (as of 1 January 2007)
Populations 1,061,315–5,851,130
Areas 3,684–10,472 km²
Government Provincial council
Subdivisions District
Administrative divisions
of Sri Lanka
First level
Second level
Third level
Fourth level
Fifth level
  • Grama Niladhari divisions
  • Towns

In Sri Lanka, provinces (Sinhalese: පළාත, Tamil: மாகாணம்) are the first level administrative division. They were first established by the British rulers of Ceylon in 1833. Over the next century most of the administrative functions were transferred to the districts, the second level administrative division. By the middle of the 20th century the provinces had become merely ceremonial. This changed in 1987 when, following several decades of increasing demand for a decentralization, the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka established provincial councils.[1][2] Currently there are nine provinces.


Anuradhapura Kingdom

Maya Rata, Pihiti & Ruhuna

British Ceylon

Coat of arms of Sri Lanka, showing a lion holding a sword in its right forepaw surrounded by a ring made from blue lotus petals which is placed on top of a grain vase sprouting rice grains to encircle it. A Dharmacakra is on the top while a sun and moon are at the bottom on each side of the vase.
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Sri Lanka

After the British took control of the entire island of Ceylon in 1815 it was divided into three ethnic based administrative structures: Low Country Sinhalese, Kandyan Sinhalese and Tamil. In 1829 the British established the Colebrooke–Cameron Commission to review the colonial government of Ceylon, including its administrative structures.[3] The Commission recommended that the existing three ethnic based administrations be unified into a single administration divided into five geographic provinces.[3] Accordingly, on 1 October 1833 five provinces under one administration came into being:[4][5][6][7]

Over the next fifty years four additional provinces were created, taking the total number to nine:[6][7][8]

Sri Lanka

The short lived North Eastern Province

The number of provinces remained static until September 1988 when, in accordance with the Indo-Lanka Accord, President Jayewardene issued proclamations enabling the Northern and Eastern provinces to be one administrative unit administered by one elected Council, creating the North Eastern Province.[12] The proclamations were only meant to be a temporary measure until a referendum was held in the Eastern Province on a permanent merger between the two provinces. However, the referendum was never held and successive Sri Lankan presidents issued proclamations annually extending the life of the "temporary" entity.[13] The merger was bitterly opposed by Sri Lankan nationalists. On 14 July 2006, after a long campaign against the merger, the JVP filed three separate petitions with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka requesting a separate Provincial Council for the East.[12] On 16 October 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that the proclamations issued by President Jayewardene were null and void and had no legal effect.[12] The North-East Province was formally de-merged into the Northern and Eastern provinces on 1 January 2007.

Sri Lanka currently has nine provinces, seven of which have had provincial councils from the start.[2]

Evolution of Sri Lankan provinces since 1833
1889 – Present 



All population data are from the most recent census of Sri Lanka, in 2012.

Province Area map Provincial
in km2 (mi2)[14]
in km2 (mi2)[14]
in km2 (mi2)[14]
per km2
(per mi2)[lower-alpha 1]
 Central Area map of Central Province of Sri Lanka Kandy 1 October 1833 5,575 (2,153) 99 (38) 5,674 (2,191) 2,571,557 461 (1,190)
 Eastern Area map of Eastern Province of Sri Lanka Trincomalee 1 October 1833 9,361 (3,614) 635 (245) 9,996 (3,859) 1,555,510 166 (430)
 North Central Area map of North Central Province of Sri Lanka Anuradhapura 1873 9,741 (3,761) 731 (282) 10,472 (4,043) 1,266,663 130 (340)
 Northern Area map of Northern Province of Sri Lanka Jaffna 1 October 1833 8,290 (3,200) 594 (229) 8,884 (3,430) 1,061,315 128 (330)
 North Western Area map of North Western Province of Sri Lanka Kurunegala 1845 7,506 (2,898) 382 (147) 7,888 (3,046) 2,380,861 317 (820)
 Sabaragamuwa Area map of Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka Ratnapura 1889 4,921 (1,900) 47 (18) 4,968 (1,918) 1,928,655 392 (1,020)
 Southern Area map of Southern Province of Sri Lanka Galle 1 October 1833 5,383 (2,078) 161 (62) 5,544 (2,141) 2,477,285 460 (1,200)
 Uva Area map of Uva, Sri Lanka Badulla 1886 8,335 (3,218) 165 (64) 8,500 (3,300) 1,266,463 152 (390)
 Western Area map of Western Province of Sri Lanka Colombo 1 October 1833 3,593 (1,387) 91 (35) 3,684 (1,422) 5,851,130 1,628 (4,220)
Total 62,705 (24,211) 2,905 (1,122) 65,610 (25,330) 20,359,439 325 (840)

See also


  1. Population density has been calculated using the land area rather than the total area.


  1. Law, Gwillim (2010). "Provinces of Sri Lanka". Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  2. 1 2 "Introduction". Provincial Councils. Government of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  3. 1 2 "The Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms". Sri Lanka. Library of Congress. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  4. Mills, Lennox A. (1933). Ceylon Under British Rule 1795–1932. London: Oxford University Press/Humphrey S. Milford. p. 68. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  5. Mendis 1946, p. 39.
  6. 1 2 Samarasinghe, L. M. (21 March 2003). "River basins as administrative divisions". Daily News (Sri Lanka).
  7. 1 2 "Sinhala Colonisation in the Hereditary Tamil Regions of the Island of Sri Lanka". UN Commission on Human Rights 56th Sessions: March/April 2000. Tamil Nation. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  8. Karalliyadda, S. B. (4 February 2009). "Independence Struggle for a Hundred and Thirty Three Years". Daily News (Sri Lanka). Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  9. Mendis 1946, p. 51.
  10. 1 2 Mendis 1946, p. 84.
  11. Mendis 1946, p. 85.
  12. 1 2 3 Selvanayagam, S. S. (17 October 2006). "North-East merger illegal: SC". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
  13. Sambandan, V. S. (14 November 2003). "Sri Lanka's North-East to remain united for another year". The Hindu.
  14. 1 2 3 "Table 1.1: Area of Sri Lanka by province and district" (PDF). Statistical Abstract 2014. Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka.
  15. "Census of Population and Housing of Sri Lanka, 2012 – Table A1: Population by district,sex and sector" (PDF). Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka.


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