The flag of Sri Lanka, known as the Lion Flag, was adopted on May 22, 1972. The flag is rectangular, bordered in gold, and divided vertically into two sections. On the left side is a rectangle with two vertical stripes: the stripe on the left is green and the stripe on the right is saffron orange. On the larger, right side of the flag is a crimson red rectangle with a gold lion holding a sword. The rectangle also includes four golden bo leaves, one in each corner.
The flag of Sri Lanka has intricate symbolic meaning. The flag was designed to represent the country’s heritage and to unite all races living in Sri Lanka. The lion represents the Sinhalese ethnic group, the majority ethnic population in Sri Lanka, and also represents the nation’s strength. A red flag with a lion on it was used as early as 486 B.C., when Vijaya, the first King of Sri Lanka, arrived on the island from India. The bo leaves are symbolic of Buddhism and its influence on Sri Lanka. The four leaves stand for four Buddhist virtues: kindness, friendliness, happiness, and equanimity. The sword held by the lion represents the nation’s sovereignty. The lion’s hair symbolizes religious observance, wisdom, and meditation, and his beard represents purity of words. The sword’s handle represents the elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The lion’s nose symbolizes intelligence and his paws symbolize purity in matters of wealth.
The remainder of the flag represents Sri Lanka’s minority groups. The vertical saffron stripe represents the Tamil ethnicity and the green stripe represents the Muslim faith and the Moor ethnicity. The flag’s yellow border represents people of all other cultures living in Sri Lanka. The crimson red background behind the elephant stands for minority religions and ethnicities, including the Portuguese and Dutch Burghers, part of Sri Lanka’s colonial heritage.