Located southwest of the Bay of Bengal, in the Indian Ocean, the island nation of Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon until 1972. Historically it has been a key trade location, a point on the famed Silk Road dating back to antiquity, as well as the location where the teachings of Buddhism were initially codified. It is a place of great natural beauty. The Sri Lankan landscape includes beaches, tropical forests, and a diverse array of plant and animal species.
The population of Sri Lanka is quite diverse, including a wide variety of ethnic minorities and cultures. The largest single group is the Sinhalese people, and significant ethnic minorities include the Tamils, Burghers, Kaffir, Moors, Malays, and Vedda. Politically, Sri Lanka is a republic, and a member of the United Nations as well as the SAARC, of which it is one of the founding states. Key exports include coffee and tea, coconuts, cinnamon, gems, and rubber.