Our country’s name, which changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka in 1972 caused considerable confusion for travelers. However, for the locals it has always been known as Lanka and for the Tamils as Ilankai; the Ramayana, too, describes the abduction of Sita by the king of Lanka.
Romans knew it as Taprobane and Serendib for the Muslim traders, meaning ‘Island of Jewels’ in Arabic. Serendib became the root of the word ‘serendipity’ – the art of making happy and unexpected discoveries. Then the Portuguese twisted the name to Sinhala-dvipa (Island of the Sinhalese) into Ceilão. The Dutch altered this to Ceylan and the British to Ceylon.
It was Ceylon for quite some decades and finally in 1972 ‘Lanka’ was restored, with the addition of ‘Sri’, a respectful title.