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The name “Colombo” was first used by the Portuguese in 1505. It is thought to come from the classical Sinhalese name “Kolon thota,” meaning “port on the river Kelani.” Another suggestion is the Sinhalese name “Kola-amba-thota,” meaning “Harbour with leafy mango trees.” Colombo, with its large harbor and strategic location on East-West sea trade routes, was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. It became the capital of the island in 1815 when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire, and it remained the capital after gaining independence in 1948. In 1978, when administrative functions moved to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo became the commercial capital of Sri Lanka.

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