The Sinhalese (Sinhala: සිංහල ජාතිය Sinhala Jathiya) are an ethnic group native to the island of Sri Lanka. They constitute 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number greater than 15 million. The Sinhalese identity is based on language, historical heritage and religion. The Sinhalese speak Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a small percentage of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity. The Sinhalese are mostly found in North central, Central, South, and West Sri Lanka. According to Mahavamsa, an ancient treatise written in Pali, The Sinhalese are the descendants of the exiled Prince Vijaya who arrived from East India (today's Orissa and Bengal) to Sri Lanka in 543 BCE and early settlers from that region.In folklore, the Sinhalese people predate this event, being the descendants of earlier inhabitants and Vijaya and other Indo Aryans migrants from India.However all the Sinhalese do not subscribe to the view that they descendant from Vijaya the grand son of ""SINHABAHU"" the son of a lion .The objections to Vijaya are more ethical than ethnic.Those who reject the Vijaya story as a myth maintain that they really are the descendant of Ravana, the king of Lanka who defeated the Indian king Rama. this story is found in the Indian epic, Ramayana.Modern genetic investigations suggest that the Sinhalese are most closely related to the Bengali people. However, the original hunter - gatherer inhabitants of Sri Lanka, also called ""Vedda"" or ""Vanniya-Laeto"" predate them. They arrived in Sri Lanka around 16,000 BCE.