(born Jan. 9, 1899, Colombo, Ceylon—died Sept. 26, 1959, Colombo) Statesman and prime minister (1956–59) of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Educated at the University of Oxford, he became a prominent member of Ceylon's Western-oriented United National Party. In 1952 he founded the nationalist Sri Lanka Freedom Party, becoming the opposition leader in the legislature. He later formed an alliance of four nationalist-socialist parties that swept elections in 1956 and made him prime minister. Under Bandaranaike, Sinhalese replaced English as the country's official language, Buddhism (the majority religion) was given a prominent place in the affairs of state, and Ceylon established diplomatic relations with communist states. He was assassinated in 1959. His widow, Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike (1916–2000), became the world's first woman prime minister in 1960, serving until 1965; she was prime minister twice more (1970–77 and 1994–2000). During her second term a new constitution was adopted that proclaimed a republic (1972) and changed the country's name to Sri Lanka. She was appointed to a third term when her daughter, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (b. 1945), became president in 1994.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.