Sri Lanka received its political independence from Great Britain in 1948 after four centuries of colonial rule that began with the Portuguese, who were followed by the Dutch and finally the British in 1796. Sri Lanka is marked by a great deal of ethnic diversity. Among the Sri Lanka Tamils, the Vellala caste has a similar position to that of the Goyigama among the Sinhalese. They have been socially, economically and politically dominant in the Sri Lanka Tamil society. The number of seats held by a party in the Seventh and Eighth Parliaments is the number of party members who were in parliament. Sri Lanka is a small pearl shaped island in the Indian Ocean at the foot of the South Asian subcontinent. It is 25,332 square miles in area or about the size of the United States' state of Massachusetts.