Sri Lankan authorities have decided to deport a British tourist for having an image of Buddha tattooed on her arm, officials have said.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday that Naomi Coleman, 37, was detained at Colombo's airport after she arrived from India on Monday when authorities spotted the tattoo of Buddha seated on a lotus flower.

She was sent before a magistrate who ordered her deportation, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Rohana said that Coleman has been handed over to immigration authorities, who are taking steps to deport her.

He said Coleman was arrested for "hurting others' religious feelings".

Immigration officials did not answer calls seeking a comment.

"It is a terrible, hellish experience," Coleman, a mental health nurse from Coventry in England, told AFP news agency at the Sri Lankan deportation centre.

"I am a practising Buddhist and meditate. That is why I have the tattoo - not out of disrespect for Buddhism."

Sensitive region

Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist nation, is highly sensitive to perceived insults to the religion.

The country barred another British tourist from entering the island in March last year for showing "disrespect" to Buddhism by having a Buddha tattooed on his arm.

In August 2012, three French tourists were sentenced to six months in jail, which was suspended for five years, for kissing a Buddha statue in what the authorities considered a sign of disrespect.

Sri Lanka prevented the US rap star Akon from visiting in 2010 over one of his music videos which featured scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue.

Source: Agencies