Kingdom of Tambapanni
|543 BC–505 BC|
• 543 BC - 505 BC
|Vijaya of Sri Lanka|
• Landing of Vijaya
• Death of Vijaya
|65,610 km2 (25,330 sq mi)|
|Historical states in|
present-day Sri Lanka
The Kingdom of Tambapanni, also referred to as Kingdom of Thambapanni, was the first kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka and the Kingdom of Rajarata. Its administrative centre was based at Tambapanni. It existed between 543 BC and 505 BC. The Kingdom of Tambapanni only had one king, Vijaya, a prince who was banished from India to Sri Lanka.
Tambapanni is a name derived from Tāmraparṇī or Tāmravarṇī (in Sanskrit). This means the colour of copper or bronze because when Vijaya and his followers landed in Sri Lanka, when their hands and feet touched the ground they became red with the dust of the red-earth. Therefore, the city founded on that spot was named Tambapanni. A derivative of this name is Taprobane (Greek). Tambapanni is a Pali version of the name Tamira Varni.
Before the arrival of Vijaya in Sri Lanka, both Greek and Indian literature of the period made references to the island and considered it as a mythical land, occupied by Yakshas or non-human beings. The story of the Jataka, which calls the island Tambapanni, and mentions Nagadipa and Kalyani, states that the island was inhabited by Yakkhinis or female demons.
Founding and location
The Kingdom of Tambapanni was founded by Vijaya of Sri Lanka, the first Sinhalese King, and 700 of his followers after landing in Sri Lanka in an area near modern-day Mannar, which is believed to be the district of Chilaw, after leaving Suppāraka. It is recorded that Vijaya made his landing on the day of Buddha's death. Vijaya claimed Tambapanni as his capital and soon the whole island became known by this name. Tambapanni was originally inhabited and governed by Yakkhas, and their queen Kuveni, with their capital at Sirīsavatthu . According to the Samyutta Commentary, Tambapanni extended one hundred leagues.
Legend has it that when Vijaya landed on the shores of the island he kissed the sand, called it ‘Thambapanni’ and planted a flag depicting a lion in the ground. (The famous ‘Sanchi’ ruins of India depict the events of Prince Vijaya’a landing.) After landing in Tambapanni, Vijaya met Kuveni the queen of the Yakkhas, who was disguised as a beautiful woman but was really a 'yakkini' named Sesapathi.
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- The first battle for freedom