Tamraparni (Sanskrit) or Tambapanni (Pali) is an old name of Sri Lanka. Tamraparniya is a name given to the Theravada school lineage in Sri Lanka, and its immediate nikaya predecessor. The region of southern India corresponding to the area of a Tamraparni river, in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, and now called the Thamirabarani River, has a relatively modern name.
Tamraparni is mentioned in particular in the Edicts of Asoka, as one of the areas of Buddhist proselytism in the 3rd century BCE:
- "The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400–9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni)." (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).
In the world map drawn by the ancient Greek (Claudious Ptolemaeus "Geographia", 150 AD), a huge island located south of the Indian subcontinent is referred to by the Greek as “Taprobane”, which the historian has identified as the island of Sri Lanka.
- The foreign accounts of the post-Asokan period are also confirmed by an almost contemporary account, that of Megasthenes. Megasthenes says that "Taprobane is separated from the mainland by a river; that the inhabitants are called Palaiogonoi, and that their country is more productive of gold and large pearls than India."(7) It is therefore reasonable to hold that Tambapanni referred to in Asoka's R.E. II and XIII stands for Ceylon and not for the Tamraparni river in Southern India (which is a comparatively modern name) or the adjoining country.
- Jyotirmay Sen. "Asoka's mission to Ceylon and some connected problems". The Indian Historical Quarterly. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
- W. J. Van Der Meulen, Suvarnadvipa and the Chryse Chersonesos, Indonesia, Vol. 18, 1974, page 6.