The name given to that district in Ceylon where Vijaya landed after leaving Suppáraka (Mhv.vi.47; Dpv.ix.30). It is said to have been so called because when Vijaya's followers, having disembarked from the ship, sat down there, wearied, resting their hands on the ground, they found them coloured by the red dust that lay there. Later on Vijaya founded his capital in Tambapanni, and following that the whole island came to bear the same name (Dpv.vii.38-42). Tambapanni was originally inhabited by Yakkhas, having their capital at Sirísavatthu (q.v.). The Valáhassa Játaka (J.ii.129) speaks of a Tambapannisara. According to the Samyutta Commentary (ii.83; but in VbhA.p.444 it is spoken of as tiyojana satika), the Tambapannidípa was one hundred leagues in extent.
Anurádhapura formed the Majjhimadesa in Tambapannidípa, the rest being the Paccantimadesa (AA.i.265).
In Asoka's Rock Edicts II. and XIII. Tambapanni is mentioned as one of the Pratyanta desas, together with Coda, Pándya, Satiyaputta, Keralaputta, and the realm of Antiyaka Yonarája, as an unconquered territory with whose people Asoka was on friendly terms. Vincent Smith (Asoka (3rd edn.), p.163; but see Ind. Antiq., 1919, p.195f ) identifies this, not with Ceylon, but with the river Támraparni in Tinnevelly.