Tag Archives: Taprobana

Taprobane Island: Part 1 – Tambapanni the Island Paradise


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Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The ancient historical poem Mahavamsa or the ‘Great Chronicle’ of Sri Lanka, tells that the cruel and callous Prince-regent, Vijaya, and his unruly companions, after being banished from Sinhapura in India, landed on the shores of an island. After disembarking from the ship they sat down, wearied, on the ground. They found their hands and bodies coloured by the red dust that lay there. So, they called the place Tambapanni (“copper-coloured sand”). Later on, Prince Vijaya founded his capital in Tambapanni, and the island came to bear the same name.

As time wore on, the exact location of Tambapanni as described in Mahavamsa became obscured to the world.

Ancient Greek texts describe an island nation of perfect beauty where people lived in communal peace and in perfect harmony with nature, amid tropical gardens and idyllic seas. Around 290 BC, the Greek geographer Megasthenes reported first about this island to the Europeans.

Map of Taprobana- 1588
Ptolemy’s Map of Taprobana

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The Alexandrian geographer, Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90 AD – c. 168 AD) drafted a map of the island. He identified it as ‘Taprobana’, derived obviously from the then prevailing name Tambapanni. His map carried an elaborately ornamented sketch of a wild elephant and a legend in Latin set inside a decorative frame. The map only had a vague resemblance to the Island’s broad base and tapering top.

The whereabouts of this mythical island nation were fiercely debated for centuries. Adventurous seafarers chased the dream of finding this fabled land, and a few landed at Bali islands, Madagascar and the Maldives.

Eventually, the long-sought Taprobana was identified with the exotic tropical paradise, the island of Sri Lanka, a pearl in the Indian Ocean, lying south-east of India.

Weligama

Stilt Fishing in Weligama, Sri Lanka
Stilts fishermen, Sri Lanka (Source – Написал Fergan_Trop)

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Weligama is a town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka in Matara District, 89.48 miles (144 km) from Colombo. In Sinhala, the term ‘Weligama‘ literally means “sandy village” derived after the area’s sandy sweep bay. Fishing is the main occupation of the region. It is most famous for its distinct stilt fishermen.

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The Taprobane Island

Tabrobane Island on the shore of Weligama. (Source: Google Maps)
Tabrobane Island on the shore of Weligama. (Source: Google Maps)

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A hundred yards offshore in the Weligama Bay is an islet whose traditional name is “Galduwa” meaning “Rock Island” in the Sinhalese language. In ancient times, the islet may have been a part of the mainland as it is not shown in maps of the Portuguese Colonial era. This Islet comprises 2½ acres of sheer tropical fantasy with nothing between it and the South Pole.

A hunt for an earthly paradise inspired a self-styled French aristocrat, Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande (1866-1941), a gentleman of leisure, and furniture maker, to transform Galduwa into a privately owned islet called “Taprobane Island,” which is now one of Sri Lanka’s most renowned luxury destinations.

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Tabrobane Island
Tabrobane Island

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While travelling on the Weligama By Pass road a partly hidden octagonal villa could be seen through the dense foliage atop the rocky island.

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Next → Taprobane Island: Part 2

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The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Part 2 – Vijaya


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Prince-regent Vijaya, the eldest son born to Sinhabahu and his twin-sister Sinhasivali, was cruel and callous – an embodiment of evil – and likewise were his friends. Angered by the many intolerable deeds of violence executed by the prince-regent and his followers, the subjects of Sinhapura brought the matter before the king. However, the king took no action against the prince-regent. The angry subjects finally asked the king to kill his evil son Vijaya.

The exasperated king arrested his eldest son Vijaya, the prince-regent, and seven hundred men who were his followers. After disgracing them by shaving off half the head of each person, he banished them from Lála country by loading the men, their wives, and their children on separate vessels and set them afloat on the sea.

The migration routes of the ancestors of the Sinhalese and other ethnic groups into Sri Lanka.
The migration routes of the ancestors of the Sinhalese and other ethnic groups into Sri Lanka.

The children landed on an island called Naggadipa or the ‘island of the naked’ (Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka).

The women landed on an island called Mahiladipaka or ‘islet of women’ in the Maldivian Islands.

Prince Vijaya and his unruly followers landed first at the haven called Suppäraka, now identified with modern Sopara, in Thana district north of Mumbai. However, the hostile reception by the natives, and also dissidence and violence among his men, forced Vijaya to embark again. The second time, their vessel driven by the violence of the wind, they landed on the island of Sri Lanka.

Vijaya and his companions landing at Tambapanni

Vijaya and his men after disembarking from the ship sat down, wearied, on the ground. They found their hands and bodies coloured by the red dust that lay there. So,  they called the place Tambapanni (“copper-colored sand”). Later on, Vijaya founded his capital in Tambapanni, and the island came to bear the same name.

Map of Taprobana- 1588

The Alexandrian geographer, Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90 AD – c. 168 AD) identified the Island as ‘Taprobana’, derived obviously from Tambapanni, when he drafted his map of Sri Lanka. It carried an elaborately ornamented sketch of a wild elephant and a legend in Latin set inside a decorative frame. The map only had a vague resemblance to the Island’s broad base and tapering tip.

At the place of their landing they saw a wandering ascetic seated at the foot of a tree. They approached him and asked him: “What land is this, sir?”

“The island of Lanka,” the ascetic answered.”There are no men (humans) here, and here no dangers will arise.”

The ascetic blessed them by sprinkling on them water from his kamandalu (Tamil: kamandalam). After winding a thread about their hands he disappeared.

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← Previous: Part 1 – Sinhabahu                                             → Next: Part 3 – Kuveni

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