Sri Lanka had been known by several different names during it's long history of over 2,500 years. Some of the common names by which Sri Lanka had been known in the past and are found in recorded history are listed below in chronological order.
This is one of the most ancient names used for Sri Lanka, and can be seen in the Ramayana, in which the island was simply referred to as "Lanka".
Another ancient name for Sri Lanka was "Lankadeepa". This is the name by which Sri Lanka was known at the time of Gautama Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion 2,500 years ago. Diwa or Deepa means island. Thus "Lakdiva also means "Island of Lanka". Bima in Sinhala means Land. Thus "Lakbima" means "The land of Lanka".
The Island then acquired the name "Tambapanni", a name which originated after Prince Vijaya and his 700 followers landed on the west coast of the Island near Puttalam in the 5th century B.C. The sand on this coastal stretch was copper colored with a reddish brown hue. Hence the name Tamba-panni, Tamba meaning Copper.
This is another ancient name acquired by the Island."Sihaladeepa" means the "island of the Sihala". Prince Vijaya and his followers were known as the Sihala, because of Vijaya's supposed lion ancestry according to the Mahawamsa, the ancient chronicle of Sri Lanka's history.
This is an ancient name by which Sri lanka was known,in the earliest reference to Sri Lanka in Indian Literature.In Kautalya's "Arthasastra" Sri Lanka is referred to as "Parasamudra", meaning beyond the ocean.
This is an ancient name used by some ancient Greek writers to refer to Sri Lanka. Historians are of the view that the name "Palaesimoundu" may have been derived from the Indian name "Parasamudra".
This is an abbreviated form of the word "Palaesimoundu" also used by ancient Greek writers.
Megasthenes, the Greek Ambassador to the court of the Mauryan King, Chandragupta, and Eratosthenes one of the first Greek Geographers referred to Sri Lanka as the "Island of Taprobane", probably derived from the name"Tambapanni".Pliny(24-79 AD) and Ptolemy in the middle of the second century A.D., both Greek Geographers referred to Sri Lanka as the "Island of Taprobane".
This is a name given by ancient Indians to Sri Lanka and seems to be derived from the name "Sihaladeepa".
This is another name given by ancient Indians to Sri Lanka and may have been derived fom the name "Sihala".
The ancient name used by Tamils to refer to Sri Lanka.
The 10th Century Arab historian Al-Biruni or Abu Rihaan Muhammad called the Island "Singaldip"-also derived from Sinhala and dipa.
The name given by the Arabs to Sri Lanka is "Serendib"-"The Island of Rubies"(Sri Lanka Rubies).The Arab traveller Ibn Batuta and the Arab Geographer Al-Idrisi referred to Sri Lanka as "Serendib".
Ibn Shahriyar, the Arab author of the book Ajab-al-Hind meaning Marvels of India, written in the year 960 A.D.refers to Sri Lanka by the usual Arab term Serendib, but also states that the country was also known as"Saheelan", which is another term used by the Arabs to refer to Sri Lanka.
The Europeans referred to Sri Lanka as "Zeylan" or "Seylan", which is derived from the Arabic word "Saheelan".
This is the name by which the British referred to Sri Lanka. The name Ceylon is obviously derived from the word zeylan or Seylan, which in turn was derived from tha Arabic word Saheelan.
At the time Sri Lanka was granted independence in 1948 by the British, the country was still known as Ceylon. This name was maintained until the year 1972,when the country became a full fledged Republic, and the name was officially changed to Sri Lanka-"The Resplendent Land". Again in the year 1978 with the adoption of a new constitution that created an Executive Presidency the name of the country was officially changed to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
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