The name given to that district in Sri Lanka where Vijaya landed after leaving Suppāraka (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 Tambapaṇṇī, and following that the whole island came to bear the same name (Dpv.vii.38‑42). Tambapaṇṇī was originally inhabited by yakkhas, having their capital at Sirīsavatthu (q.v.) The Valāhakassa Jātaka (J.ii.129) speaks of a Tambapaṇṇisara (a lake). According to the Saṃyuttanikāya Commentary (SA.ii.83; but in VbhA.p.444 it is spoken of as tiyojana satika), the Tambapaṇṇidīpa was one hundred leagues in extent.
Anurādhapura formed the Majjhimadesa in Tambapaṇṇidīpa, the rest being the Paccantimadesa (AA.i.265).
In Asoka’s Rock Edicts II and XIII, Tambapaṇṇī is mentioned as one of the Pratyanta desas, together with Coda, Pāndya, Satiyaputta, Keralaputta, and the realm of Antiyaka Yonarāja, 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.195 f ) identifies this, not with Sri Lanka, but with the river Tāmraparni in Tinnevelly.