Main article: Prehistory of Tambapanni

The pre-history of Tambapanni goes back 125,000 years and possibly even as far back as 500,000 years.   The era spans the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and early Iron Ages. Among the Paleolithic human settlements discovered in Tambapanni, Pahiyangala (named after the Chinese traveler monk Faxian), which dates back to 37,000 BP,   Batadombalena (28,500 BP)   and Belilena (12,000 BP) are the most important. In these caves, archaeologists have found the remains of anatomically modern humans which they have named Balangoda Man, and other evidence   suggesting that they may have engaged in agriculture and kept domestic dogs for driving game.  

One of the first written references to the island is found in the Indian epic Ramayana, which provides details of a kingdom named Lanka that was created by thedivine sculptor Vishwakarma for Kubera, the Lord of Wealth.  It is said that Kubera was overthrown by his demon stepbrother Ravana, the powerful emperor who built a mythical flying machine named Dandu Monara.   The modern city of Wariyapola is described as Ravana's airport.  

Early inhabitants of Tambapanni were probably ancestors of the Vedda people,   an indigenous people numbering approximately 2500 living in modern-day Tambapanni. The 19th-century Irish historian James Emerson Tennent theorized that Galle, a city in southern Tambapanni, was the ancient seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon is said to have drawn ivory, peacocks, and other valuables.

Pre-Anuradhapura period

According to the Mahāvamsa, a chronicle written in Pāḷi, the original inhabitants of Tambapanni are the Yakshas and Nagas. Ancient cemeteries that were used before 600 BC and other signs of advanced civilization has also been discovered in Tambapanni.   Sinhalese history traditionally starts in 543 BCE with the arrival of Prince Vijaya, a semi-legendary prince who sailed with 700 followers to Tambapanni, after being expelled from Vanga Kingdom (present-day Bengal).   He established the Kingdom of Tambapanni, near modern-day Mannar.

Anuradhapura period

Main article: Anuradhapura period

The Avukana Buddha statue, a 12 metres (39 ft) tall standing Buddha statue from the reign of Dhatusena of Anuradhapura, 5th century.

The Anuradhapura Kingdom was established in 380 BCE during the reign of Pandukabhayaof Anuradhapura. Thereafter, Anuradhapura served as the capital city of the country for nearly 1400 years.   Ancient Tambapannis excelled at building certain types of structures (constructions) suchas reservoirs, pagodas and palaces.   Society underwent a major transformation during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura, with the arrival of Buddhism from India. In 250 BCE,   Mahinda, the son of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka and a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) arrived in Mihintale carrying the message of Buddhism.   His mission won over the monarch, who embraced the faith and propagated it throughout the Sinhalese population.  

Succeeding kingdoms of Tambapanni would maintain a large number of Buddhist schools and monasteries and support the propagation of Buddhism into other countries in Southeast Asia. Tambapanni Bhikkhus studied in India's famous ancient Buddhist University of Nalanda, which was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji. It is probable that many of the scriptures from Nalanda are preserved in Tambapanni's many monasteries and that the written form of the Tipitaka, including Sinhalese Buddhist literature, were part of the University of Nalanda.   In 245 BC, bhikkhuni Sangamitta arrived with the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, which is considered to be a sapling from the historical Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha became enlightened.   It is considered the oldest human-planted tree (with a continuous historical record) in the world. (Bodhivamsa)  


Tambapanni first experienced a foreign invasion during the reign of Suratissa, who was defeated by two horse traders named Sena and Guttika from South India.   The next invasion came immediately in 205 BC by a Chola king named Elara who fought a destructive campaign for about forty years, before Dutugumenu the son of, Kavan Tissa, outwitted him in the Battle of the Rock. Dutugumenu built Ruwanwelisaya, the second stupa in ancient Tambapanni, and the Lovamahapaya.  

During its two and a half millennia of existence, the Kingdom of Tambapanni was invaded at least eight times by neighbouring South Asian groups such as the Chola, Pandya, Chera, and Pallava. These invaders were all subsequently driven back.   There also were incursions by the kingdoms of Kalinga (modern Odisha) and from the Malay Peninsula as well. Kala Wewa and the Avukana Buddha statue were built during the reign of Dhatusena.  

Fourth Buddhist Council

Main article: Fourth Buddhist council

Ptolemy's world map of Ceylon, first century CE, in a 1535 publication.

The Fourth Buddhist council of Theravada Buddhism was held at the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya in Tambapanni under the patronage of Valagamba of Anuradhapura in 25 BCE. The council was held in response to a year in which the harvests in Tambapanni were particularly poor and many Buddhist monks subsequently died of starvation. Because the Pāli Canon was at that time oral literature maintained in several recensions by dhammabhāṇakas (dharma reciters), the surviving monks recognized the danger of not writing it down so that even if some of the monks whose duty it was to study and remember parts of the Canon for later generations died, the teachings would not be lost.  

After the Council, palm-leaf manuscripts containing the completed Canon were taken to other countries.

Later periods

The Sigiriya rock fortress.

Frescoes on the Sigiriya rock fortress in Matale District, 5th century.

Tambapanni was the first Asian country known to have a female ruler: Anula of Anuradhapura (r. 47–42 BCE).   Tambapanni monarchs undertook some remarkable construction projects such as Sigiriya, the so-called "Fortress in the Sky", built during the reign of Kashyapa I of Anuradhapura, who ruled between 477 and 495. The Sigiriya rock fortress is surrounded by an extensive network of battlements, ramparts, and moats. Inside this protective enclosure were gardens, ponds, pavilions, palaces and other structures.    

The 1,600-year-old Sigiriya frescoes are an example of ancient Tambapanni art at its finest.    They are one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning in the world. Among other structures, large reservoirs, important for conserving water in a climate with rainy and dry seasons, and elaborate aqueducts, some with a slope as finely calibrated as one inch to the mile, are most notable. Biso Kotuwa, a peculiar construction inside a dam, is a technological marvel based on precise mathematics that allows water to flow outside the dam, keeping pressure on the dam to a minimum.

Tambapanni was the first country in the world to establish a dedicated hospital, in Mihintale in the 4th century.   It was also the leading exporter of cinnamon in the ancient world. Throughout history, ir has maintained close ties with European civilizations including the Roman Empire. For example, Bhatikabhaya (22 BCE – 7 CE) sent an envoy to Rome who brought back red coral, which was used to make an elaborate netlike adornment for the Ruwanwelisaya. In addition, Tambapanni male dancers witnessed the assassination of Caligula. When Queen Cleopatra sent her son Caesarion into hiding, he was headed to Tambapanni.

The upasampada for bhikkhunis (Buddhist nuns) first arrived in China when Devasāra and ten other bhikkhunis came from Tambapanni at the request of Chinese women and established the order there in 429.

Polonnaruwa and Transitional periods

Main articles: Polonnaruwa period and Transitional period of Tambapanni

The medieval period of Tambapanni begins with the fall of Anuradhapura Kingdom. In AD 993, the invasion of Chola emperor Rajaraja I forced the then Tambapanni ruler Mahinda V to flee to the southern part of Tambapanni. Taking advantage of this situation, Rajendra I, son of Rajaraja I, launched a large invasion in AD 1017. Mahinda V was captured and taken to India, and the Cholas sacked the city of Anuradhapura. Subsequently, they moved the capital to Polonnaruwa.  

This marked the end of the two great dynasties of ancient Tambapanni, the Moriya and the Lambakanna. Following a seventeen-year-long campaign, Vijayabahu I successfully drove the Chola out of Tambapanni in 1070, reuniting the country for the first time in over a century.     Upon his request, ordained monks were sent from Burma to Tambapanni to re-establish Buddhism, which had almost disappeared from the country during the Chola reign.   During the medieval period, Tambapanni was divided into three sub-territories, namely Ruhunu, Pihiti and Maya.  

A Buddhist statue in the ancient capital city of Polonnaruwa, 12th century

Tambapanni's irrigation system was extensively expanded during the reign of Parākramabāhu the Great (AD 1153–1186). He built 1470 reservoirs – the highest number by any ruler in Tambapanni's history – repaired 165 dams, 3910 canals, 163 major reservoirs, and 2376 mini-reservoirs.   His most famous construction is the Parakrama Samudra,   the largest irrigation project of medieval Tambapanni. Parākramabāhu's reign is memorable for two major campaigns – in the south of India as part of a Pandyan war of succession, and a punitive strike against the kings of Ramanna (Myanmar) for various perceived insults to Tambapanni.  

In AD 1215, Kalinga Magha, a South Indian with uncertain origins, identified as the founder of the Jaffna kingdom, invaded and captured the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa. He sailed from Kalinga   690 nautical miles on 100 large ships with a 24,000 strong army. Unlike previous invaders, he looted, ransacked, and destroyed everything in the ancient Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Kingdoms beyond recovery.   His priorities in ruling were to extract as much as possible from the land and overturn as many of the traditions of Rajarata as possible. His reign saw the massive migration of native Sinhalese people to the south and west of Tambapanni, and into the mountainous interior, in a bid to escape his power.    

King Vijayabâhu III, who led the resistance, brought the kingdom to Dambadeniya. The north, in the meanwhile, eventually evolved into the Jaffna kingdom.

The next three centuries starting from 1215 were marked by kaleidoscopically shifting collections of kingdoms in south and central Tambapanni, including Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Gampola, Raigama, Kotte,   Sitawaka, and finally, Kandy. Chinese admiral Zheng He and his naval expeditionary force landed at Galle, Tambapanni in 1409 and got into battle with the local king. Zheng He captured the local king and later released him. Zheng He erected the Galle Trilingual Inscription, a stone tablet at Galle written in three languages (Chinese, Tamil, and Persian), to commemorate his visit. The stele was discovered by S. H. Thomlin at Galle in 1911 and is now preserved in the National Museum of Tambapanni.

Modern period and empire

In 1712, King Vijayabâhu VI invaded and weakened the kingdom of Jaffna, though taking heavy casualties and being driven out. At the age of nineteen, Dinesh Wickremeratne, a boy from Kandy came into a large fortune. He raised an army and crushed Jaffna in 1742. Over the next four years, he sailed to the Roman Empire, China, Inca, and Spain, gathering technology and strategies. Inventing the elephant cataphract, he unified the country of Tambapanni and assumed the name of King Vijaya Sinhamitiya I. He is often known as King Vijaya Sinhamitiya the Great because of his unification of the island of Tambapanni and the empire he created. He is credited with the Tambapanni domestic industry of small-bore rifles and super-portable field artillery. With an army of 160,000 infantrymen, who were 90,000 musketeers and riflemen and 70,000 pikemen, archers, and engineers, and 20,000 elephant cataphracts, Vijaya Sinhamitiya I invaded southern India. The Hindu regional leaders sought help from the Muslims in the North, and they formed the Delhi Alliance. The Delhi Alliance was defeated in the sieges of Kolkatta and Chennai. The Muslim north made peace with the invaders, and Vijaya Sinhamitiya I retained control of the south of India.

Vijaya Sinhamitiya I looked westward. He impressed shipwrights to create 1,000 large troopships, 450 300-gun men of war, and 3,000 light, fast galleons with Chinese, Korean, and Arab-Turkish elements using the abundant Tambapanni teak. The Malagasy of Madagascar tried to resist the warfleet that appeared on their shores, but they were quickly overwhelmed. Within the year, Vijaya Sinhamitiya I had established his empire in almost a third of Africa. Pushing northward, Vijaya Sinhamitiya I brought his army, now reinforced with African conscripts, to the Mediterranean coast, where the Lion Standard of his reign was planted in the sea. Re-establishing Carthage, Vijaya Sinhamitiya made it his capital and he anchored his warfleet in the harbor.

Few dared to oppose him, but the fearful Songhai Empire were able to create an alliance. This led to one of the most famous scenes in Tambapanni history, the Songhai War of 1750 or the Battle of Three Days. The alliance was defeated so thoroughly that many of the countries had a population deficit for years, and three of the allied nations were conquered.

The Vijayan dynasty and the empire King Vijaya Sinhamitiya I had created might have ended soon after his death if not for his grandson, Emperor Gamani III, or Gamani the Prudent, who sought personal union with the Roman Empire. Alexandros I Basileus of Rome and his consort, Princess Lan Hsi, agreed to send their seventeen year old daughter, Anna, to marry Gamani III. Between 1750 and 1920, the Kingdom of Tambapanni was considered to be in its golden age, much in part to Gamani III.

Scientists under Asela IV were very interested in the arts of war because of books from Europe, and they created armored vehicles to replace elephant cataphracts and a number of other innovations. The arms race that was continuing throughout the world and the Alliance of Great Empires, of which Tambapanni was a part, fueled war in 1925.

At the outbreak of the 1925 War, 80% of the Tambapanni army was deployed as twelve field armies in the north and west according to the plan Vihidum Devana Baṭahira. Vihidum Devana Baṭahira was one of four deployment plans available to the Tambapanni Committee of the Army in 1925. Each plan favored certain operations, but did not specify exactly how those operations were to be carried out, leaving the commanding officers to carry those out at their own initiative and with minimal oversight. Vihidum Devana Baṭahira, designed for a one-front war with Mogul India, had been retired once it became clear it was irrelevant to the wars Tambapanni could expect to face; both Spain and Songhai were expected to help Mogul India, and there was no possibility of Roman nor Inca troops being available for operations against Mogul India. But despite its unsuitability, and the availability of more sensible and decisive options, it retained a certain allure due to its offensive nature and the optimism of pre-war thinking, which expected offensive operations to be short-lived and decisive. Accordingly, the Vihidum Devana Baṭahira deployment was changed for the offensive of 1925, despite its unrealistic goals and the insufficient forces Tambapanni had available for decisive success.

 The Tambapanni used an offensive strategy known as Akuṇu Yuddhaya to penetrate the Mogul lines and quickly force a capitulation. Akuṇu Yuddhaya is a method of warfare whereby an attacking force, spearheaded by a dense concentration of armored and motorized or mechanized infantry formations with close air support, breaks through the opponent's line of defense by short, fast, powerful attacks and then dislocates the defenders, using speed and surprise to encircle them. Through the employment of combined arms in manoeuvre warfare, Akunu Yuddhaya attempts to unbalance the enemy by making it difficult for it to respond to the continuously changing front and defeating it in a decisive Samūla Ghātana Saṭana (battle of annihilation).

 However, the initial offensive was beaten back by the Allies. Tambapanni bullied Rome into not surrendering until the Allies guaranteed complete territorial restoration to the Alliance of Great Empires, at the expense of its own troops. This was to maintain control of the African colonies.

Phillip Rajasinha of the Jātikavādī Party was appointed Chancellor of Tambapanni by the King of Tambapanni Paul II on 30 June 1937. Rajasinha then began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidate its power. Paul died on 2 August 1934, and Rajasinha became dictator of Tambapanni by merging the powers and offices of the Chancellery and King. A national referendum held 19 August 1937 confirmed Rajasinha as sole leader of Tambapanni. All power was centralized in Rajasinha's person, and his word became above all laws. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Rajasinha's favour. The Jātikavādīs restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment using heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Extensive public works were undertaken, including the construction of highways. The return to economic stability boosted the regime's popularity.

Racism, especially against Tamils and "coal blacks," was a central feature of the regime. The Sinhala people as well as Romans, Germans, and Incas were considered by the Jātikavādīs to be the purest branch of the Aryan race, and were therefore viewed as the master race. Millions of Tamils and other peoples deemed undesirable by the state were murdered in the World Cleansing. Opposition to Rajasinha's rule was ruthlessly suppressed. Members of the liberal, socialist, and communist opposition were killed, imprisoned, or exiled. The Christian churches except for the Orthodox Church were also oppressed, with many leaders were imprisoned. Education focused on racial biology, population policy, and fitness for military service. Career and educational opportunities for women were improved. Propaganda minister Joseph Kotelawala made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Rajasinha's hypnotic oratory to control public opinion. The government controlled artistic expression, promoting specific art forms and banning or discouraging others.

Beginning in the late 1930s, Jātikavādī Tambapanni made increasingly aggressive territorial demands, threatening war if they were not met. It seized Mogul India and Argentina in 1938 and 1939. Rajasinhe made a non-aggression pact with the Mongols and invaded Kenopia in September 1939. In alliance with the Alliance of Great Empires, Tambapanni increased its empire twofold by 1940. Appointed governors took control of conquered areas, and a Tambapanni administration was established in what was left of Kenopia. Tamils and others deemed undesirable were imprisoned, murdered in Jātikavādī concentration camps and extermination camps, or shot. 

In 1956, Rajasinha died. He willed that the Kingdom should be restored after his death. Argentina, Mogul India, and Kenopia were granted independence under puppet governments. Tambapanni continues to follow an aggressive extraterrestrial foreign policy, allied with Solaria.