Geography of Early Buddhism

Chapter VI: Ceylon, Burma and other Foreign Countries

Countries, Provinces, Cities, Villages, etc.


[70] In the Bāveru Jātaka (Jāt., Vol. III, p. 126) we find a reference to a kingdom named Bāveru. We are told that there existed a trade relation between Bāveru and India. The journey was through water. Bāveru is identified with ancient Babylon.


Some of the Therīs whose verses are preserved in the Therīgāthā were born in the city of Haṁsāvatī. The names of those Therīs are: Dhammadinnā, Ubbiriyā and Selā (Their G.C., pp. 15, 53, 61).

It is dificult to identify Haṁsāvatī with any known locality in India though it is generally known that there was a place somewhere in India. There was also a city of this name in Lower Burma, and the city is said to be identical with Pegu.


The thera Mahinda, son of Asoka the Great, was instrumental in spreading Buddhism in Laṅkādīpa. The Dīpavaṁsa, the Mahāvaṁsa and other works gave a history of the kingdom of Laṅkā. It is modern Ceylon.


The theras Soṇa and Uttarā are said to have propagated Buddhism in Suvaṇṇabhūmi, which is identical with Lower Burma (Pegu and Moulmein Districts).

According to the Sāsanavaṁsa (p. 10) Suvaṇṇabhūmi is Sudhammanagore, that is, Thaton at the mouth of the Sittaung river.


Tambapaṇṇi is mentioned in Rock Edicts II and XIII of Asoka as one of the Prachaṁta deśas along with Coḍa, Pāṇḍya, Satiyaputta, Keralaputta and the realm of Aṁtiyako Yonarājā with which Asoka was in friendly relations.

Dr. Smith, however, identifies the word to mean not Ceylon but the river Tāmraparṇi in Tinnevelay (Asoka, 3rd ed., p. 162). But the more correct identification is Ceylon which was meant in ancient times as Pārasamudra (Gk. Palaesimunda, Ind. Ant., 1919, pp. 195–96) as well as Tāmraparṇi (Gk. Taprobane).

Ceylon was converted by an Asokan mission headed by Mahinda. Asoka maintained friendly relations not only with Ceylon and the Tāmil powers of the South but also with kings of countries outside lndia.

They were Antiochus Theos, King of Syria and western India (Aṁtiyako Yonarājā), and even with [71] the kings and neighbours to the north of the kingdom of Antiochus where dwelt four kings named severally Ptolemy (Turamayo), Antigonos (Aṁtikini), Magas (Maga or Maka), and Alexander (Alikasudara). Ptolemy Philadelphos was King of Egypt, Magas was King of Cyrene in North Africa, Antigonos Gonatas was King of Macedonia, and Alexander was King of Epirus (Rock Edict XIII).

Some think (J.R.A.S., 1914, pp. 943 ff.) that Alikasudara of the Rock Edict XIII is Alexander of Corinth, son of Craterus and not Alexander of Epirus.


Anurādhapura is mentioned in the Dīpavaṁsa (pp. 57, 58, ete.). It was the ancient capital of Ceylon, but it is now in ruins.


Naggadīpa is mentioned in the Dīpavaṁsa (p. 55). It was probably an Island in the Arabian Sea.


Dvāramaṇḍala is mentioned in the Mahāvaṁsa (p. 77). It is near the Cetiyapabbata mountain (Mihintale), east of Anurādhapura.


The Pulindas are mentioned as a barbarous tribe dwelling in the country inland between Colombo, Kalutara, Galle and the mountains (Mv., Geiger, tr., p. 60, note 5).


Ambaṭṭhala is mentioned in the Mahāvaṁsa, p. 102. It is immediately below the Mihintale mountain, Ceylon. Besides these, there are a number of references to countries and places of Ceylon of lesser importance. They have all been noticed and identified in Geiger’s translation of the Mahāvaṁsa.

Rivers, Lakes, Tanks, etc.


Kalyāṇi, a river in Ceylon (Jāt., Vol. II, p. 128). It is modern Kaelani-Gaṅgā.

Kadamba Nadī:

Kadamba Nadī is mentioned in the Mahāvaṁsa (p. 66) whereas the Dīpavaṁsa refers to the same river as Kadambaka (p. 82). It is identical with the modern Malwaṭṭe-oya which flows by the ruins of Anurādhapura, Ceylon.

Karinda Nadī:

(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 258) – It is the modern Kirinda-oya in the southern province of Ceylon where is located the Pañjalipabbata.

Gambhīra Nadī:

(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 66) – It flows seven or eight miles north of Anurādhapura, Ceylon.

Goṇaka Nadī or Honaka:

(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 290) It is the modern Kaḷu-oya river in Ceylon.


(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 82) identical with the modern Mahāwaeligaṅgā river in Ceylon.


[72] (Dīpavaṁsa, p. 25 and Mahāvaṁsa, p. l0) It is probably the modern Kandiya-Kaṭṭu tank in the eastern province of Cylon.

Kālavāpi or Klivāpi:

(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 299) it was built by King Dhātusena by banking up the river Kaḷ-oya or Goṇanadī.


(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 160) it is a tank near Mahāgāma, Ceylon.


(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 324) it is the modern Minneriya, a tank near Poḷonnaruwa, Ceylon.

Forests, Mountains, etc.


(Dīpavaṁsa, p. 60 and Mahāvaṁsa, p. 69) It is central mountain region in the interior of Ceylon.


(Dīpavaṁsa, p. 101 and Mahāvaṁsa, p. 275) It is outside the north gate of the ruined city of Anurādhapura, Ceylon.


(Dīpavaṁsa, p. 89 and Mahāvaṁsa, p. 102) It is the Northern peak of the Mihintale mountain, Ceylon.


(Dipavaṁsa, p. 84 and Mahāvaṁsa, p. 130) It is the Later name of the Missaka mountain, Ceylon.

Missakagiri (Dīpavaṁsa, p. 64) or Missakapabbata (Mahāvaṁsa, p. 101):

It is the modern Mihintale mountain East of Anurādhapura, Ceylon.


(Dīpavaṁsa, p. 69 and Mahāvaṁsa, p. 126) It stretched between Mahameghavana where now the Mahāvihāra stands, and the southern Wall of the city of Anurādhapura, Ceylon.


(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 10) It stretched south of the capital city of Anurādhapura, Ceylon.

Cetiyas, Ārāmas, Vihāras, etc.

Ākāsa Cetiya:

(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 172) It was situated on the summit of a rock not very for from the Cittalapabbata monastery, Ceylon.

Paṭhama Cetiya:

(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 107) It was situated outside the eastern gate of the city of Anurādhapura, Ceylon.

Thūpārāma vihāra:

(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 324) It was a vihāra in Anurādhapura.


(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 172) It was located in South Ceylon, north-east of Hambantoṭa.


(Mahāvaṁsa, p. 322) It was situated near the Abhayagiri dagoba in Anurādhapura, Ceylon. [73] Besides these, there are a number of references to cetiyas, arāmas, vihāras, forests, mountains, rivers, tanks, etc., of Ceylon of lesser importance. They have all been noticed and identified in Geiger’s translation of the Mahāvaṁsa.