The Ramayana is one of the two main itihasa – historical epics – of India, along with the Mahabharata. It describes the activities of Krsna’s incarnation Lord Rama, including the kidnapping of His consort Sita by Ravana, King of Lanka, and the subsequent military campaign to release her.
Since a substantial amount of the history takes place in Lanka the actual real identity of Lanka is important to Vaisnavas and devotees of Lord Rama in general. For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years the island that is currently known as “Sri Lanka” has traditionally been identified as the “Lanka” of the Ramayana. But is this really the case? Does the Ramayana support this tradition? This short article explores other possibilities that are consistent with the text of the Ramayana. Strict followers of Krsna’s Vedic culture accept sabdha brahma – knowledge revealed by God (the Ramayana) – as the highest evidence, superior to all others, including tradition.
Sastras Says About the Real Lanka
Until 1972 “Sri Lanka” was called Ceylon, which is derived from Tamil Ceralamdivu, Sanskrit Simhaladvipa and Persian Sarandīp. For more information on the former names of Ceylon click on this link and this link.
Simhala and Lanka
The majority population of what is now known as “Sri Lanka” are called the Sinhalese people after an old name for the island “Siṁhala.” This name is attested in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 5.19.29-30:
Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: My dear King, in the opinion of some learned scholars, eight smaller islands surround Jambūdvīpa. When the sons of Mahārāja Sagara were searching all over the world for their lost horse, they dug up the earth, and in this way eight adjoining islands came into existence. The names of these islands are Svarṇaprastha, Candraśukla, Āvartana, Ramaṇaka, Mandara-hariṇa, Pāńcajanya, Siṁhala and Laṅkā.
However Siṁhala cannot be Laṅkā because “Laṅkā” is listed as the name of a separate and different island.
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