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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Location of Tamluk in the Midnapur district, West Bengal

Tamralipti (ताम्रलिप्ती) was an ancient port city and also one of Buddhist Kingdoms visited by Xuanzang in 639 AD. It has been identified with the modern Tamluk in the Midnapur district, West Bengal, India. [1] Tamralipta (ताम्रलिप्त) was one of The Mahabharata Tribes mentioned in in the tribute list (II.48.17), probably modern Tamluk, Bengal. They joined the Pandavas in the war (VIII.17.2).[2][3]

Variants of name


Located as the modern Tamluk in the Midnapur district, Bengal.


Tej Ram Sharma[4] writes that The Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang proceeded from Kamarupa southwards and after a journey of 1,200 or 1,300 li (6 li- 1 mile) reached the country of Samatata. According to him, this country was on the seaside and was low and moist and was more than 3,000 li in circuit. 652 From Samatata, the pilgrim journeyed towards the West for over 900 li and reached Tanmolihti, or Tamralipta, the modern Tamluk in the Midnapur district, Bengal.

In Mahavansa

Mahavansa/Chapter 11 tells...Devanampiya Tissa (307-267 BC) became king of Lanka after his father's death. Even at the time of his consecration many wonders came to pass. In the whole isle of Lanka treasures and jewels that had been buried deep rose up to the surface of the earth. ....King Devanampiya Tissa thought to send pearls to his friend King Dhammasoka. The king sent four persons appointed as his envoys: his nephew Maharittha, who was the chief of his ministers, then his chaplain, a minister and his treasurer, attended by a body of retainers, and he bade them take with them those priceless jewels, the three kinds of precious stones, and the three stems (like) waggon-poles, and a spiral shell winding to the right, and the eight kinds of pearls. When they had embarked at Jambukola and in seven days had reached the haven in safety, and from thence in seven days more had come to Pataliputta, they gave those gifts into the hands of king Dhammasoka. ....When the ministers had stayed five months, highly honoured they set forth with the envoys, on the first day of the bright half of the month Vesakha. Having embarked at Tamalitti and landed at Jambukola they sought out the king, when they arrived here on the twelfth day. The envoys handed the gifts (in return from Dhammasoka) to the ruler of Lanka; the ruler of Lanka made them welcome with great hospitality.

Bhima's Conquests

Bhima was sent out to the East, since Bhishma thought the easterners were skilled in fighting from the backs of elephants and in fighting with bare arms, he deemed Bhima to be the most ideal person to wage wars in that region. The Mahabharata mentions several kingdoms to the east of Indraprastha which were conquered by Bhima. According to Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 26 & Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 27 Bhimasena subjugated the countries including: Tamralipta (ताम्रलिप्त).

Visit by Fahian

James Legge[5] writes that Following the course of the Ganges, and descending eastwards for eighteen yojanas, he found on the southern bank the great kingdom of Champa,1 with topes reared at the places where Buddha walked in meditation by his vihara, and where he and the three Buddhas, his predecessors, sat. There were monks residing at them all. Continuing his journey east for nearly fifty yojanas, he came to the country of Tamalipti,2 (the capital of which is) a seaport. In the country there are twenty-two monasteries, at all of which there are monks residing. The Law of Buddha is also flourishing in it. Here Fa-hien stayed two years, writing out his Sutras,3 and drawing pictures of images.

After this he embarked in a large merchant-vessel, and went floating over the sea to the south-west. It was the beginning of winter, and the wind was favourable; and, after fourteen days, sailing day and night, they came to the country of Singhala.4 The people said that it was distant (from Tamalipti) about 700 yojanas.

The kingdom is on a large island, extending from east to west fifty yojanas, and from north to south thirty. Left and right from it there are as many as 100 small islands, distant from one another ten, twenty, or even 200 le; but all subject to the large island. Most of them produce pearls and precious stones of various kinds; there is one which produces the pure and brilliant pearl,5 — an island which would form a square of about ten le. The king employs men to watch and protect it, and requires three out of every ten such pearls, which the collectors find.

1 Probably the modern Champanagar, three miles west of Bhagalpur, lat. 25d 14s N., lon. 56d 55s E.

2 Then the principal emporium for the trade with Ceylon and China; the modern Tam-look, lat. 22d 17s N., lon. 88d 2s E.; near the mouth of the Hoogly.

3 Perhaps Ching {.} is used here for any portions of the Tripitaka which he had obtained.

4 “The Kingdom of the Lion,” Ceylon. Singhala was the name of a merchant adventurer from India, to whom the founding of the kingdom was ascribed. His father was named Singha, “the Lion,” which became the name of the country; — Singhala, or Singha-Kingdom, “the Country of the Lion.”

5 Called the mani pearl or bead. Mani is explained as meaning “free from stain,” “bright and growing purer.” It is a symbol of Buddha and of his Law. The most valuable rosaries are made of manis.

Visit by Xuanzang in 639 AD

Alexander Cunningham[6] writes that The kingdom of Tan-mo-li-ti, or Tamralipti, is described as 1400 or 1500 li, about 250 miles, in circuit.[7] It was situated on the seashore, and the surface of the country was low and wet. The capital was in a bay, and was accessible both by land and water. Tamralipti is the Sanskrit name of Tamluk, which is situated on a broad reach or bay of the Rupnarayan river, 12 miles above its junction with the Hughli. The district probably comprised the small but fertile tract of country lying to the westward of the Hughli river, from Bardwan and Kalna on the north to the banks of the Kosai river on the south.

From Tamalitti, the Pali form of the name, came the classical Tamalites.


  1. Tej Ram Sharma: Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions/Place-Names and their Suffixes,p.261
  2. वङ्गाः कलिङ्ग पतयस ताम्रलिप्ताः सपुण्ड्रकाः । दुकूलं कौशिकं चैव पत्रॊर्णं परावरान अपि (II.48.17), पराच्याश च दाक्षिणात्याश च परवीरा गजयॊधिनः । अङ्गा वङ्गाश च पुण्ड्राश च मागधास ताम्रलिप्तकाः (VIII. 17.2)
  3. Sandhya Jain: Adi Deo Arya Devata - A Panoramic View of Tribal-Hindu Cultural Interface, Rupa & Co, 7/16, Ansari Road Daryaganj, New Delhi, 2004,p.217
  4. Tej Ram Sharma: Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions/Place-Names and their Suffixes,p.261
  5. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, by Fa-hsien
  6. The Ancient Geography of India/Eastern India, p.505
  7. Julien 's 'Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 83.