Lanka, aka: Laṅkā, Laṅka; 13 Definition(s)


Lanka means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Katha (narrative stories)

Laṅkā (लङ्का) is the name of a kingdom most difficult to reach, according to the Kathāsaritsāgara, chapter 12. Accordingly, when Vibhīṣaṇa (a king of Laṅkā) was visited by a Brāhman named Lohajaṅgha, he inquired how he managed to reach Laṅkā, whereupon Lohajaṅgha answered:

“I am a Brāhman of the name of Lohajaṅgha residing in Mathurā; and I, Lohajaṅgha, being afflicted at my poverty, went to the temple of the god, and remaining fasting, for a long time performed austerities in the presence of Nārāyaṇa. Then the adorable Hari commanded me in a dream, saying: ‘Go thou to Vibhīṣaṇa, for he is a faithful worshipper of mine, and he will give thee wealth.’ Then I said: ‘Vibhīṣaṇa is where I cannot reach him.’ But the lord continued: ‘To-day shalt thou see that Vibhīṣaṇa.’ So the lord spake to me, and immediately I woke up and found myself upon this side of the sea. I know no more.”

The Kathāsaritsāgara (‘ocean of streams of story’), mentioning Laṅkā, is a famous Sanskrit epic story revolving around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the vidyādharas (celestial beings). The work is said to have been an adaptation of Guṇāḍhya’s Bṛhatkathā consisting of 100,000 verses, which in turn is part of a larger work containing 700,000 verses.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Kathāsaritsāgara

Laṅkā (लङ्का).—One of the various countries and cities mentioned by Soḍḍhala.—Laṅkā seems to he situated in the Southern-most part of the Indian Peninsula, as an island in the Indian ocean. It is identified with Ceylon. Soḍḍhala has referred to it as Laṅkā-puri decked with gold. He says, “It is an abode of demons containing golden buildings and the fortresses. Formerly it was overcome by the tender-hearted Rāma. Vibhīṣaṇa, the successor of Rāvaṇa had a treasury of gold amassed since the time of Kubera.”

Rāmāyaṇa describes the luxury of the people in Laṅkā. The lovely city had well-arranged high roads, and outstretched rows of the palatial buildings with its golden windows and pillars. The mansions of the demons were shining with places paved with sphatika, adorned with gold, variegated with vaidūrya and studed with the rows of pearls.

(Source): Shodhganga: A critical appreciation of soddhalas udayasundarikatha
Katha book cover
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Katha (कथा, kathā) refers to narrative Sanskrit literature often inspired from epic legendry (itihasa) and poetry (mahākāvya). Some Kathas reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of important historical event and exploits of the Gods, Heroes and Sages.


Laṅkā (लङ्का).—An upadvīpa to Jambūdvīpa; a great city in Trikūṭa; was besieged by Rāma and his Vānara hosts and made desolate by Rāvaṇa's indiscretion; Vibhīṣaṇa as king of; Jāmbavatī alluded to this incident in praising Kṛṣṇa;1 capital of Rāvaṇa;2 conquered by Arjuna; one of the places for residence of Agastya.3

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 19. 30; IX. 10. 16-33; X. 56. 28; Vāyu-purāṇa 48. 28.
  • 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 266; 69. 35; Matsya-purāṇa 43. 37.
  • 3) Ib. 61. 51.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Kavya (poetry)

Laṅkā (लङ्का) is the name a locality mentioned in Rājaśekhara’s 10th-century Kāvyamīmāṃsā.—Laṅkā seems to be identified in the most-southern parts of the Indian peninsula, as an island somewhere in the Indian Ocean. In the Rāmāyaṇa, Rājaśekhara’s Kāvyamīmāṃsā and Bālarāmāyaṇa, the description of this island does not favour its identification with Ceylon or Siṃhala. This island is situated on the western side of the peninsula beyond Travancore, while Siṃhala or Ceylon is on the eastern side of it.

(Source): Shodhganga: The Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara
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Kavya (काव्य, kavya) refers to Sanskrit poetry, a popular ancient Indian tradition of literature. There have been many Sanskrit poets over the ages, hailing from ancient India and beyond. This topic includes mahakavya, or ‘epic poetry’ and natya, or ‘dramatic poetry’.

Jyotisha (astronomy and astrology)

Laṅkā (लङ्का).—The hypothetical place on the equator where the meridian of Ujjain intersects it, i.e., place with 0° longitude and 0° latitude. Note: Laṅkā is a Sanskrit technical term used in ancient Indian sciences such as Astronomy, Mathematics and Geometry.

(Source): Wikibooks (hi): Sanskrit Technical Terms
Jyotisha book cover
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Jyotiṣa (ज्योतिष, jyotisha or jyotish) basically refers to ‘astronomy’ or “Vedic astrology” and represents one of the six additional sciences to be studied along with the Vedas. Jyotiṣa concerns itself with the study and prediction of the movements of celestial bodies, in order to calculate the auspicious time for rituals and ceremonies.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Laṅkā (लंका): An island city, generally identified with Ceylon, the home of Ravana.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

Laṅkā (लङ्का).—The golden city of Rāvaṇa, situated some eight hundred miles south of India, in Ceylon.

(Source): ISKCON Press: Glossary

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Pali names for Ceylon, found in the Chronicles - e.g., Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa and the Commentaries.

An ancient tradition recorded in the Mahavamsa (Mhv.xv. 57ff), and in the Samantapasadika (Sp.i.86ff), gives the names of the Island in the times of the three previous Buddhas, the names of the capital cities, the different names of Mahameghavana, and of the kings contemporary with these Buddhas.

Thus, in the time of Kakusandha, the Island was called Ojadipa, the king was Abhaya, the capital Abhayapura and Mahameghavana, Mahatittha. In the time of Konagamana, the Island was Varadipa, the capital Vaddhamana, the king Samiddha and the park Mahanoma. In the time of Kassapa, the Island was Mandadipa, the king Jayanta, the capital Visala and the park Mahasagara.

Besides Mahameghavana, the other physical feature of Ceylon, mentioned in these accounts, is the mountain known in the present age as Sumanakuta, whereon the Buddha Gotama placed his footprint. During the ages of the three previous Buddhas, it was known, respectively, as Devakuta, Sumanakutaka and Subhakuta. Gotama paid three visits to Ceylon, while the other three Buddhas came only once. During their visits they consecrated various spots by spending there a short time wrapt in meditation.

Lanka was once inhabited by Yakkhas. Gotama Buddha obliged them to leave the Island and seek shelter in the neighboring Giridipa. Lankadipa was later colonized by Vijaya and his three hundred companions. Two cities of the Yakkhas are mentioned: Sirisavatthu and Lankapura.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names
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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

India history and geogprahy

Before ~7000 BCE, ancient Sri Lanka was not an island but it was well-connected through land route with Indian peninsula. Tamraparni River that originated in Tamilnadu used to flow from Tirunelveli district to Puttalam of western Sri Lanka.

Mayil Vakanar starts Sri Lankan history from the Ramayana era. According to him, Rakshasas reigned over Sri Lanka for three Yugas. Rama killed Ravana and gave the kingdom to Vibhishana. He says that King Vijaya came to Sri Lanka and built many Koyils (Temples). In the year Saka 358 (225 BCE), Kulakkoddu Maharaja, the son of Manu Nidhi Cholan of Kaveri Pum Pattanam took over the control over Anuradhapura. This perfectly reconciles with the Chulavamsa which also confirms that the Cholas occupied Anuradhapura in the 36 th regnal year of Mahinda V i.e. 212 BCE. Mayil Vakanar mentions that King Aggrabodhi? (Siri Sanghabodhi Parakramabahu I) was ruling in Saka 515 (68 BCE).

(Source): The Chronological History of Ancient Sri Lanka

1) Lanka (“island”) is one of the many exogamous septs (division) among the Boyas (an old fighting caste of Southern India). The Boyas were much prized as fighting men in the stirring times of the eighteenth century .

2) Lanka (“island”) is one of the exogamous septs (divisions) among the Kammas (agriculturists and traders). The word Kamma in Telugu means the ear-ornament, such as is worn by women. The Razus, who now claim to be Kshatriyas, were probably descended from Kapus, Kammas, and Velamas.

(Source): Project Gutenberg: Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Volume 1
India history book cover
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The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

laṅkā (लंका).—f (S) The capital of rāvaṇa in Ceylon. The name is extended also to the island which, according to the Hindus, is larger and more distant from the continent than in reality. It is thus placed in the Eastern ocean south of Ceylon, and is, according to Wilford, the peninsula of Malacca. 2 Figures of giants, monkeys, trees &c. made of gunpowder (as fireworks). laṅkā luṭaṇēṃ (To plunder Lanka.) To obtain vast treasures.

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lāṅka (लांक).—m f ē (laṅka S) A grain, Lithyrus sativus.

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lāṅka (लांक) [or लांकण, lāṅkaṇa].—f C Junction or connection by means of a rope &c. (of beasts or of men). v ghāla. 2 fig. Unitedness through some subject or ground of common concernment or reciprocal relation. Ex. bandyā adhēlyā nasalyā tara dōghāṃ dōghāṃsa ēka ēka rupayā dēūna dōghāṃ dōghāñcī lāṅka ghālūna dyāvī.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

laṅkā (लंका).—f The capital of rāvaṇa in Ceylon.

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lāṅka (लांक) [or lāṅkaṇa, or लांकण].—f Junction or connection by means of a rope.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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