Copper oblong pieces was first published by Henry Parker. Codrington published them as an appendix to chapter III. These pieces has been found in strata that can be dated from 2 Cent BC to 4 Cent AD[ Walberg]. This is a long period and as expected there is a varied set of design are  found. The basic set of symbol follows a certain common set of symbols and there arrangement suggest a ideogram that need to solved.

(2) Struck

    5.  I-The design is that of the Chilaw cast plaques, but on the obverse is a nimbus round the head, and on the reverse symbol A is always on the right, and of the same pattern as .Junnar No. 12 ; in one instance it is the same as the left-hand symbol in variant (a) of the “Elephant and Swastika” round coins . . .

    Size .. Weight
    In In .. Grains.
    1.24 x 0.49 .. 41.8 .. Parker, Ancient Ceylon, No. 3 (p. 475)
    1.25 x 0.53. .. 44.5 .. A.S., 41.1, Elala’s Tomb ; scaled on either side
    1.l2 x 0.47 .. 37.9 .. 42c, Kiribat Vehera ; worn ..
    l.l8 x 0.47 .. 26.6 .. Elala’s Tomb ; very thin and worn, with sharp edges ; two holes on one side
    1.4 x 0.46 .. 52.5 .. Parker, No. I (p. 474).
    1.8 x 0.46.. .. 44 .. Parker, No. 2 (p. 475),Pl,23.

    There is little wear at the edges on any of the above6. –II The following is of coarse workmanship, and was found in the Kiribat Vehera:-
    Obv. : Standing female figure with lotus stalks in hands,
    Rev: Railed swastika revolving to right between two segments of a circle placed back to back ; the whole within an oblong frame
    Size: 0.80 x 0.39 in. Weight: 13.6 gr. Slightly broken, 7. III- The remainder, forming the great majority of the plaques hitherto found in Ceylon, are best described by Mr. Still’s ib pg 206-212; Manufacture of these plaque is of the most careless description Evidently sheet copper was sliced into stripes of suitable width which were then chopped into pieces small enough to fit the die. “No single specimen that I have seen was well struck even on one side and in no instance is the whole of the device clearly visible. That this is not the result of wear may be clearly seen on examination of the edges, which remain so sharp that almost any specimen would cut the skin if drawn sharply across ones fingers. The corners too are exceedingly sharp in some instances and quite unworn.”
    Mr. Still is in error in stating that any were four at Polonaruwa,
    These plaques fall into two series the one with the standing, the other with the seated, figure.
    (l) The standing figure with its accompaniments is a corruption of that described section 1, the Lotus flower with its stalks and elephants degenerating into a couple of staffs with an arch over the head. o f the same symbols appear. Pl, 24.

    Size .. Weight
    In In .. Grains.
    1.53 x 0.65 .. 126 .. Parker No 47 (p. 487) symbol A as in Kuda inscription No.26; pierced
    . 1.42 x 0.72 . .. 64.3 .. Parker, No. 44; pierced

    On the vast majority these symbols give way to a vase of flowers and a recumbent bull. The size ranges from 1.43 by 0,72 to 1.02 by 0.53 inch and the weight from 75 to 13.5 grains. The large and small sizes can be picked out, but the greater number are intermediate. Weight does to seem to follow size; thus one on the smaller size weigh 69.1 and the larger weigh 64.3; many of the largest are pieced clearly for suspension by the neck. .

    (a) Large size: 1.43 x 0.72 in .. Weight : 75 gr .. Parker, No.43.
    Do. 1.21x 0.70in… .. do. 58 gr .. do. No..45.
    Do. 1.45x 0.76in .. do. 82.5gr .. do. No. 46

    (b) Small size average of 22 ,1.06 by 0.64 in. Weight 69.1, 48.1, 48, 40.3, 36,5, 29.8, 29 2, 29.2, 29, 26.4, 26. 4, 26, 25.9, 23.5,23.1, 22.6, 21.6, 21.1, 19,6, 18.7, 15.8 grains. Narrower are 22,14,4m 13.5.
    (c) Intermediate’ average of 90, 1.15 by 0.69 in weight : 57.6, 57.1, 57.1, 55.9, 55.4, 55.2, 54.7, 54.2, 52.8, 52.8, 50.1, 50.1, 49.9,(good) 49.9, 49.9, 49.4, 48.9, 48.9, 48.9, 48.4(broken), 48.2, 48, 48, 47.8, 47, 47 (good), 45.6, 45.1, 45.1, 44.1(broken), 44.1, 44.1,43.6, 43.4, 43.2, 42.2, 42.1, 41.9, 41.7 (corner off), 40.8, 40.8, 40.8,(broken) 40.3(broken0. 40, 39.3, 39.1, (broken), 38.9, 38.9, 38.8, 38.7, 37.9, 37.9, 37.4(slightly broken),36.9, 36.4, 36.4, 36.4, 36.2, 36, 36,35.5, 35.2, 35 (Good) 35, 35, 34.8,34.5, 33.6, 33.6,33.1, 32.6, 32.1, 31.4, 31.2, 30.7 (holed), 30.7 , 29.2{broken), 27.3, 27.3, 27.3, 27,24.2, 21.6(worn),20.1, 19.6,gr Very Worn), Narrower are37.4, 34 grains.

    (2) The seated figure with one forearm raised, has traces of what may have been elephants over the shoulders, As the seat is apparently a lotus flower the figure is all probability that of Lakshmi. Has the swastika with the flower pot and bull .Pl 25

    Size .. Weight
    In In .. Grains.
    I 25 x 0.76.. .. .. . Parker, .No. J6
    1.20 x 0.62 .. 74 .. do. No.37
    1.09x 0.62 .. 40 .. do. No.38
    1.21 x 0.7l .. .. do. No.39
    1.24 x 0.75 .. .. do. No.40
    1.31 x 0.74 .. .. do.No.41
    1.50 x 0.79. .. 0.74 .. do. No, 42
    1.35 x 0.82.. .. 65.7 ..
    1.16 x 0.78.. .. 57.7 ..
    1.14 x 0.74.. .. 52.9 ..

8. Mr. Still, writing in 1907 with reference to the struck pieces described in the last section, held in opposition to- Mr. Parker that the plaques were not coins, basing his contention on the great variation of weight and the unworn condition of the edges. These in the case of some two hundred specimens are such that it is impossible that the plaques could ever have been in circulation,, The workmanship is coarse to a degree, and, as some are pierced for suspension from the neck, it seems likely that they were in use as votive offerings and amulets, for which last purpose the image of the goddess of prosperity and the swastika were eminently suited. Though the Chilaw plaques were not before him, the same conclusions apply. Their weight varies from 129.1 to 65.3 grains, and as with the “Elephant and Swastika” circular coins, which range from 301.6 to 148 grains, they cannot be divided into pieces of different denominations, only one of the whole ” find ” being very markedly larger than the rest. The plaques, however, differ from the circular coins, of which the lowest in weight are the most worn, in that the heaviest are not those in the finest condition, while some of medium weight are practically perfect. If coins, these last should be kalanjus, but it is difficult to explain the. higher weights. It is true that the edges of all show signs of, wear; it is, however, quite possible that this is due not to currency as money, but, to the fragile nature of the composite metal. From the absence of a number of symbols and from the general style these plaques must be of a date subsequent to the large circular coin so and approximately contemporary with the ” Tree and Swastika ” pieces ; the base metal of the period is either round or square, and it seems improbable that a people accustomed to these would adopt the awkward oblong shape On the whole it is likely that the cast plaques severed the same purpose as their die-stuck successors





PLAQUESSet of maya devi coins

Who is this lady?

The greatest numbers of coins found of Sri lanakan origin is what PE Peries called lakshmi Plaque due to the resemblance to the Lakshmi figures in 4 Cent AD Hindhu Temple art. Initially these coin like pieces were believed to be Temple token or Votive offering, but now the numismatist believe that these were issued in various denominations to the established values and weights of the ancient monetary system practiced in the Island and in India.

The Art of figure of a lady standing is on a Lotus is exquisite on the many good specimen found. Even the lotus flower and stalk and the Elephant are artistically and symmetrically executed in the small limited area available. These are very rare collectors items.

An alternate explanation of this Female figure given to a similar figure found on the Sanchi Vihare Gateway is shown below.

Lumbini birth placeUsha

(1) Cast

The chief “find” of cast plaques was unearthed in 1917 at Alutwatta, in the town of Chilaw, at least 91 whole or damaged pieces, besides minor fragments, being discovered 2 ½ feet below the surface of the soil in a chatty. Before this date the only one of the type known were a very few found near the Thuparama and in the Kiribat Vehera at Anuradhapura. Similar plaques have also since been found at Vallipuram and Kantarodai in the Jaffna peninsula,

8 cent Art

The shape is usually oblong but in the broader specimens is distinctly oval. The metal is brittle and flakes easily and there is a tendency to split at the junction of the moulds, as if the obverse and reverse had been cast separately and then soldered together-

The analysis of a small plaque weighing 21.5 grains, made at the instance of Mr. P. E. Pieris, yielded the following result :-

.. .. Per cent
Lead 59.93
Copper 14.84
Silica 0.62
Iron 0.14
Nickel A trace

The design on the obverse is in high relief, and represents the goddess Lakshmi clad in a broad girdle and wearing earrings, besides two bracelets on the upper arms and three to five on the forearms; on the legs below the knee are there to five rings, with wide anklets. She stands on large lotus, and with her hands, which are pendent, grasps two stalks of the same plant, usually springing from either side of the flower beneath her feet and ending about the level of the shoulders in a small blossom, up one each of which stands a small Elephant holding a water pot in his upturned trunk, the two trunks forming an arch over her head . Between the legs and the stalks are are minor lotus shoots variously depicted ; one sometimes ends in a bud. The whole is in an oblong frame, occasionally double at the top , slightly rounded at the corners, At a varying distance from this appears the edge of the enclosing space, which is sometimes barrel-shaped. For the figure of Lakshmi see J.R.A.S, 1914 p 402

M4M 1

On the reverse is a large railed swastika similar to that on the coins above described, revolving, except in one instance, to the right between two symbols. Beneath are three lines, the lowest of which is often curved upwards at either end, and sometimes reaches the extremities of the railing. No frame is visible. The symbols are

A.-symbol No. 4, in one case with a double line over it ; in some it-has a rounded bottom In one specimen there is no line across the symbol, but two lines over the top. In other it resembles that of the Karle inscription No 3; in a few it approaches that of No, 25 at Kuda, though the connecting lines are disjointed; while in some it is the same as symbol “C” on the reverse of the Elephant and swastika ,coins in variant (a). The normal form is that of the Junnar inscription No 12 (Report on the Buddhist cave Temples Archeological Survey of Ancient India, Vol IV)

B.-The Nandipada symbol, which also has many variations. The circle is usually separated from the triple fork by a horizontal line ; in a few this is absent, when the symbol is much the same as that in the Junnar inscription No 8. In some the horizontal line seems to be merged in the fork. The symbols should be compared with those on either side of the swastika on the large circular coins.

M 2M 6

2. I –Swastika revolving to the right

(a)Symbols A to left, B to right .   So 55 of 91 : in 7 the swastika on the reverse is placed in the opposite direction to the figure on obverse i.e. top to bottom (U). The sizes are the maxima..

Size .. Weight
In In .. Gr. ..
1.37 x 0.76 .. 129.1 .. Fair ; slightly brokenPL 20
1.29 x 0.66 .. 120 .. Good ; complete.
1.33 x 0.68 .. 113.2 .. Worn
1.31 x 0.62 .. 105.1 .. Obv., fair ; rev. Poor
1.18 x0.53 .. 94.5 .. Good
1.27 x 0.55 .. 93.3 .. Worn ; edges worn.
1.29 x 0.59 .. 89.7 .. Good ; slightly broken.
1.27 x 0.59 .. 88.8 .. Fair ; rev. slightly flaked. Apparently chipped on one side
l.3l x 0.66 .. 88.3 .. Obv., fair ; rev, worn ; slightly broken
1.24 x 0.62 .. 87.3 .. Fair (U) ; edge broken
1.25 x 0..51 .. 86.8 .. Fair
1.18 x .0.59 .. 84.7 .. Obv., worn ; rev, fair ; slightly broken
1.31 x 0.53 .. 84.5 .. Very good ; edges worn Pl 21
1.20 x 0.61 .. 83.5 .. Fair ; bottom broken just above feet
1.25 x 0.59 .. 82.8 .. Poor.
1.31 x 0.72 .. 81.3 .. Obv., very good ; rev., worn ; slightly broken (U)
1.24 x 0.59 .. 80.8 .. Fair (U).
1.24 x 0.61 .. 80.4 .. Obv., good ; rev., almost obliterated
1.22 x 0.74 .. 67.2 .. Good ; edges broken

(b) B to left, A to right: 2 U

1.29 x 0.61 .. 119.5 .. Worn ; slightly broken
1,25 x 0.62 .. 105.1 .. Obv,, good ; rev,, slightly worn ; somewhat barrel|-shaped
1.37 x 0.62 .. 89.2 .. Worn ; flaked on Obv
1.35 x 0.57 .. 88.8 .. Obv., worn ; rev., fair
1.25 x 0.62 .. 86.4 .. Fair ; narrow at top (U )
I.12 x .0.64 .. 83.5 .. Worn ; slightly broken
1.29 x 0.74 .. 82.5 .. Obv., good ; rev., fair ; slightly broken and flaked
1.29 x 0.59 .. 82 .. Obv., fair ; rev., worn ; edges somewhat worn
1.29 x 0.53 .. 77.8 .. Fair.
l.20 x 0.55 .. 76.8 .. Fair.
l.37 x 0.59 .. 75.9 .. Worn; broken
1.25 x 0.61 .. 74.8 .. Poor; narrow at top
1.31 x 0.62 .. 74.4 .. Obv. poor ; rev., worn ; broken
1.27 x 0.59 .. 14 .. Obv. fair ; rev., worn (U) ; symbol B upside down
1.27 x 0.57 .. 72.8 .. Fair.
1.25 x 0.59 .. 65.3 .. Very worn

(c) Position of Symbols doubtful ; all worn on reverse.

Size .. Weight ..
In In .. Grains. ..
1.37 x 0.66 .. 124.8 .. Obv., worn ; rev., obliterated.
1.25 x 0.59 .. l18 .. Obv., poor ; rev, obliterated
1.33 x 0.59 .. 117.6 .. Obv., poor ; rev., obliterated ; narrow at bottom
1.27 x 0.61 .. 107 .. Worn.
1.29 x 0.61 .. 101 .. Obv,, good-
1.31 x 0.62 .. 90.7 .. Obv., worn (U)
l.3l x . 0.64 .. 84.9 .. Worn; barrel shaped
l.24 x 0.74 .. 81.8 .. Worn ; rev., obliterated ; slightly broken
1.22 x 0.64 .. 70 .. Obv., poor ; edges chipped

II –Swastika revolving to the left-
Symbols : B to left, A to right. Pl.22,

Size .. Weight ..
In. In. .. Gr. ..
1.27 x 0.55 .. 74.4 .. Very good. Part of design off flan, and edges worn

3. As has been said, plaques of similar type have been found at Kantarodai ; the size, however, usually is small, and sometimes almost minute. On most the whole of the goddess appears, though part of the swastika is often off the flan. On two this symbol is placed lozenge-wise, while the standing figure is four square with the plaque. Below the swastika are usually four lines of varying length, two or more of which are often connected at the ends by short strokes. The lowest line is sometimes carried up at either end in a stroke. The original of this collection of lines, perhaps, may have been a caitya with a vertical line beneath, as on the reverse of the Elephant and Swastika coins.

Size .. Weight ..
In. In. .. Gr. ..
0.55 x 0.23 .. 10.3 .. Slightly broken
0.53 x. 0.23 .. 10.8 ..
0.55 x 0.25 .. 12.2 .. Swastika revolving to I : part of symbol 4-of C.C.A,, p, clxxv, to r
0.55 x. 0.23 .. 13.9 .. As last ; fine condition
0.55 x .0.27 .. 14.4 .. Swastika to r; perfect
0.55 x: 0.23 .. 14.6 .. As last ; slightly broken
0.59 x .0.29 .. 14.6 .. Slightly broken
0.59 x 0.25 .. 18.7 .. Swastika to r; head of goddess off flan
0.72 x .0.19 .. 18.7 .. (?) a part split off the side
0;57 x .0.27 .. 18.9 ..
0.55 x 0.25 .. 19.4 ..
0.59 x 0.31 .. 20.4 .. Arch over head ; worn.
0.59 x 0.31 .. 20.6 .. Swastika to right
0.66 x 0.17 .. 20.6 .. Obv; good; broken
0.66 x 0.31 .. 21.8 .. Swastika to r. ; fair
0.62 x 0.29 .. 23.5 ..
0.66 x 0.27 .. 23.5 .. Very worn:
0.70 x 0.35 .. 24.2 .. Broken and worn
0.66 x 0.39 .. 26.1. .. . Swastika to r.: worn
0.76 x 0.31 .. 26.1 .. . Swastika to r. ; slightly broken
0.57 x 0.29 .. 26.4 .. Rev., worn
0.64 x 0..39 .. 30.7 .. Swastika to r. symbol to its r
0.70 x 0.37 .. 32.l .. do
0.68 x 0.37 .. 32.4 .. Swastika to r. ; very worn
0.70 x 0,37 .. 34.3 ..
0.74 x 0.37 .. 34.4 .. Worn
0.76 x 0.39 .. 41.0 .. Swastika to r; symbol to its r
0.74 x 0.59 .. 50.1 .. Rev., die placed lozenge-wise ; goddess complete and placed normally ; worn
0.78 x 0.62 .. 76.0 .. Design as on last; slightly broken

(2) Struck 5. x-The design is that of the Chilaw cast plaques, but on the obverse is a nimbus round the head, and on the reverse symbol A is always on the right, and of the same pattern as .Junnar No. 12 ; in one instance it is the same as the left-hand symbol in variant (a) of the “Elephant and Swastika” round coins . . .

Size .. Weight
In In .. Grains.
1.24 x 0.49 .. 41.8 .. Parker, Ancient Ceylon, No. 3 (p. 475)
. 1.25 x 0.53. .. 44.5.. .. A.S., 41.1, Elala’s Tomb ; scaled on either side
1.l2 x 0.47 .. 37.9 .. 42c, Kiribat Vehera ; worn ..
l.l8 x 0.47 26.6 .. Elala’s Tomb ; very thin and worn, with sharp edges ; two holes en one side
1.4 x 0.46 .. 52.5 .. Parker, No. I (p. 474).
1.8 x 0.46.. 44 .. Parker, No. 2 (p. 475),Pl,23.


CHAPTER III- Ceylon -Coins and Currency- HW Codrington



17(i).Obv:.Within double rectangular frame enclosing dots bull standing l., (?) altar before feet Above and in front four symbols, including swastika . Those on the left are over part of the bulls Head, but are quite regular, and appear to be part of the design and not punched on afterward

Rev:Faint frame as on Obv, as if showing through the metal, but it does not correspond with the frame on the obverse.

      Size 1.12 x 1.02in. ; Thickness: 0.098 in. Weight: 198.5 gr. Cast edges showing join of mould. Colo. Mus., 230




Obv ;As (i), but no symbols and before bull a vase.

Rev: Blank , rough

    Size; 0.70x 0.70 x o.059 in. Weight: 36.4 gr. Cast: Worn. Colombo Museum, 231

Obv:As 2, but apparently bowl with cover before bull.

Rev:Square frame with large dots outside; within, a semicircle enclosing a small circle

    Size; 0.72 x 0.78in. Weight 31.9 gr. Broken and worn; thinner than last, Colo. Mus, 232

Obv; As last ; altar or vase before bull

    Size : .0.64 x 0.61 in. Weight: 10.9 gr full weight may have been from 17.5 to 18.6 grains. Broken and worn ; thinner than last; Colombo Mus, 233.

The three following are from Vallipuram :-


Obv:Within double rectangular frame enclosing dots bull standing right; before him flower vase.

Rev ; similar frame circle containing three dots
Size : 0.66 x 0.68 in. Weight : 43.8 gr Pieris, XIV, 16   -Pl 17

      (vi)The same, but bull standing l. Apparently once four dots, disposed in a cross
    Size : 0.78 x 0.80 in. Weight: 38.3 gr, Thin Ib, XIV, 15
      (vii).As last, but before bull vase. Presence of dots in circle doubtful
    Size : 0.62 x 0.61 in. Weight :27.2 gr. Thin ; two corners missing.

Nos. (i) and (iv) were found at the Buddhist Rail site at Anuradhapura, where also eldlings, Maneless Lion, ,, and two Roman ” third brass ” of Arcadius or Honorius were excavated ; there is no evidence that these were all found together. Nos. (ii) and (iii) come from the Kiribat Vehera in the same city. These square coins are commonly called ”Kurumbar” in Ceylon, an attribution without foundation. A cast copper piece remarkably like our No. (i) is given in I.M.C., Vol. I p. 200, and is figured in Pl. XXII, 19 ; its diameter is 1.1 inch and weight 139.6 grains. It is unassigned, but classified as North Indian and “early” Cast rectangular coins with a bull on the obverse and a circular solar emblem on the reverse are assigned to Ayodhya and to a period between c, B.C. 150 and AD 100 ; they are, however, much smaller and of rough workmanship (I.M.C. I, PL XIX 13).
The thin coins, especially the three from Vallipuram, resemble in fabric the ” Maneless Lion ” pieces” which have four dots in a circle on the reverse. A similar thin coin was found at Kilakkarai in South India and in the collection of the Rev. J. E. Tracy of Tirumangalam ; its diameter was 0.66, good ; rev., almost obliterate

Fractional Pieces.

Many sizes of the Rectangular bull may suggest fractional pieces. The small pieces, on  the reverse  a Dot in a triangle. The Dots or Bindhus were sacred symbols of India and were used on the Punch Mark Coins of North India. The Gupta & Hardakar Symbol number of these are shown below.

The Bull and Pot

The symbols Bull and Pot is found on coins nos ii and vii. The Bull and Pot symbols are found on either side of the Railed Swastika in the coins of deities and the seated Goddess. This combination is found on a series of coins found in the Island classified by Ms Chandrika Jayasinghe as series C in  “Foreign Influence on Ancient Sri Lankan Coinage” 1997.. As mentioned earlier by Codrington these are similar in fabric to the Mane-less lion pieces and share a common reverse of 4 Dots in a circle in some coins.The smaller coins published by Bopearachchi and Wickremasinghe in 1999 the reverse in a single dot in a triangle. The four dots in a circle and the single dot in a triangle are all enclosed in a square border. These were used on Punch mark Coins of India.

The Bull on seals found in Sri Lanka, did the sinhala artists of  ancient period depict a bull the that was in common use for the carts ,an important resource  for the trade and transport. Or did they depict a Bull that was strange to them and they just copied the Bulls on the coins of ancient India- the silver kahapanas?. There seems to be a different is the shape of the horns of the Bull, those on the silver kahapanas seems to point forward and very large  but those on our coins and on Seals etc do point backwards and less prominant. The hanging glands under the neck is prominant in the seals of Sri Lanka. Perhaps an expert evidence is required for further research.

Bull on silver Kahapanaof India used in Sri Lanka

Bulls depicted on the Gateways at Sanchi Vihare, India.

Some ancient Sealings on Bull found at Tissamaharama.

A Bull drawing a Half cart Load- Bhara-Bage

The coins in the British Museum was published by C Jayasinghe. The photos and line drawings of her are shown below.

Bopearachchi and Wickremasinghe published 4 coins from Akurugoda Tissamaharama of this series in 1999.

  1. Obv:Humped Bull to right.
    Rev:In square border a Dot in triangle
    Copper 10 x 10 mm : weight=0.24 grams
  2. Obv: Humped Bull to right
    Rev:In square border a Dot in triangle
    Copper 8 x 7 mm : weight=0.04 grams
  3. Obv: Humped Bull to left an object under head of Bull
    Copper 19 x 17 mm : weight= 2.68 grams

The Pot and Bull are two symbols that were used on Trade seals and on Signets.On the later coins on some seals and signets the both the Bull and the Pot were flanked by two lamps or Dipas, which were all  auspicious symbols , perhaps well known and easily recognized by the ancient Sinhalese. However these symbols are very much used on coins of ancient India and had a long history in the ancient past.

The History of Ancient Sri-Lankan Coins -Introduction.

The History of Ancient Sri-Lankan Coins


Its location in respect of  the Ocean currents and Trade winds brought most ancient mariners and traders ,who sailed the Indian Ocean ,to the Island of Sri Lanka.The sought after resources such as Pepper, Ivory, Pearls and Gem stones etc was main items of trade and exchange.

It is assumed that the  exchange goods was by the  system of barter. But money in any form if available could have been fruitfull, convenient and  practical for such trade. All these Traders had their own form of currency so did the neighboring countries . There is epigraphical evidence of indegenous  Traders and Trade corporations  or Guilds .  The Ships of the Ancient Sri Lankan are mentioned in ancient woprld history , there were many  expeditions undertaken by our Kings, that are mentioned in our chronicles .

Every self respecting Monarch of the ancient period  minted their own coins, to express their political authority and will over their  area of control.The finds of large quantities of coin like objects that were produced in our Island and the availability of copper and other minerals,the evidence of ancient copper and Iron smelting founderies in the Island. All the requirements with evidence for Sri Lanka  to have had some sort of a coin based economy is available.

Yet some numismatist is of the opinion that Sri Lanka used the silver kahapanas or Punch Marked Coins for foreign trade. So did all the other states in the Indian sub-continant. PMC’s are found in every state and janapada of India. But all these states had their own copper and gold currency in addition to to the silver PMC’s, which was the or as  common currency of the Indian states. The  old story of John Still in th late 19 Cent , when a few coins were  published was that the first local coin was issued by Parakramabahu I in the 12 Cent AD. Now the date has been pushed back that the first coin was the Gold Coin of perhaps the 8 cent AD, until then the Roman Copper coins[ were only used. The so called imitations, minted in fair quantities to the Roman standard was by local minters. They had  their own symbols  insted of Roman symbols. AThe little work done by Walberg need be continued and the word imitations be given little respect to what it really was.

The History of Ancient Sri-Lankan Coins

The commonest of all ancient Sri Lankan pieces is perhaps the rectangular shaped coin with the Standing or Seated  figure on one face and the Railed Swastika on the other. A few Numismatist insist that these are not coins for the undermentioned reasons. But they agree that they were could be assigned to a period from 2 Cent BC to about 5 Cent AD.

  • the flan are rectangular ,coins of the West were circular.
  • Curved top edge flans
  • edges of flan is curved forming a oblong shape.
  • Few are pierced and used as pendents.Only a few, these were pretty  to be used as necklace as well. A usual practice adopted and applies to other coins.
  • few flans were bent,a lot are broken, not all but less than 1%.
  • few flans have serrated edges
  • They are found in relious sites etc. [ But so are most world coins . Religious Theory- Origin of Coisn do not aspply to Sri Lanka]

A study of the nature of ancient Coinage a coin cannot be defined by shape and size. Roundness is only a fairly recent characteristic of coins, even this gives way to multi-faceted shapes to differentiate between issues and fractions.[ Understanding Coin-P.J Casey1986 – B.T Batsford Ltd London]. But those who propose the theory that Sri Lankan did not  mint coins until the 8 Cent AD, have not  even considered the fair numbers of Round and squre coins having  very noticable similar symbols as those of the above Oblong pieces . 

A good example is that when an inscribed coin with a lion  and a Rialed swastika  was dug up at Tissa, Ruhuna in layer  dated to 6 Cent AD but the letters of the script is definitely of the 1/2 Cent AD type , R.Walberg had to prove that it  may have  belonged to the Mahrathis family of coins. He has not compared the symbols and fabric etc  on this lion coin with symbols of coins like objects that were found in the same location but in a very much lower layers[ 1 Cent AD]. Two Lion and Railed Swastika Coins and the Tree and Railed Swastika etc were found in the identical location. All these are round and non of them had been perforated.

Even Romans had serrated edge coins and our modern 2 and 10 cents are serrated.These coins were minted by craftsman through a period of 500 odd years in various metals, some were struck and some Cast.I think these small changes is not out of the ordinary.These characteristics may prove useful in categorizing them and dating them.

A ancient Definition of Coins of the East

The point here is will these flans with symbols on them will be accepted by the people as a means of exchange?. In different parts of the world, money in all shapes, forms and materials was used.There was no one standard. But what of our ancient past?.The earliest clue perhaps found in the text defining what money was in given in Samantapasadika an commentary written by Buddhagoghosa during the 5 Cent AD. These were copied from ancient text available to him at the Abeyagiri Vihare

In this passage kahapanas is either made of gold or that of silver[rupia]or made of copper or brass,etc; the wooden masaka of Sara wood or outside of Bamboo or lastly of Tali-pot leaf on which a figure is cut ; the masaka made of Lac or gum on which a figure is caused to rise ;lastly on bone, skin or fruits or leaf;whether with or with out a raised image ‘.

A disc of Gum of trees or Lac , the property of Col Pearce.RA published in Numismata Orientala- TW Rhys David is shown below.

A Coin Like Object of Resin or Lac.


The reader has to ask him self if the symbols that are placed on these metal flans as in the passage of Samantapasadika figure is cut or figure is caused to rise is recognized by both parties in the exchange of good or services and accepted without question. Shown below are a set of symbols found on ancient coins of Sri Lanka found in layers excavated at Salgaswatte and Gedige dated between 400 BC -100 AD. These are categorized into . The ancient Indian text Arthasastra of Chanaka or Kautiliya, [King Asoka’s and his fathers adviser] would have been available to our kings.King Devastation sent an Accountant Tisa as one of his em-miseries to Asoka, and he was given the rank of Setthi a trader banker during his stay of 3 months in Asoka court.Rev Mahinda and Theri Sangamitta comes from strong family tradition of Setthi or banker/ traders.

Description of Coins

A Hand full or a Pana

An inscribed  coin like Lead [Pb] object was found by the gem miners of Akurugoda Tissamaharama. This was read as under by Raj Somadeva and published in the Saddhamangala Karunaratne- Felicitation Volume of the Archeological Survey  Department in 2002. Kudakatisa putaha panaya A Pana, belonging to the son of Khuddatissa Location : Akurugoda, Tissamaharama in the Hambantota District. Context  : un-stratified Medium   : metal (lead) Present location  : Brig. Gamini. Hettiarachchi collection This is a coin about 1.08 cms in its diameter. The obverse of the object consists of an elaborate :flower design. On the other side there are ten Brahmi letters indited along the edge of the disk. On the centre of this side is a figure of a Srivatsa symbol. The inscription on the reverse side can be read as ‘Kudakatisa putaha Panaya. This long word can be divided in to three separate words as kudakatisa, putaha and panaya. The word kudakatisa is no doubt a personal name. Word kudaka can be derived from the Sanskrit word ksudra and its Pali derivation khuddaka, which means ‘small’. The word panaya is a tatsama of the Sanskrit word pana. According to Codrington pana was a kind of value measure specially used for early coinage in Northern India (Codrington, 1924:2). Therefore, the meaning of the present inscription is ‘the coin that belongs to the son of Khuddatissa. If the line of derivation, which is emphasized here, is correct, it is very interesting to note that it reveals to us a new way of presenting coins at such an early date. Also it directly famishes us a clue to understand that this small metal disk had a coin value at that time. The word Kanakatisa is derived form the Sanskrit words Krsna Tisya. It is also a possibility that its derivation is from Sanskrit Kama Tisya. There are three inscriptions at a site called Nuvarakanda in the Kurunegala district mentioned about a person named Kanatisa (CJSG II: 126). The word Krsna literary means the colour of Black or dark Blue and has so many adopted meanings. It is also used to denote an avatar of the god Vishnu in the Vedic literature.


The souces of religious text that is available in the form Buddhist  stories was the period before Gautama Buddh[ % Cent BC] from the time of Vippassi Buddha. According to Mahapadana suttra Atuvava there were five Types of money[ Rev Meda-UyangodaVimalakirthi Sthaira] 


The Fourth type coin in use in India was  with impression of the Tortoise on Gold flan, perhaps similar to th ancient coins of Greece. None of these  type have been found in Sri Lanka. But Objects in the shape of Tortoises and with impression of it has been found at Tissamaharama.

 1.The turtle was the symbol on one of the earliest Greek coin-The silver Stater.

2.The  use of the tortice / Turtle figure on metal continued to used  in Sri Lanka . A coin like object  that was found in Ruhuna and  published by Bopearachchi & Wickremasinghe in Ruhuna- An Ancient Civilization Revisited ,is in the shape of a Turtle.Two of them A41 and A42 are inscribed in the ancient letters of the Sinhalese as ‘Of Tina” and  “Of Samudda“.?.  Two of these found at Akurugoda is shown below. 


Iron was initially used in ancient Greece as a standard for exchange in the form of bars or spits. A hand full or six in number was termed a  Drachma [A hand-full in sinhala a Dharana or in India a and full of cowries was a Pana].The Drachma  was used during the invasion by Julius Ceaser and found in UK. They were also found deposited in the temple of Hera at Argos and Phiedon of Argos. Phiedon of Argos had ordained that a first coin in history a silver Stater struck by Ageina, Greece was to be accepted as two Drachmas. The closest commercial town to Argos was Corinth. there is an inscription in a temple where its stated that ” I am a Drachma”suggesting that an Aegentian coin was fixed to the stone as a sort of exhibit to let be known that this lump of silver[The stater or standard coin] was hence forth to be recognised as the equivalent of the old bundle of iron bars. The closest parallel in Sri Lanka is a coin now in possession of Major General Gamini Hettiarchchi which is inscribed as Kudaktisa Putaha Panaya which means “A Pana belonging to the Son of Khuddatissa”. [ Raj Somadeva]. This is perhaps unique that Sri Lanka has evidence of a Token made in lead that is worth a Pana in value. Pana were believed to be copper coin. The meaning of Pana can also be taken as a hand-full-According to A Conningham it was hand-full of Cowries i.e numbered 80 as an equivalent of a silver karshapana. The copper standard for ancient coins was according to Dr PE Peries- Nagadipa- RAS Journal XXVIII, 1919.

1/16 Pana ..   .. 9 Grains
1/8 pana .. Ardha-kakini .. 18 grains
1/4 pana .. Kakini .. 36 grains
1/2 pana .. ardha-pana .. 72 grains
Pana ..   .. 144 grains
1 1/2 pana ..   .. 180 grains
2 pana .. Duvi-pana .. 288 grains
4 pana .. Pala
4 Palas of copper .. 1 Silver-pana or Kahapana

In the ancient text Attha-katha on the Dhammapada-the fractional pieces of the coins is described in the story of Sirima. Here the King request for any one to take away the body of Sirima but as nobody agrees the valued is halved each time. At last the price is said to be a Kahapana, then half kahapana,a quarter [pada], a masaka and Kakanika and ultimately nobody took her even for nothing. In the Mahawansa the during the period of the second Buddhist council, the Sanga at Vesali had requested money which then were kaphapanas, half kahapanas and massas. The Silver standard was the Karshapana or kahapana[Sinhala],The silver coin of 1/2 the weight are the Single die coins and and 1/4 weight pieces are recorded in the Island. As we allocate coins which may be parallel to the Kings of the Island, you will see that all these standards are found in fair quantities throughout the historical sites that have been excavated. Evidence of a standard weight system for coins of different metals and fractional pieces was in practice in the Island and in India


Is it a coincidence that small objects in the shape of Turtles were dug up in ancient Mahagama, some of these are inscribed . One of them published by Bopearachchi and Wickremasinghe in Ruhuna Revisited has on it an inscription Sata which is a Hundred. Weather these were used as Tokens for transactions we may never know, but the ancient Sri Lankans had the capability of producing these objects and they would have very well served the purpose of small change Token for the larger value Kahapanas. These are of lead and easily minted could have been useful as Token for the smaller denomination copper coins which was a weight with a commodity value.



In the ancient world in Greek Colony of Olbia bronze pieces in the shape of fish was cast and circulated along normally shaped money[ Coin Collecting-JG.Milne,CHV.Sutherland and JDA Thompson,1950]. These pieces had the token value that ancient people got used to value them a for a standard Fish that was earlier used in exchange or as barter for other goods. This is similar to the small knife coins of China which the ancient Chinese used as token that had a value of a full size specimen of a knife Many tokens or money type objects has been discovered as stray find from Tissamaharama. They are of two shapes and are similar to objects used ancient Greek Island in the Mediterranean Sea. The first is many “Inscribed and un-inscribed Fish” which may have been used as token in the exchange of goods or and for any ritual practice. Some cast lead fish that are inscribed has been found in ancient Ruhuna. Some believe these to be ritual objects, another possible explanation may be that these were tokens an ancient practice for the exchange of goods. Many of them were published by Bopearchchi & Wickremasinghe- In  RuhunaAn Ancient Civilization Revisited. One of them No A 43 is inscribed Tisaha – Of Tisa[a common name , also used by Kings] . What of Tisa. Was it a Token?. or  Coin?>






Coins without Name or Ruler

PARA 7. The Ceylon type, in its completeness, is as follows: –

Symbol 2 is found on a Mathura coin of about the second century B.C (I.M.C., I, p. 192), on those of the East Calukya dynasty AD. 615-633 {ib ., p . 3 12), and on the Potgul Vehera inscription of Parakrama Bahu I (A.S., 1906). It also appears to the left of a figure standing, as in the Ceylon type on a lotus stalk on a Panlcala coin (Rapson’s Indian Coins, Pt. III,16).

These symbols apparently are intended for standing and hanging lamps, indicative of the religious liberality of the king. I am indebted to Dr. Henderson, late Superintendent of the Madras Museum, and to Mr. J, Allan, .of the British Museum, for the interpretation of these symbols.
The fire-altar or sacrificial lamp appears on the Kushan and Gupta coins, and in the medieval series and the fractional pieces of the gold kahavanuva and on the , Setu copper coins, where it is elongated into a trident. From the legend Lakshmi in the quarter pieces, and the presence of the lotus ,the chank ,and the cakra or discus, described below as an annulet, it perhaps may be surmised that the standing figure on our coins, with the exception of the quarters, was originally intended for Vishnu, the guardian of Ceylon, or rather, as only two arms are portrayed, for his incarnation as Rama. In the following pages the kahavanuva and its fractions, unless otherwise stated, are of gold. The subtypes are determined by the symbol or emblem in the hand of the figure on either side, and in the case of the reverses of the fractional pieces by the symbol over the legend. For the reasons given below these coins, with the possible ,exception of the massa piece, are to be assigned to the tenth century, and some perhaps, to the later years of the ninth

    1. Obverse.

      Standing figure, head to right, crowned, clothed in a dhoti, indicated by a curved line on either side of, and sometimes by one or more between the legs, The figure stands upon a lotus plant stalk with varying finials. The left arm is bent, and holds a flower or other object before the face[ In type I coins the left arm is bent to hip and hold no object,a crescent moon at 1 0-clock ] ,the right is extended with the hand over symbol left, and, the elbow over symbol 2, which, in the later coins, gradually crowds out the first symbol.

      Symbols around Figure
    2. 1(a). consists of a straight shaft with short cross pieces, ending in four prongs which are narrow and curve upwards and downwards.
    3. 1(b). Variation of the above; the prongs are thick, and the head of the symbols is somewhat like the calices of two half-opened flowers, one being placed above the other.
      In both varieties of this symbol the head points upwards.
    4. 2. is similar to symbol I (a), but with plain shank and upside down.
    5. 3.To the right a varying number of annulets or balls. The whole in a bead circle.
    7. Reverse.

      Similar figure, head right, crowned, squatting upon a bed-like throne or asana, represented by an oblong frame divided lengthwise by a line and crosswise by a varying number of lines ; dhoti represented by one or more lines between legs, the two ends at the waist appearing at either side of the body. The right arm is pendent over the right knee, which is drawn up; the left arm is bent, and holds an object as on the obverse. In field to right, legend. The whole in bead circle.

    8. Type IA. “Sun and Moon.

      1. Obv. : As type, but with considerable variations. Head, some what circular ; nose, mouth and eye shown ; crown, a semicircular line behind head with slight bifurcation at top, and a small horizontal line below ; behind it a similar but shorter line ending in a dot ; In rear a dot Left arm bent in to breast ; elbow outwards ; nothing in hand. Dhoti has two lines between legs. Stalk consists of dots, ending L in chank, r. in five-leaved flower, somewhat like symbol l (b)of type. To l. symbols I (a) and.2;to r. symbol 1(a) tilted to tr.; above this, a crescent, and below, four annulets with dot in centre of each . All in bead circle,Rev. : As type. Crown, a curved line with dot attached to upper outer edge; behind, a short vertical line ending in dot at bottom ; in rear a dot. In l hand, a small crescent with dot above (sun and moon). Dhoti, two long lines between legs Asana, long with five cross lines.
        Legend : in three lines :

        1 2 3 4 5 2 3
        Sri Lam ka Vi bhu 4 5

        Anuavara under arm. All in bead circle. H. W. C. Diameter 0.79 in. Weight 67.5 gr. C. A., I, IV, Pl.45 Slightly worn, but in very good preservation. The legend is last vowel being clear.

      2. Wider flan. As (1), but legend not so bold, and the crown varies –
        1. Obv.: A Curved line with short horizontal line below; behind. Two dots connected by a oblong ;
          Rev.: A curved line, with dot behind upper half, and short horizontal line below; behind, a line ending at top in dot: in rear a dot.

          Legend as (l), but last vowel mark reversed 3
          4 5

          Nikula find; fine specimen. Diameter : 0.86 in. Weight : 69.3 gr.Pl. 46

        2. Obv. : A curved line, with short horizontal line below; behind, two dots connected by a curved line; in rear a dot.
          Rev. : As Obv., but the curved connecting line is shorter.

          Legend : last vowel mark absent 3
          4 5
        3. Nikula find. Diameter : 0.87 in.Weight 68.l gr. C. A.,Pl.XIV,2.
        4. Obv. : As Obv. of (b).
          Rev.: As rev. of (l).

          Legend : last vowel mark doubtful, as slightly worn: 3
          4 5

          Nikula find. Diameter : 0.86 in. Weight : 67.9 gr.

        5. A coin of Brig Munasinghe.
          Obv:Standing figure symbol 1 and 2 similar ,3 Golas to right of figure. The stalk ends with two Chanks. Sanda Sanda type.
          Rev:Seated on an 14 compartment asana
          Size= Cms Weight= gms
    9. Type IB “Chank over Vase”

      The Coin in Codrington has a Chank over Vase

        1. As A(1)
          Obv: Crown, semicircular line from top to back of head, with short horizontal line beneath ;.-in rear a small vertical line, behind which a dot. Lotus stalk terminates on either side in Chank. To r. four annulets, each with dot in centre.
          Rev. ; Crown, almost as on Obv. Asana ,long with four cross lines. In l. hand vase above which a chank.

          Legend : 3 Anusvara under arm

          Colombo Museum. 56. Diameter :0.81in Weight : 68.2 gr   Pl 47

        2. As last , Crown, as Obv of A (2) (b). Stalk ends in five-leaved flower at either end.
          Rev. : crown, similar to Obv. In l hand a vase from which springs a plant composed of a straight line and four branches or leaves. table align=center> 1 Legend : 2 3 Anusvara under arm. Third and fifth have no vowel marks 45 Nikula find. H. W. C. Diameter : 0.88 in Weight 68.9 CA,. PL XIV,3
      1. A coin of Mr OMR Sirisena ,
        Obv: .
        Rev. :. Diameter : 0. in Weight

    10. Type I C- Full Vase

      1. Coin of Mr OMR Sirisena.
        Obv: Standing figure flnked by symbols 1 and 2 as usual,The stalk ends with two bo-ankulas. Bo-Bo Type. br>Rev. : hoversover a 10 compartment Asana.
        Diameter : 0. in Weight

      2. Two coins in the Colombo Museum


    11. Type I D-Bo-Ankula

      1. Coin of Brig B Munasinghe
        Obv: Standing figure and usual two Lamps[Dipa] and Srivatsa. Stalks end with
        Rev: Hovers over 10 compartment Asana
        Diameter : 0. in Weight

      2. Coin of OMR Sirisena.


    12. Type I E-Padma-kekula

      Coin of Mr OMR Sirisena.
      Obv:As usual, the Stalks end with two Chanks[Sanka],four Golas.
      Rev. :Hovers over 10 compartment Asana
      Diameter : 0. in Weight

       A Coin of Raja Wickremasinghe  Weight 4.35 gms.

    13. Type I F-Srivatsa

      1. Varietion 1

        1. Coin of Brig B.Munasinghe
          Obv:Symbol No 2 , the Prong of srivatsa is joined to shaft. The Lotus stlk ends with a Sanda and Bo.Four golas to right.
          Rev. :Compartments are blurred.
          Diameter : 0. in Weight
        2. Coin of Mr OMR Sirisena.
        3. Coin of Wng Cdr Raja Wickremasinghe.

      2. Varietion 2
        ( Coin Found at Kaludiya-pokuna[ Archeological Dept Phamphlet]
        Obv: The symbol No 2 is replaced by a Chank over Pot to left of standing figure. A Sanka and Bo at end of stalk. Four Golas to right.
        Rev. :Srivatsa has two dots on either side of middle shaft.The compartments are oval in shape.
        Diameter : 0. in Weight


    14. Type I I-Sanka

      Coin of Mr OMR Sirisena.
      Obv: Crown, a semicircular line, with a curved smaller line on rear and a small angular line below; The lotus stalk ends with two four leaved Bo-ankula.
      Rev. : crown a semicircular line with two ball attached to bottom on either side . In l hand vase from which springs a plant composed straight tine with four leaves . Asana, long, with four cross lines ,
      Diameter : 0. in Weight


    15. Type I G-Adahanda

      1. Coin of Brig B Munasinghe.
        Rev. :
        Diameter : 0. in Weight

      2. Coin of Mr OMR Sirisena.
      3. A Coin in Colombo Museum.


    16. Type I H-Flower

      [New Type]-Unpublished
      Coin of Wng Comd Raja Wickremasinghe.
      Diameter : 0. in Weight

    17.  9. Type II All as in type
      (1) ” Lotus and adahanda;”
      Obv. : Head as on l B (l), but more oblong. Crown, a semicircular line, below which a short curved line (perhaps, representing earring); behind a triangle of dots conjoined. Dhoti two lines. In l. hand full-blown lotus represented by a circle of dots with dot in centre Lotus stalk, left  chank; r
      aight. variant of that on I A (1). To l. symbols l (c) and 2; to r., four annulets, each with dot in centre.
      Rev.: crown as on Obv. In l .hand two semicircles one with in the other ,i.e., the design used as a cattle brand and called adahanda (half moon)- Long Asana, four cross lines.

      Legend : 3 Anuvaraunder arm
      4 5

      Rhys Davids, 3 Brit Mus,. 6 Diameter : 0.68 in Weight :68.5 gr
      (2) Adahanda and lotus
      Obv. : Same
      Rev : Similar

      Legend : 2 3 third Akshara leaning on its side to left
      4 5

      Colo.Mus.,6l. Diameter:0.80in.Weight:67.2gr PI.48.

      Variant.-Crown, without small horizontal line. Dot under right arm. To r three annulets. Lotus stalk ends in adahanda at either end.
      Rev. As (2), but legend

      Rev as(2),but Legend : 3 Anuvara under arm
      4 5

      Diameter 0.74in. Weight : 65.9 gr Pale gold
      (3) ” Double adahanda.” As in I B (1)
      Obv : oblong head ; Crown, a some what curved line behind head, three dots in triangle in rear, In l .hand adahanda .Above dhoti to l. a dot; two lines between legs Lotus stalk .full-blown lotus, r. chank with group of three linked dots at outer end. Symbol 1 (c) slightly thicker ; Three annulets each with dot in Centre.
      Rev: Dhoti, two lines. In l. hand adahanda. Asana short, three cross lines.

      Legend : 2 3 Anuvaraer arm

      Colo Mus., 58. Diameter: 0.76 in. Weight : 66.9 gr. PI.49.

    18. variant.-Obv : Legs, less bent ; one of middle lines of dhoti longer than legs ends as usual with two lines in lieu of three dots.
      Rev.: Asana fairly long.
      Colo Mus., 57 Diameter :0.77in, Weight : 67.4gr.
    19. (4.) Jessamine bud and lotus., As (3), but rougher.
      Obv : In l. hand Jessamine bud, narrow and oblong. Symbol 1(b). Lotus stalk ends in two full-blown lotus flowers. Three annulets as above.
      Rev : In l. hand full-blown lotus ; asanalong three cross lines. TR

      Legend : 2 3 Anusvara under arm

      H. W. C. Diameter : 0.74in. Weight : 67.5 gr. C. A., Pl. XIV. 4. PI.50.

      variant.-Short asana, two cross lines.

      Legend : 2
      4 5

      Colo Mus, 62 Diameter :0.76in Weight :67.3gr. Pale gold.

      Obv: Crown, line behind head, in rear three dots linked in triangle. In l. hand a ball ; symbol  1, a long object, with three short lines across it at base and divided into two prongs at upper end, practically as in II (4) ; symbol 2, very short. Dhoti, two lines. Four annulets and one ball above. This ball probably is meant for the sun, as its place is taken by a crescent in other coins, e.g., No. 2 in Chap. VII, section 4.
      Rev : Crown , as Obv. In l. hand annulet, without dot in centre possibly the discus of Vishnu. Dhoti, two lines. Small asanatwo cross lines.

      Diameter Weight ..
      In Gr. ..
      Colo. Mus., 60 0.84 67.3 .. Worn
      Colo. Mus., 59 0.78 67.3 ..
      Colo Mus, 78 .. 0.76 67.3 .. Yellow gold Pl 51
      P.E.P .. 0.76 65.2 .. -. ..
      H.WC .. 0.80 66.4 .. Pale gold.Pl.52

      From the treatment of the crown and head and of the Sri and Vowel mark these coins would appear to be following kahavanu. They are of two sizes.
      A copper coin of this type, once gilt, weighs 54.9 grains. A cast plated coin of the same kind much worn and weighing 46 grains, is in Mr. Bell’s collection. C.A., Pl. XIV, 5.

      Obv : Crown, thick straight line with triangle in rear. In l. hand open Jessamine flower (piccamala) viewed from side. Dhoti, one line, longer than legs. Lotus stalk, with small circle in centre, ending l. in chank, r. in flower as in four annulets and ball above.
      Rev. : Crown as Obv.Dhoti, bent line, with small line in angle. In l. hand chank : asana short. two cross lines.

    20. Pl 53,In legend Anusvara over La.
      Diameter Weight
      In Gr.
      R.D.,4 (Brit. Mus.) . 0.80 65.2 ..
      P.E.P .0.76 .. 66.6 .. 10 ..
      Madras Museum, I and 2 .. .. ..
      Madras Museum,3;copper gilt .. 37.3 ..
      Dr. Henderson ; copper gilt .. 0.76 63.2 ..
      Colo. Mus., 63 0.84 65.8 .. Slightly broken; yellow gold
      H.C.P.B .. 0.84 66.7 .. C.A.. Pl. XIV. 6
      H.W.C .. 0.82 66.1 .. -.

      A silver coin the writer’s cabinet. It is in good condition, but is cut down, and weighs 25.4 grains; it is of doubtful authenticity


Kahavanu 8. The Legend on the kahavanu is commonly read Sri Lankesvara on the authority of Prinsep’s {Essays,Vol. I, p. 421) ; Thomas, however, disagreed with that scholar’s reading, preferring Lamki Viha or Lamke Veha. The last akshara in no case resembles ra, and in the earlier and clearer specimens is either bha or ha. The tempting solution Sri Lamka Simha, ” lion of Ceylon,” has been suggested by Mr. Krishna Sastri, but it is difficult to find any form of S like the fourth akshara. It is now proposed to read the legend Sri Lamka Vibhu, ” the fortunate ,lord of Ceylon.” This is closer to Thomas’ reading, and is supported by what seems to be a vowel mark under the last akshara in type I A (1) below. Vibhu a title of Vishu.

Type I A

Types I and II are characterized by the elaborate formation of the Sri the fineness of the lettering, and the more sinuous lines of the body Type I -The crown in some resembles the helmet of the “seated horseman’ aT Isurumuniya, Anuradhapura. The characteristic symbol is on the reverse only.

10. Type III, characterized by the Sri, which somewhat resembles that on the issues of the Cola king Rajaraja; other letters of legend usually in their proper places, those on the right being slightly higher than those left ; the letters are thicker than in Types I and II – The Human figure also is coarser.
Type III A. ” Ball and Annulet,”

Type III B ” Jessamine flower and chank.”

Type III C ” Jessamine flower and chank.” As III B, but distinctly coarser; of two varieties:-
(l) The figure almost exactly resembles that of’ the ” Ceylon type ” coins of the Cola kings R.ajaraja and Rajadhiraja (v., Chap. VIX, COLA). Body, thick; and on Obv., legs nearly straight; dhoti, one line.
Rev. : Dhoti, two lines ; asana, short, two cross lines. Pl 54.

Diameter Weight
In Gr.
Colo. Mus..64. 0.87 66.7 ..
H.W.C .0.82 .. 68.1 ..
H.C.P.B .. 0.84 66.2 .. Pierced, C.A., Pt. XIV, 7

(2) Very coarse.

R.D.,1 .. 0.80 .. 67 ..
R.D.,2 .. 0.74 .. 63.2 ..
H.C.P.B .. 0.84 ..

The gold kahavanu, once fairly common in Madura District, South India, appear to be all of Type III


The Legend on the kahavanu is commonly read Sri Lankesvara on the authority of Prinsep’s {Essays,Vol. I, p. 421) ; Thomas, however, disagreed with that scholar’s reading, preferring Lamki Viha or Lamke Veha. The last akshara in no case resembles ra, and in the earlier and clearer specimens is either bha or ha. The tempting solution Sri Lamka Simha, ” lion of Ceylon,” has been suggested by Mr. Krishna Sastri, but it is difficult to find any form of S like the fourth akshara . It is now proposed to read the legend Sri Lamka Vibhu, ” the fortunate ,lord of Ceylon.” This is closer to Thomas’ reading, and is supported by what seems to be a vowel mark under the last akshara in type I A (1) below. Vibhu a title of Vishu.The legend was read as Sri Lamkeswara, Sri Lanka Vibhu and Sri Lanka Viha



In primitive societies men batered or exchanged one article against an other.The invention of coins was developed by stages.An intermediate step as a means of exchange was when the man who chipped the axe out of flint exchanged them with a hunter or food gatherer.The next step was perhaps when knifes was first made of Iron, they were exchanged for others articles. Similarly Fish, Cattle and Sea shell[Cowries] etc was used as a means of exchange by variuos societies. Evidence of a later stage in the development of money where smaller replicas of Knife and metal Cowires were fabricted due to a shortage of sea cowires in China.Small replicas of Fish is found in ancient Greek fishing villages[Olbia]. There is evidence through-out the ancient world of different artcles of varied objects were used as a means of exchange . This was before the invention of money coined in Silver or copper of a accepted weight and size.

Evidence of early transactions in Sri Lanka .

Prehistory of Sri Lanka-SU Deraniyagala- Addendum III

(a)Batalonda Cave at Kitulagala. Dr Siran Deraniyagala excavated perforated sea shells that were carried inland to Kitulgala by the inhabitants of the Island 15,000 years ago.The possibility of these been exchaged for other goods cannot be ruled out.
(b)Gedige Excavation 1969. Dr Deraniyagala has C14 dated a layers of earth where to 2000-3000 BC where many stone tools and stone flakes were found. The presence of the flakes indicate production of stone tools.This evidence of specialiasation in the manufacture of stone tools that was possibly exchanged for other goods.

Railed Swastika Series I – Large Elephant , Lion , Horse and Bo-Tree in Enclosure

This is an update of HW Codrington 1924-CCC.


In this blog I have added all data available to me which is not in  that outstanding  book of HW Codrington which was published in 1924 which is the bible for all Numismatists.

Part I- Horse & Swastika Coins.

Part II- Lion and Railed Swastika Coins

Part III- Tree & Railed Swastika

14. A solitary coin of this type was found at Kantarodai. In size and general appearance it is closely ,connected with the large” Elephant and Swastika” pieces, but is comparatively thin. It is much worn and considerable part of the flan projects beyond the die on one side.
Obv. : Within two line circles, at bottom a horse r.; above, a tree in enclosure, with group of three dots to L
Rev. : Within a line circle, railed swastika ; to r. a rectangle in a semicircle based on the line circle above, and between this and the swastika another rectangle divided into four compartments and placed diamond-wise. The design on the right half of the obverse and on the left of the reverse, as well as the upper portion both faces, is illegible.
Diameter : l.49 in. Weight : 109.4 gr. Pieris, XIII,


The Lion and Railed Swastika pieces are only found in Sri Lanka. The distribution is from the North in Jaffna , Anuradhpura in the centre and in Ruhuna in the South of the Island.

The  minor  symbols flanking the the lion on the obverse and the Railed swastika on the reverse ,are same as on all coins of this Series. These were found and recorded   in archeological excavations at Anuradhapura and in Tissamahrama. They have been found in the same pit at various levels, . There is no coin of India or any where else in the world  that matches these symbols exactly. The placement of these symbols namely the Caitiya, the Standard , The Triratna , the Three Dots  etc has no parallel any where else in the world except those coins of this series.A summery of the symbols which are worm off due to usage in most coins shown  below.

Finds .

Codrington published a single coins from D PE Peiries collection from Kantarodi as paragraph 15 in Ceylon-Coins and Currency . 1924

15. Obv : Mane-less lion, tail curved over back, standing to r. upon (.?) caitya. To right variation of symbol No.1 . All in Line circle.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to r; apparently traces of letters to r. Rectangular.
Size : 0.47 x 0.55 in. Weight : 25.6 gr. Thick. Pl. 11. From Kantarodai Pieris, XIV, 9.

Lion & swastika

PE Peiris's Coin - Kantarodi Jaffna

Line drawing of Dr PE Peiris coin from Kantarodi

PE Peiris - Kantarodi

New Finds.

Ms Chandrika Jayasinghe in an article “New Investigations on some unique type of Inscribed Coinage” in the Island 9 Mar 1997 identified 2 type/ Sizes of the Lion coin.Recent discoveries during the German excavations at Tissamaharama has added a heavy lion coin which is inscribed [R Walberg ].


A.The first type is the heavy coin of about 10 Grams in weight. The dimension are not given.

B.The second type of coin is about 7 gm in weight and are inscribed is described by Codrington above. There are small variation in this size coins.The Caitiya and the inscribed letters may appear either on the obverse or reverse .

C.The third is a much Smaller coin[Ms. C. Jayasinghe] and is  not inscribed?.There are many variations in the symbols above lion and on either side of Railed swastika.


15 a.

Obv : Mane-less lion, tail curved over back, standing to r. upon (.?) caitya which is between its hind legs and front paws. The letters in early prakrit read from bottom ” Ma Ha Ra Ja Ti Sa Pu Ta sa puta …. . All in Line circle.This was read as Maharatipujasa etc by R.Walberg.

Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to r; Diamond shape.The Railed Swastika distinguishes this coin from other coins with similar obverse of the same period found in India, See Note
Size : ? mm. Weight :10.1 gr.

Akurugoda 1 cent BC



The Caitiya is under the lion and inscribed around Railed Swastika ?.

15 b. Obv : Trace of front legs of lion or horse?,  standing to r. upon (.?) caitya. . part of Line circle to right below caitya.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to r; Circular. German Excavation from Aklurugoda
Size : mm. Weight : gr.


15c[Variation] .The Inscription is on the reverse around the Railed Swastika.

A coin of Dr Kavan Ratnatunga which has only been lightly cleaned..
Obverse : Lion jumping to the right with arched back and front legs stretched forward. Three heaped caitya below. Parts of few Brahmi text characters visible
Reverse : Railed swastika revolving to right (clockwise) at center of coin. Brahmi text characters visible all around periphery
Size 16.4 mm
Thickness 3.5 mm
Weight 2.76 grams


15.d .Obv : lion, standing to right over caitya
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to right .
Size : mm. Weight : gr.


MR C Seenicutti's Jaffna Coin

Mr C Seenicutti's Coin

15e. Obv : lion, standing to right over caitya. Traces of letters around lion.All in Line circle.triangular symbol on left.  Property of Mr C.Seenicotti
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to right ; Ashaft to left.  Octagonal shape cut into 3/4 part.Size : 23 mm. Weight : 74 grains.

15 f.A coin found in the citadel of Anuradhapura, Wijebahu Palace during excavation by paleographically dated to 1-2 cent AD.Published by Ms C .Jayasinghe The Island -9 Mar 1997.

Obv : A lion, with tail curved over back, standing to r. upon a three arched caitya. The letters in early prakrit read from bottom ” va …va ..ya Ra Ja Pu Ta se Na..” . All in Line circle.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to right in centre with two triangulkar headed symbols .
Size= 20.04 mm; Weight 6.79 Grams: thickness=3 mm

Wijeyaba Palace - 190-100BC

Inscribed - ......Va Ra Ja Pu Ta Se Na .........

No   Weight-grams   Size mm   Obverse Legend in Brahmi   .. Railed Swatika
E1   6.77   25 x 19   YES   .. Yes
E2   3   18   YES   .. Yes
E3   4.06   22   YES   .. Yes
E4   6.28   22   YES   .. Yes
E5   3.30   21 x 12   YES   .. Yes
E6   304   18   YES   .. Yes
E9   7.78   26 X 25   YES   .. Yes

15.f. Table of  Coins of Wing Comd, Raja Wickremasinghe .Published in RUHUNU- AN ANCIENT CIVILIZATION RE-VISITED.
The inscription around Lion on obverse ?.

15 h[Variation] .

Mr OMR Sirisena Coin

Obv : lion, standing to r. Traces of letters around lion.All in Line circle.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to right over caitya; . Rectangular.
Size : mm. Weight : gr.

Mr OMR Sirisena Coin


15.h.a A coin of Brig B Munasinghe from Akurugoda.Octagonal shape cut as in Mr Seenicuttis coins.




15 i.A coin of MrKNV Seyone from Kantarodi Jaffna.Published by Ms C .Jayasinghe The Island -9 Mar 1997.

Small lion and Railed swastika, Caitiya over Lion.

Obv : lion, standing to r. To right a tringular headed symbol.Above lion a caitiya.All in linear frame.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving right.
Size :10 x 13 mm. Weight : 25.06 grains.


German Excavation- Akurugoda

. Obv : lion, standing to r. The Nandapadi and swastika over lion. Traces of Line circle.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to right over caitya; . Rectangular.
Size : mm. Weight : gr.

Small Lion abd Railed Swastika. 2 symbols over Lion

Line Drawing - Caitya under Railed Swastika

15 j. Coin of Raja Wickremasinghe- From Anuradhapura.
Obv : lion, standing to r. Traces of letters around lion.All in Line circle.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to right
Size : 13mm. Weight :0.83 grams.

15 k.Other smaller denomination published by Bopearachchi & Wickremasinghe.

Obv : lion, standing to r. The Nandapadi and Swastika over lion.
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving to right.
Size : mm. Weight :

Small Lion and Railed Swastika- Triratna and Swastika over lion


4:13 PM 3/26/2010

No   Weight-grams   Size mm .. Reverse symbol
E7   1.35   12 .. YES
E8   0.56   10 x 7 .. YES

This web page was prepared by Brig Siri .Munasinghe on 24 March 2010.


There are many variations in the symbols and the shapes and sizes. Perhaps these are expected due to these coins been used perhaps from 2 Cent BC to 2 Cent AD.  Circular, Rectangular and those cut into a pentagonal shape has been recorded. The sizes and weights too vary. The number of branches in the Bo-tree vary from  3 to 7. The symbols are in double circular lines, single circular lines or a set of dots. In most coins the lines or dot border is worn off. On the reverse the Swastika may rotate right or left.

There appears to be  two symbols flanking the Tree in enclosure. The Three dots appear above these symbols. But on most coins these are no longer visible.The two  may be variations of the Nandipada or Triratna symbol, the variations of the Asana or Drum like symbol or the Standard. Some time the double asana appears in either side.

On the reverse two symbols of the same symbols as on the obverse flank the Railed Swastika and in some coins the Caitiya or three arched Hill appears below the Railed Swastika.

All these features or special characteristics that  found on  other Sri Lankan coins :the Multi-symbol Elephant and railed Swastika Coins, the Lion and railed Swastika coins while a limited number appears on the small elephant and railed Swastika.They all seem to follow some minimum requirement that implies some meaning or a pictograph or idea-graph the meaning of which  is now lost.

16. Four-branched tree:-
.(1A)Obv. : Four-branched tree within enclosure of four compartments. on the upper corners of which apparently a dot surmounted by two small lines forming a right angle with the apex uppermost. To r., two symbols, No.1 above with group of three dots on r. side and below swastika. Symbols to l. off flan.
Rev. : Large railed swastika revolving r. between two indistinct symbols perhaps Nandipada to l .and No. 4 to r. To upper r. of last a group of three dots under swastika a (?) caitya.
Diameter: 0.94in. Weight: 37.4 gr. Thin and worn, Found in river bed 4 feet from surface immediately below the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Temple. The remainder, unless otherwise stated, are from Vallipuram.

(1B) (a)(i) Obv.: within double-line circle within enclosure of four compartments tree with two branches at the top . The treetop and each branch ends in a group of three dots. Two branches also spring from the base of the tree at the enclosure, the l. hand with two dots at the end, the r. hand with one. To l. of enclosure symbol No.1; to r obliterated
Rev : Railed swastika revolving r.; a group of three dots to l of head To l, symbol No l, to r Nandipada with two dots above.Rectangular with circular die.
Size:0.53 x 0.57 in, weight :41.8 gr, Peries,XIV,1.from Kantarodai

(ii) Obv . In line circle similar tree. Symbol No 1 to l., Nandipada to r,
Rev : As last, but no dots. Horizontal line over symbol No 1 : symbol to r off coin Caitya below rail.Rectangular with circular die ; Obv. die placed diamond-wise. Broken
Size : 0.55 x 0.41 in Weight : 18.2gr Pieris XIV,2 Pl 12

(iii)Obv. : In line circle similar tree as (i); but three dots at ends of lower branches. Symbol to l, obliterated ; Nandipada to r.
Rev: Railed swastika; symbol No 1 with two projections or r. side to r; Nandipada with horizontal line above to r.Rectangular with circular die; Obv die placed diamond-wise.Rev.: worn.
Size : 0.45 x 0.37 in Weight : 17gr Pieris, XIV, 3.

(b)(i)Obv : In double-line circle four-branched tree in enclosure of four compartments. To l, symbol No 1; symbol to r off coin.
Rev: Railed swastika above remnant of caitya; to l.Nandipada,to r remnant of symbol No 1.
Diameter : 0.68 in. Weight : 52.8 gr, From Kantarodai.

(ii) Obv. : In line circle similar tree, but top and upper branches end in triple and the lower in quadruple fork; enclosure divided by three vertical lines. To l. (?) symbol No. 1, that to r obliterated.
Rev.: In similar circle railed swastika revolving r. betweenNandipada with square top on l, and or r. variety of symbol No 4 ; in it the two side lines meet, and from their junction a small vertical line springs. In lieu of the cross line in the middle is a short projection on the l and over the whole a horizontal line
Diameter : 0.70 in. Weight 42.3 gr Slightly broken PerisXIV,12. PL 13

(iii)Obv : Similar tree branches ending in triple fork ; enclosure of twelve compartments. Symbols off coin
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving r. To r. symbol with horizontal line above, symbol to l off coin
Diameter :0.62 in. Weight, 26.8 gr

(iv)Obv : As last, Rev.: As last ; to r symbol perhaps the same as on (ii), that to l obliterated.
Diameter 0.62 in. Weight 26.6 gr, Broken Pieris XIV, 18.

(v)Obv: Tree as last, but enclosure of four compartments; indistinct symbol to l symbol to r off coin. All in line circle.
Rev : Railed swastika revolving r, Indistinct symbol on 1.,symbol No 1 on r,Rectangular.
Size 0.47×0.45in Weight:21.8gr. Pieris XIV, 4.

(vi)Obv. : Similar tree, enclosure not visible. To r symbol No 1 with short projection on l, Symbol to r. obliterated.
Rev. : Railed swastika revolving r.
Diameter : 0.43 in Weight : 15.1 gr,

(2) Six-branched tree:-
Obv: with in bead and line circle six branched tree, each branch ending in triple fork, in enclosure of twelve compartments; to l. (?} variant of symbol No4, to r. symbol obliterated,
Rev: Railed swastika revolving To l. obliterated symbol, or.(?)pot.
Diameter : 0.?8 in Weight : 62.2 gr. Slightly broken. Pieris, XIV, 13 PI 14.

(3) Eight-branched tree :-
(i)Obv: In line circle eight-branched tree with in enclosure of four compartments.To r. symbol No1, off coin.
Rev: Railed swastika revolving r, symbol to l. obliterated ,symbol to r off coin.
Diameter : 0.5? in Weight : 22.8 gr Pieris XIV, 6.

(ii)Obv. : Similar tree but in enclosure of six compartments; to l symbol No. 1, to r. indistinct symbol.
Rev.: In line circle railed swastika revolving 1; (?) variant of symbol No 6. with smaller triangle above on L Symbol to r. off flan.
Diameter : 0.53 in. Weight: l9.8 gr Pieris, XIV, 5

(iii)Obv. : As (i), but each of the four compartments contains a dot. To l. Nandipada; symbol to r is off the flan.
Rev. : Railed swastika revolving r. with line beneath. To l symbol as last, to r. indistinct symbol of which the upper part consists of two horizontal lines,
Diameter : 0.53 in Weight,16.3 gr. Pl 15.

Few Interesting symbols found on coins published by Bopearachchi & Wickremainghe. form Ruhuna.

These pages was inserted  by Brig. Siri Munasinghe,
on  August 14, 2009

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