THE ROYAL EMBLEM OF ANCIENT SINHALA KINGS


The Emblems of Royalty of Sri Lanka.

 

‘The Duties of a Monarch propounded by the Buddha stated that the root of all Social Evil was Poverty and Unemployment. A King who merely collected taxes had the duty to supply Seed and Food for those who lived by Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Those who lived by Trade should be provided with the necessary capital. The Government Servant were properly paid or compensated so that they don’t squeeze the people. New wealth had to be generated, the Citizens was free from Robbers and Cheats, could bring up Children in comfort and happiness, free from Want and Fear. The best way to spend surplus accumulation, whether from the Treasury or from Private donations would be in Public Works such as Tanks, Hospitals, and Monasteries that provided Education, Health care, Banks etc along the Trade Routes maintained by the King.”

The Raja Anka or the heraldic Emblems of rulers of the Brihadhartha dynasty of Maghadha  was the Bull mentioned in the Mahabaratha. But the Bull symbol is a universal symbols used by other nations on the coins and art.Most  states of India too had their own Royal emblems that signifies the Royal authority of the King when placed on official documents and on coins. In fact in the text book Arthasastra of the Maghdan Empire ,the Master of the Mint was called Laksanaadhayasaka, Laksana in this name apparantly  refers to the Emblem of the King and State stamped on the coin.

Closer home, the independent states of the Southern India the Pandayan’s had the stylised fish, the Chola’s the tiger[ This Animal looks very much like a Lion, than a Tiger] , Cera’s the Bow etc. These heraldic marks was also placed on seals on copper grants etc. After about the 2 Cent AD, most  of these nations stopped using their  Emblems. The Sri Lankan used the Four Dots with a circle emblem or the Purangantha or the Vase Symbol after 2 Cent AD.After about the 6 Cent AD, they opted to inscribe on the face of the coin ,the the name of the Country and the Value  alongside the other traditional symbols. The gradual changes that took place , and why these changes took place over the last 2500 year of the  coins is a very interesting study.

The Elephant was a prominent symbol placed on coins of all different ancient Empires/Nations  in India and Sri Lanka. Most of these  different nations had their own Raja-anka on the other side of the coin.The Emblem on the reverse of their coins was a means by which   the people with in the area of Kings influence to identify  and accept  coins as money  or reject those with other emblems. A few examples of elephant and many Buddhist symbols on the obverse of the  coins with different reverse heraldic emblems is shown below.

THE RAILED SWASTIKA

The Swastika was the most popular symbol of the Indus civilisations , the later Aryan of India soon made this a religious good luck symbol. The ancient people of Sri Lanka too followed the suit and used the Swastika as a religious  or a good luck symbol .Some historian is of view this smbol also represented the Buddha or his taechings. But in ancient Sri Lanka  an emblem using swastika as the main component , standing on a central staff attended to by two short pillars on either side.This was called the Railed Swastika.

Two Important Factors is respect of the Railed Swastika.

a. Which is the most popular symbol  on ancient coins found in Sri Lanka?.  With out doubt it is this Railed Swastika, perhaps next to the Lotus- A rough estimate is that  over 10,000  ancient coins[ some of them dated to 3 cent BC]  with this symbols on them.  I have seen over 4000 of them at Museums,with Collectors and Dealers. A fair number  of ancient inscriptions of royalty has this symbol. A fair number of  seals inscribed with names and titles  of Royalty around the railed swastika has been published.

b. The Railed swastika is unique to the Island of Sri Lanka.

THE RAILED SWASTIKA ON SEALS AND INSCRIPTIONS

i.An unread inscribed Intaglio with a Railed Swastika, the mirror image of seal and this may read Ma Ha Sa[Se?] Na  Pa Tha……..to an untrained eye. This needs be read by experts. Dr Paranavitane identifies Mahasenpathi as King Dutugemunu on an inscription at              .

ii. Many Seals and sealing’ s with Railed swastika was discovered , most of them  are inscribed.The two below are legible.

    1. A clay seals with railed swastika with letters Maharaja[ Great King] is visible.
    2. A sealing with railed swastika inscribed .. [Ma Ha Ra ] Jha Ga Mi Ni Ti Sa ha de Va Na pi Ya[The Great King Gamini Tisa Devanampiya.Perhaps of King Sadatissa [ Bopeatachchi and Wickremasinghe ] . The German excavation team has published many sealing found in the same location as above sealing. The rear of these sealing was affixed on to Ola leaf’s as  the outline  of the grain of the Ola is  still visible.
  1. Cave inscriptions In Inscription of Ceylon Volume I – S Paranavitane.
    1. N0 835 :-This is found on Rock Inscriptions of kings identified as King Sada-tissa at Dambulla Inscription.
    2. No 406 :- On Gamini-Tissa and Mijhi- Maharaja at Henannegala.
    3. No 563:On Inscription of Royal Prince and Princess at Kottadamuhela identified with Queen Viharamaha devi. Ms Chandrika Jayasinghe published a coins from the British Museum of a lady Standing on a Boat of the Obverse with a Railed Swastika on the reverse.In our history a lady on  a boat can only be connected to Vihare Maha Devi , the mother of our hero King Dutugemunu.

    1. No 1018:-1027 – of a Maharaja-Gamani Abayasa– at Gallena Vihare.

    A similar coins was found by PE Pieris at Kantarodi in the North of Sri Lanka.

    British Museum Coin.

    This symbols was good enough for the ancient Maharaja to place next to their rock inscriptions and on their  Royal Seals. Henry Parker suggest that the central vertical cross bar represents the royal Standard while the four lateral lines symbolize the four fold army of ancient kings ,ie the Corp of elephants, the  Chariots, the Cavalry and the foot soldiers, He admits it is far fetched. From the above data this is quite possible and this had a strong connections with Royalty. This symbol is flanked by either the Standard, the Asana or throne and the Triratna which according to reputed writers had implicitly expressed an regal authority.

  2. The Railed swastika is usually found on the most early coins of the Island. It does not appear alone. In  good condition coins, two symbols are found on either side. In all the types of coins with the railed swastika, a few examples having the Caitiya or three arched hill appears under it.  The associations of these symbols with the railed swastika and their  placement around is a special characteristic of the Sri Lanka early coins. The significance of these symbols is quite relevant to Kingship as discussed by TB Karunaratne. This will be dealt with later.  

Of the Coins shown above, Dr DPE Hettiarchchi has speculated that the Multi symbol Elephant and Railed Swastika coin is that of Devanampiyatissa. C14 and Thermoluminance dating of layer of undisturbed layer of earth in which this type of coin was found , justify the credence of this statement. It is possible that this king had the Railed Swastika on his coin.

The Standard

In an RAS Journal Mr P Weerasinghe suggest that Mahatissa in the inscription shown above was King Devanpiyatissa. If this is so, then this suggest that  in addition to Railed Swastika , the monarch would have palced a personel monogram on thier coins , which was Dhajaya or a Standard which King Asoka used. So perhaps the Railed Swastika was the emblem of  of a particular Royal family which ruled during the issue of these coins, perhaps that  known as those of the Devanampiya Kula on inscriptions. Could it be that the Kings used the Railed Swastika symbol as the emblem that belonged to the Kula or as family emblem.Did they have their  own mongrams in addition to this??. But on coins more than one such symbol is placed around the Railed Swastika.

The Standard  suggested as used by Devanampiyatissa on coins is also found on Tree and Railed Swastika Coins, Lion and Railed Swastika Coin.

The Throne or Asana

.Mr MH Sirisoma in Inscriptions Vol II 1990 gave a number of symbols associated with inscriptions of Kings. One of them is of is from Minvila , and is of King Katakanna Tissa[ 41-19 BC].The symbol on the inscription is simalar to symbols on coins of Sri lanka with the Railed Swastika. This is found on the the King Devanampiyatissa coin on the reverse of the coin shown above to the right of the Railed Swastika. There are various forms of the Asana found on coins . The Asana is a auspicious  symbol of India and also of the Sinhalese. These Lucky symbols are used extensively of Sinhalese art and mentioned in our chronicles.those on coins are analysed on Symbols around the Railed Swastika.

THE SWASTIKA

The Swastika is found with the Inscriptions of Kings. The Swastika with out the Railing is found on our coins too.

One of the earliest inscriptions that can be historically dated from ancient text is thatof a daughter of the King Uti or Uttiya the brother of king Devanampiyatisa, and reigned after him. The cave donated to the Sanga for the benefit of her parents. This has two symbols , the first is a T on Railing and a Swastika. Therailing is similar o that of the Railed Swastika.

The First Three Lines

A Swastika –        “Success| King Abaya the eldest son of King Kuakanna and grandson of great king Tissa, the friend of Gods[ Devanampiya] dedicated the golden Vase channel at Galatataka to the Community of bhikhus in the Payelipavata monastery”.

Last Line

A Swastika-  “The great king Naga gave therefore said channel to the Sanga”.

The King Naga is identified as King Mahadathika Mahanaga [9-21 BC].

This king ‘s inscription at At Vehera  Minhintale  shown below has a Swastika below it.

The First part is of King Batiya Abaya[ 19 BC]. Great-Great-Great grand son of King Sadatissa, whose mother was Queen Vihare Mahadevi.

The second part is of King Mahadathika Mahanaga [ 9 -21 AD]- a brother of King Batiya Abaya.

The Swastika as a minor symbol on coins

This is a round Treein Railing and Railed Swastika Coin. To the right of the Tree is a Swastika symbol.

The Fish and Railed Triratna

The Fish and the Railed Triratna is found on inscription that is linked to the parent of King Dutugemunu. The Fish emblem is associated with the Kastriya of Kataragama , Dr Paravitane suggest they have connection to the Sakayan Group of Princess Baddhkacchana who came from India and some on them sttleed in the South[ Mahavansa].

Dr S paranavitane links Abi Savera as Princess Vihare mahadevi

The Fish and Triratna is popular symbols on Coins and is very common on ancient Sri lankan art.  The Railed  Triratne is not yet found on coins.

SCYTHE

A symbol on Inscription of King Sabha[ 59-65 AD]. A Scythe like symbol is seen on an inscription of King Sabha. No such symbol is found on coins, but the Deity or Standing Figure and Railed Swastika coins there are many such symbol fixed at the end of the staff .

Pahala Kayinattama Of King Saba

For  Emblem of Kings of later period.

King Gajabahu II – Peace Treaty placed on a Rock Inscription

A few symbol on coins and similar symbol on Rock Inscriptions of Kings.

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6 thoughts on “THE ROYAL EMBLEM OF ANCIENT SINHALA KINGS

  1. The ‘Swastika’ has been the Hindu symbol from the Indus-valley period
    Indian kings left it as a religious symbol (not royal)
    If we are to claim this as ‘royal’ instead of religious, that can be flawed and insulting to some others (like Indians/Hindus)
    As the Swastika and Bo Tree are represented side by side (above royal iconography), this may very well mean the king represents both these religions (and why not since Lord Buddha, even Asoka were born Hindu and the Island had a pre Buddist past).

    • Thanks for pointing this important argument, I welcome such comments to what the Railed Swastika[ not the Swastika by it self] was and why it was given such a prominent position only on Sri Lankan coins?. Other experts please comment.
      The Swastika is a universal symbol, found in most ancient civilisations. Yes it is of Indus civilisation, with whome the Island share many other similarities, with a Gap of 600 years. It is called a Buddhist swastika by many authors. On Indian symbols web sites it is called a Buddhist symbol.
      On coins of ancient India it is found on Tribal coins of Ayodaya,Eran,
      Mathura, Taxila etc, but it is one of the minor symbol of many.On the PMC’s it is found only of a very few coins of Asoka, but it not very prominent.It is found as minor symbol with a few South India Coins found in Sri lanka.
      Take the case of Sri Lanka’s Ancient coins it is placed on a Railing ,occupying a Central Prominent Positions on all coins between 300 BC- 200 AD.These are flanked by other minor symbols[ including the swastika by it self on the other face] as found on Indian coins. And on the other side is always symbols such as Tree in railing, Elephant, Horse, Maya devi etc . These symbols are found at Sanchi Gateway and they represent the Buddha Dhramma or major events in Buddha’s life. These occupy over 120 panels on the 4 gateways.Many other symbols including Swastika that are found on on the 4 gateways is found as minor symbol on our coins. I could cover most of scenes on the gateways with similar symbol Coins of Sri Lanka.
      But the railed swastika is not found on the gateway and no where else in the world, except on our coins, on inscriptions with our kings names on them, a few Seals and Sealing with the name of our Royalty.
      Is this enough evidence even to consider this as our Royal Emblem as suggested by Henry Parker in 1890’s?.There were many other Royal Emblems on Kings as suggested by Historians. The Swastika by it self was one[ Thrre of four king had it alongside their inscriptions- MH Sirisoma], The Fish symbol perhaps on Bhaddhakacchana royalty, Did King Vahaba use the Bull on Coins?.King Mahasen the Lion. King Gajabahu used Gaja or Two-Elephant with interlocked trunks on an Moonstone at the entrance to his Palace at Kantale. King Devenampiyatissa used the Asoka’s symbol or the Dhajaya on his coins and his inscriptions?.
      I was called a Old Geezer and a para Chingalaya on Srilankan Topix Web site for expressing this view. Perhaps I am.

  2. Thanks, very informative.

    Your knowledge should be made widely available, it enriches our understanding, the visual aspect is more exciting for me than text, and can get more people interested.

    Have you been able to compare coins with south-east Asia, Maldives, etc?

    A few years back I was surprised that an exact carved replica of the ‘Indus’ text was found in the Easter Islands and bone fragment studies of a sailing community in a southern port city of India revealed south-east Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.

    • Yes, I shall place all what I collected from experts writings etc connected to our coins, perhaps start with symbols or emblems associated with Kings, even if they are sometimes not too clear. Thanks

  3. Dear Siri,

    How come there are no north Indian (Aryan) kings with the names Gamini or Thissa?

    The only Thissas we find are Sinhala and Tamil, why is that.

    I think Gamini is exclusive to Sri Lanka, what do you think?

    I once met a Canarese/Karnataka (very similar writing to Telugu and Sinhala) with the name Sigamani !!

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