THE LEGEND ON GOLD COINAGE.Dr S Paranavitane


The Gold Coinage of Medieval Sri-Lanka.

Kahavanu

THE LEGEND ON GOLD COINAGE.Dr S Paranavitane.

In a note published in the Journal Royal Asiatic Society CB, Vol., XXXV (No. 96), 1943, pp. 162-3,  I have pointed, out that the legend in Nagari characters on the reverse of the Aka Coins reads as Aka. It is due to the two parts of the letter a being not properly joined together by the short horizontal bar in the middle, that this letter has been mistaken as two letters, and the whole legend read as Tamraki,Iraka, Uraka and Daraka, which are taken to stand for Nandaki. The correct decipherment of the legend establishes two things, namely (1) that the legend,though in Nagari characters, constitutes an Elu[ Spoken ancient Sinhala] word and (2) that the word written in Nagari characters on the reverse of this coin, gives the name of the coin itself, which is a word denoting a weight.

This leads to the consideration whether the attempts made to read the legends on the other coins of the medieval Sinhalese gold series, has been successful. The legend (in three lines) on the unit of the series, referred to by Codrington as Kahavanuva, has been read Sri Lamkesvara on the authority of James Prinsep’ s The second letter of 1. 2 and the two letters of line 3, as they appear on dozens of examples of this coin, do not bear out Prinsep’s reading,which is obviously the result of making the lettering on the coin itself conform to a word that is satisfying when taken to be Sanskrit. Other attempts to extract a satisfying Sanskrit compound out of the five aksaras in this legend reads Sri Lamka-simha by H. Krishna Shastri and Sri Lamka-vibhu by H. W.Codrington.l Due to the eminence of the last-named as a numismatist,the solution of the puzzle set by the legend proposed by him on this coin has been accepted by scholars and numismatists during the last four decades; but Codrington himself would not have desired the opinion expressed by him to stand in the way of further investigations to arrive at the real purport of the legend on this coin.

F. W. Thomas has read the Nagari characters on this coin as (1) Sri (2) Lanka (3) viha Or veha. In our opinion, Thomas’s reading Sri Lamka-viha is what the five Nagari letters actually stand for. In spite of the great authority of Thomas, Codrington did not adopt his reading, probably for the reason that-viha joined in a compound with the sanskrit Sri Lamka, cannot be given a satisfactory interpretation in Sanskrit.

Now that the legend on the Aka coin has been found to be in Elu, the possibility that viha, too, is in that language, and signifies a coin, merits consideration. Neither of these assumptions can, however, be justified from the existing Sinhalese lexicons, or from what is known about the nomenclature of ancient Sinhalese coins.

But there is, in the Samantapasadika, a single reference, hitherto not noticed by anyone (including that indefatigable numismatist, H. W. Codrington who seems to have combed the whole of the Sinhalese and Pali literature for reference to coins). In the Section called Upanidhikatha of the comments on the second Parajika, occurs the expression “dasavisagghanakarn kappiya- bhandam” permissible goods to the value often visas. The context indicates that the word visa, which literally means ‘twenty’, has been used here as the name of a coin. Otherwise, the expression dasa-visa would be ‘ten of twenties, ‘ which is not in accord with the usage with regard to the numerals in Sinhalese or in Pali. The expression cannot be taken as meaning ‘ten or twenty’ in an indefinite sense, because it occurs in a passage which gives exact details of permissible allowances. To jump from ten to twenty in an indefinite expression of numbers cannot also be expected, because in such expressions, numbers which are close to each other are given.

It may be objected that a form of the numeral twenty (P. visa), in Which the s is changed to h, has not been met within Sinhalese literature, And that it is not in use in the spoken language today. But the inscriptions show forms in which the change of s to h has been effected in words which, in the form preserved in literature, do not give evidence of this phonological change. For instance, in a Brahmi inscription of about the beginning of the Christian era, the form Vihakafor Skt. Visakha is met with.” No form derived from Skt. Visakha, in which the s is changed to h, is met with in Sinhalese literature or in the spoken language. The name of the second lunar month is Vesak not Vehak. Similarly, it is possible for the form viha, corresponding to the Pali visa and Skt. virnsa, to have existed in Old Sinhalese, without leaving any trace in the literary works or in the modern spoken language. The form vihi, in fact, occurs in an Old Sinhalese inscription, and that in a compound with kahavana (P. kahapana). In an inscription datable palaeo-graphically in about the third century, discovered at an ancient site called Veherakema in the Magam Pattu/ occurs the phrase maha-pavarana- pohoyahi dhama-samana tama karana kotu vihi-kahavana. ………… .dini ‘twenty kahapanas were granted for the purpose of listening to the preaching of the Dhamma on the uposatha of the Mahapavarana’. This inscription furnishes evidence for the use of the word vihi in about the third century, somewhat earlier than the date of the Samantapasadika. The expression vihi-kahavana may denote a coin of the value of twenty kahapanas or the sum of twenty kahapanas. But the expression dasa-visagghanakarn in the Samantapasadika definitely establishes that there was a monetary unit, known as ‘ the twenty ‘, at the time of Buddhaghosa, or somewhat earlier, and the coin meant was most probably the kahapana.

The reason for the coin being called by a name meaning ‘ twenty ‘ is not far to seek. The one-eighth of the coin is called aka, the equivalent of Pali akkha which, according to the Abhidhanappa-dipika, consisted of 2~ masakas.3 The gold coin called kalanda, therefore, was 20 masakas in weight. The silver kahapana or dharana, commonly referred to also as purana or eldling, was generally of 16 masakas , its standard weight has been established as 57.6 grains. The weight of the gold kalanda is approximately 68-70 grains Originally, therefore, the kalanda appears to have been five quarters of the kahapana in weight. The quarter was known as pala, and five of them would have been referred to as pala-panca, which term by the change of p to k, attested by many examples in the phonology of Sinhalese as well as Tamil, gave rise to Sinhalese kalanda and the Tamil kalanju, through the intermediate form of kala-kanca and kala-anca. The coin in question could have been called the visa or viha, for the above as well as the additional reason that it was equal in value to twenty of the monetary unit of accounting in those days, which was the silver kahapana. If a gold coin weighing 20 masakas of gold was equal in value to twenty silver coins of 16 masakas each, the proportion between gold and silver was one to sixteen.

In ancient India also, the gold coin which was a karsa in weight, was known by a name that appears to have been Sanskritised from a vernacular word meaning ‘ twenty ‘. According to the Amarakosa (XXVI, 87), a karsu of gold was called suvarnna as well as vista. Ksirasvamin, the commentator of the Amarakosa, however, asserts that the vista was a gold karsa of sixteen   masakas, and explains vista as derived from the root vis [bis] to go, to move, to urge on, to incite, to cast, to throw  Palaeographically, the legend of any of the known specimens of the kalanda or gold kahavanu coins, cannot be attributed to a date as early as that of the Samantapasadika or the inscription referred to above. It is, however, possible that the term, used as a money of account, was applied to some of the Roman and other gold coins of foreign origin, that were in circulation in Ceylon. In this connection, it is significant that the weight of this medieval gold coin approximates with that of the Roman solidus of the gold coin which is approximately half of the kalanda in weight not more than three or four specimens are known to exist. Of the two published specimens, that in the possession of Dr. K. C. D. Perera is the best preserved.

The legend on the reverse in two lines has been read by Dr. Perera as (1) Sri Lanki (2) ka. In my opinion, the last letter of the first line is the same as that in 1. 2, and should be read as ka. as Codrington has read the letter in that position in the specimen that he has illustrated in the C.C.C, Plate III, No. 58. The legend on this type of coin may therefore be taken as Sri Lamka ka. Of this Sri Lanka is contained in the legend on the Kalanda coins also. The distinctive part of the legend therefore is ka. Taking, on the analogy of the kalanda and aka coins, that the legend gave the weight or name of the coin itself, we can equate ka with Skt. karsa, on the analogy of Elu va being developed from Skt. varsa.

In this connection, it is pertinent to mention that the coin called kacu that was in use in the Tamil country under Cola rulers also weighed half a kalanju. Its name kacu also appears to be connected with Skt. karsa. Just as in the case of the aka, the name has come to be applied to a coin which is of a lesser weight than that denoted originally by that term. Of the medieval gold series, we are now left with only the coin referred to as daka or pala by Codrington,  which is roughly one-fourth of a kalanda in weight. The use of the word pala to denote this, appears to be not justifiable, for pala in literature, is applied to a quarter of the silver kahapana. The legend on the reverse of these coins is in one line, and has been read as Laksmi.

On some of the specimens which, from the form of the letters, seem to be of a later date, as in No. 56 and 57 in Plate III of Codrington’s book C.C.C, the legend may be read as Laksmi. These, perhaps were due to the die-cutters being not quite aware of the form and significance of the letters in the original legend. In the great majority of the specimens of these coins examined by The form vihi, in. fact, occurs in an Old Sinhalese inscription, and that in a compound with kahavana (P. kahapana). In an inscription datable palaeographically in about the third century, discovered at an ancient site called Veherakema in the Magam Pattu/ occurs the phrase maha-pavarana- pohoyahi dhama-samana tama karana kotu viM-kahavana. ………… .dini ‘twenty kahapanas were granted for the purpose of listening to the preaching of the Dhamma on the uposatha of the Mahapavarana’. This inscription furnishes evidence for the use of the word vihi in about the third century, somewhat earlier than the date of the Samantapasadika. The expression Vihi-kahavana may denote a coin of the value of twenty kahapanas or the sum of twenty kahapanas. But the expression dasa-magghanakarn in the Samantapasidika definitely establishes that there was a monetary unit, known as ‘ the twenty ‘, at the time of Buddhaghosa, or somewhat earlier, and the coin meant was most probably the kahapana.

The reason for the coin being called by a name meaning ‘ twenty  is not far to seek. The one-eighth of the coin is called aka, the equivalent of Pali akkha which, according to the Abhidhanappa-dipika, consisted of 2 masakas. The gold coin called kalanda, therefore, was 20 masakas in weight. The silver kahapana or dharana, commonly refer ; its standard weight has been established as 57.6 grains. The weight of the gold kalanda is approximately 68-70 grains Originally, therefore, the kalanda appears to have been five quarters of the kahapana in weight. The quarter was known as pala, and five of them would have been referred to as pala-panca, which term by the change of p to k, attested by many examples in the phonology of Sinhalese as well as Tamil, gave rise to Sinhalese kalanda and the Tamil kalanju, through the intermediate form of kala-kanca and kala-anca The coin in question could have been called the visa or viha, for the above as well as the additional reason that it was equal in value to twenty of the monetary unit of accounting in those days, which was the silver kahapana. If a gold coin weighing 20 masakas of gold was equal in value to twenty silver coins of 16 masakas  each, the proportion between gold and silver was one to sixteen.

[ Added by author-An alleged find by Gemmers in Kirindi Oya weighing 0.217 grams, with an akshara scratched on it is shown below]

In ancient India also, the gold coin which was a karsa in weight, was known by a name that appears to have been Sanskritised from a vernacular word meaning ‘ twenty ‘. According to the Amarakosa (XXVI, 87), a karsa of gold was called suvarnna as well as vista. Ksirasvamin, the commentator of the Amarakosa, however, asserts that the vista was a gold karsa of sixteen the present writer, the legend reads Lak-ma. Of this compound, Lak of course is the equivalent in Old Sinhalese of Sri Lamka of the two types of coins dealt with above, the Sri having been ignored. We have therefore only ma to investigate. Etymologically, the Old Sinhalese ma can be equated with Skt. masa, P. masa, ag a word denoting a weight of gold or silver. Here, of course, it is not the masa of which sixteen make a silver karshapana, that comes into consideration, but the suvarnamasaka, one-sixteenth of a suvarnna. A gold masaka in actual usage in India is said to be equivalent to 17 grains Troy.’ The coins with the legend  Lakma, given by Codrington, vary in weight between 14 and 17 grains.

The legend on the 1/4 Kalanda available to me is illustrated below to verify Dr Paramnavitnne arguments.Type I Palas is shown below.

Few more Palas is shown below for the reader to arrive at a conclusion.

The Type II De-aka or Palas with has the reading Sri La Ka Ma is shown below

In the Type III De-aka or Pala the Sri is less prominent , but La ka Ma is evident to a non-specialist of Nagari script. But we must not look at the deva-nagari script of India which differs fron place to place. We should examine the script with that of the sinhala nagari script prelevent is the Inscriptions and other coins of Sri Lanka. Read script of Ceylon type of Coins .

The Tamil madai, which was in ancient times the name of a coin, is also etymologically connected with Skt. masa. The name mada occurs in Cola inscriptions as the equivalent of kalanju. There is, however, reference in Tamil literature to a coin named madai, which was equivalent to ten kunri, the last-named being approximately 2 grains Troy in weight. A madai of this variety, it will be seen, was approximately of the same weight as Lakma. The solitary specimen of an Uttama-colan- madai, now lost, is said to have weighed 50 to 60 grains.

Dr S Paranvitane.

CONCLUSIONS.

According to the Doctor Paranavitane . the legend on the Full kalanda

Full Kalanda its SRI LA KA           VI HA – that is 20 silvers to this Gold Coin.

Adakahapana    SRI LA KA           KA– The Kacu or half Kalanda

The Pala   is        SRI LA KA           MA. The Masa or 17.5-18 Grain in weight

THE EIGHTH .  no srilaka             AKA  -May be two letter and eighth of Kalanda.

 

But some coins of type II, there may be a problem for ordinary merchant or people to read the script. Did the die maker imply   SRI LA KA AKA OR SRI LAAKA.

Lets look at  two type II Aka. It is up to experts to go into this in detail which may be  Combined Nagari letter or just Taraka, Uraka etc?.

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