“My job is to report what people say, not to believe at all”.-Herodotus- The Father of History.

Herodotus wrote the traditional accounts of what the people told him during his travels and then offered his own interpretation or a contradictory one from different source, leaving the reader to make their own interpretation.

The authors of Mahavansa starts with ‘That what was compiled by the ancients was here too long drawn out and there too closely knit and contained many repetitions. Attend ye now to this that is free from such faults, easy to understand and remember, arousing serene joy and emotions and handed down by tradition…’


There are many [four] types of silver pieces which is of the karshapana or Kahapana standard.found in the Island. They are

[1]THE UNMARKED SILVER PIECES. The unmarked silver pieces and those gilded copper is found in the Island.The earliest found that is C14 dated was from Gedige excavation of Dr Siran Deraniyagala.A mould for kahapanas was also found and published by Mr MH Sirisena in Ancient Ceylon No2 Dec 1972 page 150.

These are found in small numbers.

[3]THE SINGLE DIE SILVER PIECES.[CCC-Codrington] are of half Kahapana weight.These were believed to be of greater antiquity by J Allen – catalouge of Indian Coins.these are small silver pieces are classified them as Class2 and 3 coins by John Allen in his book Catalouge of Coins of Ancient India. Perhaps until more discoveries of these coins in India and information is forth coming, these may well be the most ancient coin type found in the Island. The Class 2 , the provenance is the United Province North India are oblong pieces. The Class 3 are rude pieces with plain reverse with a cat like animal on a hill with various symbols found in the field and a Fish or Rising Sun Symbol. These were first published by My HCP Bell in Ceylon Antiquary. Few half and three quarter Kahapanas has been found at Anuradapura which are very similar to those found in North West India and in Mathura, North India.They were published in Hus Ebu Kasi by Sirisoma & Amarasinghe. Many more perhaps lie dormant with collectors, in museums , Archeological dept ,  etc , as most of these unpublished. India web site states they found in Narbada Valley, Avanti Kingdom.Anonymous (circa 400 – 312 BC)
AR 1/2 Karshapana (Animal series)
Mitchiner ACW 4107
Size=12 x 8 mm.
Weight=1.56 gm.
Obverse: Very stylized fish above lion or an animal over three arc hill[ Chaitiya and taurine punchmarks.
Reverse: Taurine punchmark. Note: Although attributed to the period of the Avanti Kingdom by Mitchiner, and to the area around Malwa, other sources report that these coins are only found to the northeast, in the Surasena area (Mathura). [see Jain, Ancient Indian Coinage, page 46]

The PMC’s or the 5 mark Karshapanas of the Magadhan Empire from 500BC.

This is a collection ancient Sri Lankan Coins with a way side trader that were collected in and around Anuradhapura . It gives a fair distribution of the type of coins used by the ancients and from my experience the numbers of coins agrees with the ratio in which they are found.

Large number of these Silver coins are found in Sri Lanka.A hoard of 1012 coins were found a few Kilometers away the ancient city of Udugampola [mentioned in Rajavaliya], which is situated between Gampaha and Minuvangoda. Hoards has been found at Malvana and Meerigama in the Western Province. many haords were also found in Anuradhpura where and a large number in in the Anuradhapura Museum and a lot of the dug up during the Cultural Fund excavations.Hoards in Tricomalee,Kottukachiya,Hiripitiya,Ambokka.Weuda. Dehigahalanda[ Walberg]. In the 1980-95 many small horads were found at Akurugoda Tissamahrama. I know of three such finds. The stray finds too are numerous. Shown below is a photograph of stray finds from Anuradhapura , perhaps those washed up due to rains or from Malwatu oya sand excavations.

Most coins are worn and have been in use for at least 300 years some of them over 500 years. Perhaps they were used in India before brought here. But many mould for minting of these coins have been discovered and published from Akurugoda and from a archeological excavation at Gedige, Anuradhapura.

The Imperial Punch marked Coins always has five symbols. Except in the case of later coins the series VII, these coins has the Sun and the Six armed symbol.Over 600 different types were issued over a period of about 500 years, that is almost one for each year.Out of these published by Gupta & Hardekar 256 is not found outside the original Maghada Janapada. So we can look at the rest of the about 250 coins that is found through out the Indian Peninsular.What interests the Sri Lankan Numismatist is how many of these are found here in the Island Why was five symbols as a rule was placed on these silver pieces is not known for certain. but in a book written in 4 Cent AD in Sri Lanka ancient text Visuddhimagga gives a clue. It is stated here that a Money-changer would know at once at what Village,Town,City,Mountain or River bank and by what mint-master a coin was struck.Perhaps this gives what the 3 of the 5 symbols on the coins. The What interests Sri Lankan collectors is how to identify the series and the coin type of any silver PMC found in Sri Lanka.The clues are in the marks on the coin.With proper cleaning best is soap and water with cotton wool and scanning or photography of the face will bring out these marks.Not all marks are complete , some only part is on Flan. The Sun mark is on most coins is easy to spot.So is part or the full 6-arm symbol[ Over 100 different variations].

The Six arm symbol can also to easily identified , only parts is visible in some pieces.This symbol has six arms around a circle, each arm is an auspicious symbol. They are maily Arrow heads,Taurine heads or the Tri -Ratne,also has animals and flowers, Fish, Drum shaped symbols or Asanas,Srivatsa, Swastika etc.Two of many interesting symbols found on the arms of the silver pieces found in Sri Lanka is shown below.

A collections of these symbols on the six armed mark would compose an interesting paper. The few examples of the other marks that are found on coins found in Sri Lanka are shown below categorized under Human Figure,Animals,Tree in enclosure,Dots,Caitiya,Auspicious symbols and Fish A collection of coins even with a single mark is of interest.

The coins in India are in mint condition. The coins found over here is very worn. Even the loss in weight weight of a worn coin is a measure of usage. The coins found in Sri Lanka is many shapes but can be visually divided into three type by its size- Coins thin and large[ usually over 18-20 MM], Coins smaller and thicker a or those in between.

Wilhelm Geiger’s  introduction to the Mahawansa is a good indication of matching up own ancient kings with the kings of Magadha who minted these silver pieces. The acariya-paramparawa stated in Mahavansa and Dipivansa gives a syn-chronological connection between the King of India and Sri Lanka.
1.King Bimbisra was 35 years when he met Buddha who was 30 years old.[ 15th year of Bimbisara reign].
2. Adjassattu 8th year of reign Buddha’s paranibbana. Vijaya coming the Sri Lanka coinsides with this date[ 483 BC].
3.Viaya died in the 14th year of Udaybhadda[ 446BC.]. 16th year of the same king Paduvasdeva is crowned king.
4.The Chief of Vinna in India Dasaka dies in 403 BC in the 8th year of rule of Susunaga [ Dipavansa]. Paduvasdeva died in 21 st year of Nagadasaka[414 BC] and Abaya is crowned King.
5. In Sri Lanka the 11 year of the interregnum between Abaya and Pandukabaya corresponds to 10 year of Kalasoka[ 383BC]
6. The 58 year of Pandukabaya to the 2nd year of Candagupta.[ 319 BC].
7.Mahinda is ordained 6th year of Asoka or the 48th year of King Mutusiva.
8. Mahinda dies 8th year of King Uttiya reign.


The chronology of Silver Karshpanas or the Punched Mark Coins has been published by PL Gupta’s & Hardakar giving the corresponding Kings who issued them.The contemporary King of Sri Lanka during that period is given below.

The PMC’s or Karshpanas finds in the Island belonging to various Series given above will be discussed under the different period of reign of our king.It does not mean that the coins were actually used here during that period.But it is interesting to link any monetary transactions of the different period of reign of our kings to the coins found here.

0. KUVENI, Queen of Heladipa (later became Sinhala Dipa), succeeded her father as Queen and ruled the island before the arrival of Vijaya. Was coins in circulation before the arrival of Vijaya?. Perhaps future archeological excavation may reveal an answer.


The intentions of the Author of the Mahawansa has been clearly laid down in verse for the serene joy and emotion and for the reader, or if recited and made easy to understand and remember.He has penned down the following facts Vijaya [544-505 BC]

1.Supradevi ,Vijaya’s grand-mother went forth from the house, desiring the joy of independent life; unrecognized she joined a caravan traveling to the Magadha country.

2.Vijeya’s grandfather named Siha [ Lion ] met Suppra devi whose mother was from the Royal family of Kalinga.

3.Sihabähu Vijeya father took the three thousand pieces (as reward) for slaying his own father.

4.His father ruled at Sinhapura in the Lala country. They travlled and landed at Supparaka before landing in the Island.Perhaps as suggested by historians he may have sailed down Narbada river if it was navigable.

5.Vijeya spent a Thousand pieces of money? when he asked Kuveni to leave.

6.Vijaya got down a Princess from Muthara on the ancient trade route in or Madura, South India?.

7.The annual tribute he sent to his father in law was twice a hundred thousand.

8.The Mahawansa states that Vijaya arrived around the time of parinabbana of Lord Buddha which was during the reign of Adjasattu.

The PMC’s were used mainly for trade on the trade routes that Vijaya’s grand father preyed on. A map of these is shown below. The PMC’s have been found along this routes.

If  Mahavansa is correct , Vijeya had access to coins both in India and in Sri Lanka. What were these coins?.Compare these with the coins of that period in that region. It is now accepted by Indian Numismatists that the Imperial Punched mark coins were minted in Magadha during the period of Bimbisara at the time of Buddha. In fact Bimbisara after making inquiries about the young Almsman offered him the post of Senpathi or the Command of his army, which Prince Sidhatrha declined. Later both of them became very good friends.Below is a scene of King Bimbisara visiting the Buddha on the Sanchi Vihare Gateway.

According to Gupta & Hardaker the earliest of these Kahapanas those of Series I which are only found inside the Original bounries of Magadha or Kasi.None of Series I coins have been found in Sri Lanka. The Single Die coins [ Class C ]coins found in the Island and Mathura was of half a kahapana in weight. If Vijaya queen was from Muthura then she may have had access to these pieces. But only a limited number found in Mathura , over 15 of them have been discovered in the Island. The provenance is not given?.

Then Vijaya sent his father in law a annual tribute of pearls worth twice a Hundred thousand[ Mahawansa chapter Para 74 ]- from these two statement we could guess that there was some form of valuation during that period. Our first King Vijaya and his followers and those parties that came with his to be Queen etc would have been familiar with the silver pieces called karshapanas that were in circulations in North Indian Janapadas. In India those silver pieces of series I , II and III[ Gupta & Hardekar]now found distributed along the trade routes that Vijaya grand father plundered. The value of 200,000 pieces if taken as silver Kahapanas of the Magadhan empire [ Weighs 3.46 grams each] would be 6800 kilograms worth of silver or half that weight is half kahapanas was the standard.

The question is what were the  coins used? was it the earliest 5 mark Silver Kahapanas or were they the silver half Kahapanas called coins of Surasena.= a ew of these have been found here at Anuradhapura Museum and a few of them were published by HCP Bell.Single Die Coins/ Coins of Surasena’s

Some of these Series II & III coins has been re-struck on older coins, as the symbols are yet visible on the reverse of them.

According syn chronology of India and Sri Lanka kings of the Mahavansa ,Vijaya ruled during 8 years Emperor Adjasattu reign and years during the reign of his decendents. If the Indian numismatists chronology of PMC’s is correct , then coins of the King Adjasatura may have been brought along by Vijaya and his party as they left India or by his queen who came from Mathura or Madura. However the coins of series I[Adjasattu] is not even found in India outside the original Janapada of Magadha and Kasi. The oldest coins PMC’s of series II assigned to the decentdents of Adjasatura of Udyabadhaka or his son Munda are found here.
The coins of series II is considered earlier to those of series III. The coin shown as No 1 in Coins & Currency of Ceylon- HW Codrington is a of coin of this series[dated 500-430 BC] and was shown above as PMC Type No 269. Later Kings has re-struck their coins on reverse of Series II coins. Many of the series III and IV coins are re-struck.
Though these coins were minted in India during the period of Vijaya, they may have found there way here at a later period.

The Mahawansa chapter VII Para 60-62 states that Vijeya gave a pooja[ bali] or perhaps a gift of One Thousand [ eka sata ] to Kuveni and asked her the flee leaving the children behind.

Two coins of the series II has been published .

The next series of coins found , those of series III is shown below.


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