King Devanampiyatissa’s Coins


Coin in the Colombo Museum

Coins in the Colombo Museum

The coins were found during excavation at Salgaswatte Anuradhapura and the strata in which they were found was dated to 300-100 BC, A hoard of these coins were dug up at Tissamaharama, a photo of the broken pot is shown below

Pot of E & S coins

8. DEVANAMPIYA TISSA 307-267 BC – second Son of King Mutasiva – His close friendship with Emperor Asoka in India led to the introduction of Buddhism by Mahinda in 247 BC. His sister Sangamitta arrived with the branch of the Bodhi Tree from Buddha Gaya. The tree still exists as the oldest historical tree in the world. She also established the order of the Bhikkuni’s (Nuns).
All ancient Sri Lankan kings were believed to be future Boddhisatavas.There is a popular belief that the statue of a Bodhisatva at Mihintale Hill at Anuradhapura is that of King Devanampiyatissa.

Head of Bodhisatva now known to the people as that of King Devanampiyatissa.

Inscriptions with reference’s to King Devanampiyatissa -identified by Dr S Pranavitane
. 1. Mihintale
A donation of Varunadatta- sister of King Devanampiyatissa wife.cave of

Multi- symbol Elephant and railed Swastika
This large handsome coin is believed to have issued by King Devanamptiyatissa to Commemorate the propagation of Buddhism in Ancient Sri Lanka by Rev Mahinda. The Railed Swastika on the reverse side of the coin is the Royal Emblem of the first dynasty of kings. This is found on the reverse of all coins of the other kings of that period.
The standard symbol or the Dhajaya found between the Railed Swastika and the Elephant is believed to be the sign symbol of king Devanampiyatissa.


In the Royal Asiatic Society Journal- Paranavitane Felicitation Volume , Dr Hettiarchchi speculates that the four symbols on the obverse represents the four main events of Buddhas life his birth the elephants, the Bo-tree in Railing -his enlightenment, the Railed swastika his Dhrama and the caitiya or three arched hill his passing away.He goes further to assign this coin to King Devanampiyatissa and was minted to commemorate the Rev Mahinda propagation of Buddhism in ancient Sri Lanka.

The Elephant

Elephant symbol- An interpretation

Mr P Weerasinghe in another RAS journal describes the symbol between the Elephant and Railed Swastika , now believed to the standard or Dhaja[ flag] which was used as the sign manual of King Asoka and King Devanampiyatissa too used this symbol. He furnished epigraphical evidence of a Maha-tissa in Inscription No 368[ IC- Volume I- S Paranavitane] . He believes he is Devanampiyatissa. This inscription has 3 other symbols, two of which may be the similar to those on the reverse of this coin.


COINS & CURRENCY OF CEYLON – H.W. CODRINGTON Chapter III – An attempt update his great work with the latest finds and other relevant material.


The arrangement of symbols around the railed Swastika appears to follow predetermined specification. The symbols are arranged as under.


The large circular coins now described were found at-

Tissamaharama .. 1 over 30 found in the 1990’s
Mantota ..
Anuradhapura, Puliyankulam ..
Anuradhapura, E.N.E of Abhayagiri Dagoba .. over 50 2 at Salgaswatte
Mihintale ..
Vallipuram .. 3 at least
Iranaimadu .. 1
Nindavur .. 1 CCC Supplement
Sinnamukattuvaram .. 1 CCC Supplement


The normal type has-Obv. : Elephant walking to left trunk extended tail ending in triple fork; occupying the whole of the base; above, arranged are four symbols :

  • (a) Symbol No. 2.
  • (b) Swastika, revolving to r., mounted on a staff and surrounded by a railing indicated by four vertical lines rising from a horizontal one.
  • (c) A three-branched tree in enclosure, each branch ending in a triple fork. The enclosure is shown by a square divided into four compartments by a vertical and a horizontal line At each of the two upper corners is sometimes a dot or a taurine symbol.
  • (d) Caitya or three arched cells ; the two bottom ones are contiguous

The spaces are filled up with single dots or with groups of three dots, usually placed as follows :-

  • (1) A group on either side of the head of the swastika ;
  • (2) A group to left top of caitya ;
  • (3) A group to left of tree enclosure ;
  • (4) A group on either side of the elephant.

The whole is within a double circle enclosing dots and lines. Pl 7


Rev. : Four symbols arranged

  • (a) Large swastika on a railing as on obverse.
  • (b) Caitya as on obverse, but the two lower cells are divided by a space ; a horizontal line is beneath.
  • (c) Symbol No. 6.
  • (d) Nandipada symbo.

The spaces are filled as on obverse, usually as follows :-

  • (l) A group of dots on either side of the head of the swastika,
  • (2) A group on either side of the caitya.

The whole design is enclosed within a line circle.


HW Codrington in his supplement to Chapter III has a paragraph Section 11a. He describes two new type of coins or a hydrid and an other type.Many more coins have been found they are published below.

  • Two coins found in Kulmunai division of Batticaloa district.The symbols are normal but with the addition of a new symbol on either side.This symbol in its simplest form consists of a horizontal line;at a point quarter of the entire length from left end a short line projects from lower side diagonally to the left, while on opposite to it is a loop sloping upward in the same direction.

Until a better identification is made will call it an elephant goad, this symbol is also found on the re-struck coins published by DPE Hettiarchchi.



On many of the coins the die is partly off the flan, leaving a blank margin on one side. The thickness of the flan varies, as does also the size of the die ; a number of the coins thus have the design on the obverse compressed, resulting in a squat form of the swastika. These are marked in the following list with a star :-

Diameter Inches Weight Grains | Diameter Inches Weight Grains
1.35 x 0.98 301.6 | *1.22 228.4 Broken
1.45 267.3 Worn | 1.41 227 Worn
*1.29 263.5 | *1.35 217.9
1.33 257.7 | 1.41 210.7 Worn
1.41 256.5 | 1.45 202.5
*1.51 251.2 | *1.35 x .059 199.6 Very worn
*1.33 245.2 | *1.24 198.7 Worn
1.37 244.8 | *1.39 191.5 Worn
1.49 232.5 Worn | 1.27 x .039 150.0 Very worn
1.37 232.0 Very worn | 1.22 l50.0 Worn
| *1.35x .029 l48.0 very Worn

The following are from Kantarodai :–

Diameter Weight
1.16 205.4 Worn
1.16 129.6 Worn ; broken
0.96 102.9 .. Worn ; broken

Variant;-As normal type, but on reverse symbol on left is No. l.
Diameter, l.49 x 0.49 inches weight 247.8 Colombo Mus.49

(b) Parker’s “Anuradhapura coin” (Ancient Ceylon, p. 504). –
Obv. is complete. Above the elephant is back is symbol a, slightly tilted upwards on the left ; close to it and over the elephant’s back is the tree and enclosure. The caitya is in the usual position, but the swastika, which is squat, is placed over symbol a and the caitya. There are groups of three dots (1) to left of tree, (2) to left of head of swastika, and (3) to left of elephant; single dots.(l) to right of swastika railing, and (2) below the caitya.
The reverse is worn.
Diameter mean: l.47 in. Weight :233 gr.

(c) Parker’s ” Mihintale coin’s (ib., p 505) As last.
Obv : Elephant’s tail is not forked ; no dots to left of elephant ; two to right of caitiya, and two to left of swastika rail.
Rev: Three dots to left of caitiya. The variations may be due to wear.
Diameter : 1.3l in, Weight:264gr.

(d) On reverse symbol to right is modified; over but not touching a circle without a dot in the centre the lateral prongs instead of being curved extend horizontally outwards an then turn upwards at right angles. On either side of the circle and beneath the angle of the prongs is a short line pointing downwards and outwards, In the caitya the lower cells are contiguous.
Diameter : 1.41 in. weight 250.5 grs

11. As in normal type, but the side symbols c and dare counter-changed ; the Nandipada symbol has a small triangle projecting on the left side covering the junction of the circle left –pl 8.

Diameter 1.47 in Weight ; 285.8 gr.
Diameter 1.33 in Weight : 255.3 gr.

Variant -As last, but with both symbols upside down. The Nandipada symbol sometimes has a triangular projection similar to that just described on either side. The projection on symbol c is to the right. Colombo Mus 48 ; fine die, corroded green. In good condition on Obv., but worn on rev, Taurines on tree enclosure. Diameter : l.35in. Weight 220.l gr. Pl.9.

Diameter Weight
In. Gr.
Parker’s Tissa coin (ib , p. 503) 1.27 (mean) 220
do 1.22 282.8… Worn
Others 1.39 263
do 1.29 233.2 …Very Worn
do 1.37 209. …..Worn

A set of coins from Tissamaharama Ruhuna purchased by Raja Wickremasinghe.

E & S_side 2



Coin No1- Sinnamukattuvaram :This symbol is placed on the obverse in a slanting position over and parallel to symbol No 2, which is much reduced in size. On the reverse it appears with its head to the left between the railed swastika and the caitiya.

At an SLNS lecture on 15 Nov 2000, Wng Cdr Raja Wickremasinghe on Dating Acient Sri Lankan Coins issued an photo copies of coins. One of these coins has the standard and Goad symbol between the Elephant and Railed swastika on the obverse These are shown below.

A set of coins from Tissamaharama Ruhuna purchased by Raja Wickremasinghe.


No 2- Nindavur:The symbols apapers of either side with its head to left , but more elaborate size. Both coins the elephant is large: on the reverse the horns of the Nandapadi symbol do not touch the circle, but are joined there too by a triangular projection on either side

Few other coins of this type has been published.

At an SLNS lecture on 15 Nov 2000, Wng Cdr Raja Wickremasinghe on Dating Ancient Sri Lankan Coins issued an photo copies of coins. There were two coins , the second photo has only the symbol of an Elephant Goad or an battle-axe[Keterai] These are shown below.


In the above lecture by Wng Cdr Raja Wickremasinghe collated the Data based on the Dr SU Deraniyagalas Addendum II Archeological Survey Dept. Sri Lanka 1992. Two large Elephant and Railed Swastika coins were found in layers 59 and 52. These layer were carbon dated to 150 – 100 BC.

E & S_side 2



A Temple painting depicting the Conception and Birth of Buddha

A Temple painting depicting the Conception[ The White Elephant Dream of Maya devi] and Birth of Buddha[Mayadevi , a Sakyan bathed in Lotus pond prior to birth of Buddha ]

The skills of ancient Sinhala artist can be appreciated in the artifacts such as coins. These craftsman or die-makers  of old displayed their imagination on the very little space available on the face of a coin.The portraits on ancient Greek coins made of gold and silver are very much sort after pieces of art , other than the numismatists value. The most sort after  Sri Lankan  ancient pieces of miniature art is perhaps on the Lady of the Cast and Struck plaques in Copper or its alloy. There is controversy as to who this Queen /Goddess on these plaque is ?. In displaying this artistic excellence; was it a religious theme that  the die-maker wish to portray on the face of the coin?. what ever it was -It must have been a  symbol  well known and in the mind set of the Sinhalese during the period of issue and could easily recognised by the people of that period.

The coin is question are dated from the period of King Devanampiyatissa. This may well have been after the arrival of Rev Mahinda to Sri Lanka.


The present art on the gateways were perhaps of a later period, but many believe that the very same figure may have been engraved on a wooden structures until they were replaced by stone during the Satavahana period. To quote from the web site on Sanchi;

  “A thrilling experience to remember when one walks over the same place where Devi, wife of Emperor Asoka, and son Mahendra had walked over, several hundreds of years back. Imagine that two thousand three hundred years back thousand of pious monks and nuns might have flocked to this place in saffron robes for spiritual solace. It was considered so pious that many of them wanted to attain salvation here. Then, the whole area, the valley down below and mountains across it might have been reverberating with “Buddham Sharnam Gachhami.” The place was sanctified by the visit of Mahendra, son of Asoka, who came to meet his mother Devi, perhaps living in one of the cells of the monastery located near Stupa 2, clothed in saffron cloths and a begging bowl in hand.

It was from here, Mahendra, embarked on the missionary journey to Ceylon for propagating the message of the Buddha. From Ceylon, Buddhism spread to many countries of South East Asia such as Burma, Java, Sumatra, Thailand and Korea etc. Thus Sanchi is the proud mother of Buddhism to many South East Asian countries. “

The Symbols found on Ancient Coins found on the Sanchi Gateway.

The  symbols depicting the important events of Buddhas life was placed on most ancient coins of Sr Lanka, and similar symbols are found on the Four Sanchi gateways. These sculptures of the 1 Cent BC, were perhaps copied on to stone from the original gateways of King Asoka period which may have been on wood. What was depicted at Sanchi may be  an important evidence to understand the ancient Die-makers of Sri Lankan coins mind set.

The Southern Gateway: Reveals the birth of Gautum in a series of dramatically rich carvings and is  crowned by a wheel of law, illustrates the miracle associated with the Buddha as told in the Jataka tales. The Eastern Gateway, depicts the young prince, Gautam, leaving his father’s place, renouncing worldly life to seek enlightenment .The inner face of the right pillar portrays the dream of Maya, the mother of Buddha, when she conceived him. The Western Gateway depicts the Seven incarnations of the Buddha, four represented by trees and three by stupas; the Buddha preaching his first sermon at the Deer Park, Sarnath and the Chhaddanta Jataka tale. Stupa No. 2, dating back to the 2nd Century BC, stands at the very edge of the hill and its most striking feature is the stone balustrade that surrounds it. Stupa No.3 situated northeast of the Great Stupa is where the relics of Sariputra and Mahamogualana

The Elephant depicting the dream of Maya devi, the Conception of the to be Buddha, the Horse his renunciation, the Bodhi tree his enlightenment and the Caitiya his passing away. The most celebrated event by  Buddhists was his birth on the full moon day of Vesak. This event was depicted in later sculpture[ 3/4 Cent ] with a figure of Maya devi holding a branch of Sal tree and the baby appearing at her hip.

How this very same events was depicted on the Gateways at Sanchi, India?. The life and stories of the Buddha are depicted on stone are woven out of miracles associated  Indian  deities. The  conception is remembered by the dream of a White Elephant, the Birth with the miraculous stream of water issuing from the ground under the influence of two Nagas.

All these photos is taken off the web sites on ancients Buddhist sites in India.Please visit these sites for more details.


A  count of the main events in the life of the Buddha on the four gateway is shown below.

Sanchi 1


These above pieces are found in most ancient sites of Sri Lanka. They appear in the various denominations. The earliest found coin is perhaps 2  Cent BC. They were found in C14 dated layers from 1 Cent BC up to 7 Cent AD. Some of the figures on the coins are about finest pie4ces of miniature art found in Sri Lanka.They are the most abundant of ancient coins of Sri Lanka.  They may cost between $ 20 to $300 [for good copies- depending on the condition and Artistic Merit], but they are forbidden to be taken out of the country , with out the inspection and approval  of the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka.

Where else did our ancient Craftman use this symbol?.

1.The Makara-Thorana over the cave at Issurumuniya.

2.Wahalkada at Abeyagiri Vihare now chiselled off[ DPE Hettiarachchi].

3. Lintal in the Dalada Maligawa at Yapahuwa- Where the sacred Tooth relic was worshiped in 13 Cent AD.

4. The side of Gal-potha at Pollonnaruva.

1 and 2 are not dated, the 3and 4 are almost a thousand years after that on Sri Lnkan coins.

This very same concept was used on coins of India, they all have the  Buddhist symbols which are found on the plaques found here.


More reading; wordpress.sirimunasiha . Appendix to Chapter III- HW Codrington



Siege warfare of the ancient Near East took place behind walls built of mud bricks, stone, wood or a combination of these materials depending on local availability. The earliest representations of siege warfare date to the Proto-dynastic Period of Egypt, c.3000 BC, while the first siege equipment is known from Egyptian tomb reliefs of the 24th century BC showing wheeled siege ladders. Assyrian palace reliefs of the 9th to 7th centuries BC display sieges of several Near Eastern cities. Though a simple battering ram had come into use in the previous millennium, the Assyrians improved siege warfare. The most common practice of siege warfare was, however, to lay siege and wait for the surrender of the enemies inside. Due to the problem of logistics, long lasting sieges involving anything but a minor force could seldom be maintained


Many incident of siege warfare is mentioned in our ancient text from the time of Pandukabaya[ 4 Cent BC].The seven Characteristics of a Fortress according to one of our ancient texts the Angutta Nikaya is based on Jala Durga and Mahi – Durgha. These are

a. Esika – A deep seated well dug in-movable and un-shakble Pillar.

b.Parika– A deep and wide Moat.

c. Anupariya patho– The encircling road.

d. Bahun Ayudhan sannicitam– The great armoury of spear and sword.

e. Bahu balakayo– The large quantity of troops.

f. Prano– A cleaver, intelligent and wise Commander of the Gate.


The tradition of building fortified cities is perhaps taken from the Buddhist works called Ummaga Jatakaya. The general technique or the basic plan was developed on the principles of the fortress of Mithila, the capital of Vajjis of ancient India. Mr Prasad Fonseka describing the fortress of Kotte quotes in then Royal Asiatic Society Journal 2011.

” The white ramparts of Mithila was 18 cubits high[27 Feet], like a wreath of waves rising in the milky ocean;adjoining the wall, to strengthen, it on the outside, he built a buttress all around, and upon the ramparts he erected hundreds of towers covered with arabesque, while each gate was adorned with grotesque carvings on the outside; an strong holds were established here and there. Outside the encircling ramparts he dug three moats, the first full of water, where in grew five type of Lotuses, and infested monstrous crocodiles and sharks; around this was the second moat full of mud; and around this again the third moat full of ……”.

The Mahavansa states that the fortress were of Vijithapura was 18 cubits heigh and had three moats around it. The Sigirya has 3 moats. It is interesting to measure the height of the remains earth rampart at Mahagama – [Tissamaharama]. There is enough and more architectural remains of these ancient fortifications that need be studied by military historians , and seems to be ideal materials for those at the newly instituted Military Academies of Sri Lanka. I understand that the Fort in Jaffna is been renovated with Military assistance.

The main purpose of these forts for deference against enemies, for protection or defense of the population and the countryside. Some of these forts were built at frontiers and in remote areas. There seems to be seven or eight type of Forts built in Sri Lanka according to old traditions,, these are under the heading of Land Forts, River Forts and Mountain Forts.These selected sites can be of many shapes Square, Rectangular, Round are usually surrounded by 3 moats and usually built at confluence of rivers or perennial or man made lakes. The earth obtained by the digging of the moats are used to build the Ramparts.On the sides facing enemy thorny plants and poisoness creepers[ Kahabiliya] were grown .The ramparts was built up with stone and could accommodate Chariot, perhaps to rush troop when breached. There were Turrets and Towers for observations with holes for Archers to take on the enemy.[Arathsastra].

The Land Forts are sometime Mountain protected and water protected , some forts were Jungle and Marsh protected. They had many gateways which were removable. Most of the specification were laid down in the above book, to which was available to our Kings in addition to ancient sinhala text Yadu……. and other books now lost.


The ancient text from the time of Pandukabaya describes siege warfare where defenses with in a fortress. The ancient ramparts were built of mud or earthen embankments. The remnants of these are still evident after a 1000 years after been abandoned. A good example is at Tissa rest House on the way to Kataragama. You enter the fort at the Tissa tank and leave via a bridge over the ancient moat on the way to Kataragama. If you stop your car and proceed on foot to the left along the old moat, you climb on to this embankment which is pretty high. Should be measured. see the Satellite photo below.

Later periods the fortress of Sri Lanka was built in Stone, the earliest stone fortress remnants can be seen at Anuradhapura , but the complete is those at Sigiriya.

The siege is well described in the battle of Vijitha nagara , which is now discovered to be in the Pollonaruva new city limits. Worth a visit.

The ancient strategy of siege warfare is laid down in books available to us,  it is worth studying the little data available in the story written by the ancients . So some factors which may be useful or relevant to the attacks on Forts in books is given below.[Peguin Book – Arthasastra.-LN Rangarajan].

The Five methods available to the attacker are.. Psychological Warfare.   enticing the enemy out of Fort , weakening him, besieging him,and taking the fort by direct attack.

Psychological Warfare;

a.Frightening the Enemy use of religious trick, that God is on his side.

b.Using soothsayers, reader of omen , astrologers  and magic etc  as bad omens through secret agents to De-moralise or the Defender  of imminent defeat.Even appearances of Meteorites were used as bad omens for the defender.

c. Winning over, part of the defenders by covert and overt means.

Enticing the Enemy out of Fort.

a.Send unreliable force to attack, and feign defeat have a strong force in reserves.

Weakening the Enemy.

a. Ostensibly dismiss or punish a Jungle[ Vanni] troops, who shall seek shelter in the fort and gradually bring over  his own troops.

b. Cause dissension amoung leader of different types of troops in side fort, spreading false stories, use carrier pigeons or bird caught residing in fort  to drop written propaganda.

Laying a Siege.

a.Plan to deplete the resources from the defender, drive or resettle  the people, destroy his crop, cut off his supplies. :

“There cannot be a country with out  people, and their cant be Kingdom without a country”

b. Time of attack; The attacker has all the replenishment of food, machines armour, and other equipment.

c.  When the climate is favourable.

d. The defender soldiers suffer from weariness, low morale,and depletion of supplies.


a. Encircle the fort.

b.Cut off the drinking water.

c.Fill up the moat with earth, dig tunnels under the ramparts or breach them with elephants,

d. Attack using machines etc.

d. Hunt down  escaping troops be horse.

e. Set fire to  fort, catch and use birds making nest and tie fire brands to their tails and let them fly back to fort with food etc. Use animal like wise, Monkeys, cats and dogs.

f. If unsuccessful ,Withdraw and pretend to abandon siege, hide  and destroy enemy when he comes out


Ancient fort

Storming the fort.

a.Feint attack by using weak troops as a diversionary attack.

b. Attack weak place where which is weakly defended.

Many rules of Conduct during the storming of a Fort.

Those who fall in the fight,turns and run, those surrendering, those who untie their hair as a symbol of surrender or downs his weapon,anyone contorted with fear and those not fighting shall not be harmed.

Action after the Capture.

All enemy supporter shall be cleared out and precautions shall be taken both inside and out side against secret attacks or spies, before entering the fort.,


The Characteristics of Remanent of forts in Sri Lanka. How much of the above was used depending of the ground situation .


Established. The first record of the first City walls was that King Katukannatissa[41-19 BC] built the wall to a height of seven cubits with a moat in front of it. This fortifications were further strengthened and enlarged by raising the walls to a height of 18 cubits in the time of King Vasaba[ 65-106 AD]. He added fortified gatehouses at the entrances, the ruins of which can still be seen. He had consulted soothsayers and architects according to the Mahavansa.[Anurhada Seneviratna].

Kings Who ruled

Battles fought


The Out line of the Rectangular ramparts in shown in the above satellite Photo, These wall made of earth has now been washed away or destroyed. The moat is still in existence and the out line is seen in above picture. Part of the rampart  exists in the North east corner.


The fort of Pollonnaruva was rebuilt by ParakramabahuI Mhv Ch 73 Para57; The Monarch had a high Chain of walls built on all sides, higher than walls of former Kings and gleamed with a coating of lime…. then after he built around  this three wall each in turn smaller than the other. This was the standard laid down by Kautaliya the adviser to King Chandragupta , where three  trenches each narrower than the other must surround a Kings Palace.The dug out soil may have served for the construction of the small walls.

Ancient Fortress of Vijithapura.,

Discovered by Dennis Fernando

The Ancient Port Of Mantai.

The Fortress of Sigiriya



Batalagoda- A fortress from where Parakramabahu I conducted his conquest.

Parakramapura or Panduvasnuwara. Ramparts, Moats etc.

City of Kotte[ Sri Jayawardanapura]

The Remains at Sitawaka.


“The treatment of the Lotus by any Sittara[ A Sinhalese Artist] was the reduction of many varied and complex forms of  flowers to some common denomination in art- the expression in the one of the many”-D.B. Dhanapala

The most popular Lotus plants in Sri Lanka are  known in Sinhalese as the Manel ,Olu and Nelum . The Manel mala is the national flower of Sri Lanka. An artistic impression of the Manel Mala of the late Anuradhapura period is on a slab engraving , now at the Colombo National museum.It shows the 8 outer petals and the sixteen inner petals and the inner pods etc.

A Lotus Flower with outer petals folded down. Found on Parakramabahu I Padaviya Inscription-12 Cent AD

The symbols associated with the  lotus  known as Asta-mangala[ 8 Lucky Symbols] diagram to the right in above picture . What the ancient sinhalese created around the lotus  is a subject by it self. Read  Mr TB Karunaratna in the Royal Asiatic Society Journals.


All the diemakers of the  ancient period appears to have adhered to tradition  in the  placement of these symbols on the face of the coin. A similar placemnt may be observed  in the art on curving of the Buddha Foot, Yantaragalas under Buddha statues, Astanmangala slabs etc.These symbols mentioned on early Sinhalese literature were well  known to the ancient people of Sri Lanka .The  easy and instant recognition of  these symbols was necessary for them to be  accepted as money or as a means of exchange.

Earliest Coin with the Lotus – Found in the Island.

The earliest recorded coins are the silver Kahapanas or Punch Marked Coins[PMC]. Fair numbers of Silver Punch Marked coins or Kahapanas [ mentioned in our ancient Text and on ancient Inscriptions ] is found in then Island.Usually all Imperial Punch Marked Coins have 5 marks  on them. Gupta & Hardekar has published over 600 such marks. The lotus symbol is found along with Disk as G & H  Number 166 .

One of earliest PMC’ s found in Sri Lanka shown below has  six Marks.The extra mark is  The Lotus Flower , is not one of the 5 marks found on other coins found in India[ Gupta & Hardakar Lists] . This mark   is  perhaps a Bankers mark and used by examiners of ancient coins to approve its use by  certifying its weight , metal or its authenticity.

The other symbols are the Fish, A fish in the rectangle with a spear flanked by two arrow heads[ perhaps a Battle flag], the six armed symbol , the Sun Symbol   and the Bo- Ankula.  Most of the symbols are found on the coins of the Sinhalese kings.

Another design of a Lotus is found on Copper Punch Marked Coins of North India that is also recorded at Anuradhapura and at Tissamaharama. This is shown below.

The Coin- Series II PMC No 269

This coin is published by HW Codrington in his book Coins and Currency Of Ceylon 1924. This appears as NO 1 on his plates. This coin is now identified by Gupta & Hardekar as an issue of the descendants of  King Adjastaura, who ruled Maghada Janapadaya in the 5 Cent BC during the time of the Buddha.  It is interesting that both our very ancient texts , the Mahawansa and the Dipavansa[ 5 Cent AD] mentions these descendants of Adjasatura in relation to the contemporary Kings of Sri Lanka.The kings who ruled in the Island during this period ,quotes from our very ancient text is given below

Mahawansa Chap IV

Adjasatura son Udayabadaka slain-ed him and ruled 16 years, Anuradha killed his father and Munda  and Nagadasaka all patricides ruled for 24 years

Dipavansa  Chap 4

a. Verse 27‘The Twenty-fourth  year of King Adjasatura reign was  sixteenth year of King Vijaya[ First Sinhalese King] rule’.

b. Verse 41 – King Nagadasa  had  reigned ten years in Magadha when King Pandukula [of Sri Lanka] reign was twenty.

This shows that these coins with these symbols are as old as the Sinhalese race in Sri Lanka.

The lotus flower is depicted by placing 6 Dots in a circle  around a single dot at the centre. Few other coins with this bankers mark is published in the  the plates of the  books ‘Hus Ebu Kasi’– Sirisoma & Amarasinghe , The Catalouges of Ancient Indain Coins – John Allen and Imperial  PMC of Maghdhan Empire – Gupta & Hardekar.

The lotus is one of the six marks in the six armed symbol  on a coin of  King Asoka[270-175 BC]  found at Akurugoda, Tissamaharama. The lotus symbol is found with three Arrow heads , A fish and a mark that looks like the modern numeral for One.

Other than on coins the earliest diagram of a lotus flower is perhaps that double Lotus on the famous necklace of Sanchi Vihare[ 1 Cent BC]. Other than the Lotus, the necklace carries the other auspicious or lucky symbols found on the 6-armed mark described above. Incidentally most symbols or marks on Sri lankan[ 3 Cent BC- 2 Cent AD] coins are found engraved on the Sanchi vihare.


The lotus appears on sinhala coins as

1. a pedestal for a symbol which is a standing or seated figure.

2. The above figure holding the flower by the  stalk .

3. A a  Flower over a hand.

On a Pedestal holding a flower.

These are coins known as Maya- devi Coins depicting the birth of Buddha also known as Lakshmi Plaques.Line drawing of some pieces found during archeological  excavations is shown below.

The above coins were excavated in strata C 14 dated 2 Cent BC – 2 Cent AD

Pictures of Maya-devi Plaques is shown below. Basically all the above designs have similar symbols though the figure is standing or sitting positions.

There is a large quantities of these found, some believe that coins were broken into two when making a payment of half the value of a Pana.[ Value and name of coin]. The lower parts of the broken coins showing the Lotus plant as pedestal is below.

There is no one single opinion as to who is depicted on the sinhala coins?. The very scene depicts Goddess  lakshmi  for the Hindhus. During 1 Cent BC, this scene as depicted on the Sanchi Gateways in India is the  the symbol  for the birth of Buddha.As all other ancient Sinhalese coins depicts the scene  symbolizing the main events of Buddha, we may accept that it is the ritual bath of any Sakyan lady in the lotus pond prior to birth of a child. This case it is Maya devi. As it depicts  Sri, Usha or later Lakshmi to the Hindhu’s , it is  very much Maya-devi to the Buddhists and the scene depicts her bath in the Lotus pond at Lumbini before the birth of the Buddha. During the Anuradhapura period,  this symbol  has been placed in a Wahalkada at Abeyagiri Vihare[ now disfigured] at Abeyagiri Dagabo and above statue of the Buddha in the Makara Thorane at Issurimuni Vihare. In Yapahuva it is placed as a linton over a window at the Temple of the Tooth.It is appropriate for the scenes such as the birth of the Buddha to be so placed.

The only direct proof of a scene of a lady holding a Lotus flower  is on an ancient  coins  of Western India which is inscribed pakala-vadi-devada Ambi– the mother goddess of the lotus. She holds a Lotus flower in her right hand

There are many instances of the use of this symbol on coins of aIndia at a later period 4 Cent AD during the Buddhist  period.

The classic example is seen on a Gold  coins of the Guptas, where a lady is seated on a Lotus throne holding a Lotus flower in the left hand. The Guptas age was called the Golden Age of Indian history.King Meghavarna of Sri Lanka sent a political  mission to with presents to Chadragupta with a request to build a monastery at Bogh-gaya, which is granted  and three hundred years later a Chinese pilgrim Hsuian Tsang describes this magnificent Establishment with a 1000 priests and rich decorations and massive grandeur[ UC HC].

A gold coin of the Gupta period where a lady holding a lotus flower in left hand and seated on a lotus throne is shown below

The Sinhalese artist used a similar design on their Kalandas of Gold. 7-10 cent AD.

These were used on Type II Kalandas of Gold.


The Double Lotus on the Sanskrit Inscrption at Anuradhapura, the similar script [ high-lighted] is found on the Gold Kaladas

The Obverse of a Type II Ran Kalanda is shown below.A figure of a man facing a 8 petal Lotus held in the left hand. The  figure  perhaps of a King with a Sri symbol under right arm ,standing on a stalk ending with the Sanka and Bo -ankula. Please note these three symbol sounds add up to Sri Sangabo, one of the names, some  kings of Sri Lanka from the late Anuradhapura up to those of Kotte called them self on inscriptions.


[Shown in the figure below]

This is an example of a seated figure holding a Lotus Flower in full bloom[ A mediveal artist’s  minature version of the lotus (3 mm) -compare this with the Astamangala Slab shown earlier], the value of the the coin is written to left- Sri Laka Vi Ha , [ Sri lanka’s  piece of Twenty]. It is seated on an tresure trove of 10 compartments. According to Mr OMR Sirisena, this indictes that in the twenty masakas weight, there is 10 masakas of Gold.

20 Masakas = 01 Kalanda [ Measures of weight of the Sinhalese]

The obverse of the Lotus Bud & Adahanda. The standing figure holds a Lotus Bud in left hand and stands on two stalks that are ending with two lotus flowers in bloom is seen in above picture..

Lotus Pedestals.

The Sinhalese used lotus stalks as pedestals in their ancient buildings, many of these are still seen at Anuradhpura, Pollonnaruva and at teh Colombo Museum.

Similar  pedestal on coins on which elephants  stand in Maya devi coins.. The Indians too placed Elephant  on  lotus pedestals on their coins.

The Sinhalese also used lotus pedestals for statues of Buddha , Goddess, Royalty  and to place auspicious symbol on them.

One very important characteristic of ancient and medieval coins having a standing or seated  human figure is to place the figures  on a Pedestal. The pedestal in most cases is a representation of a Lotus plant with stalks and flowers. There are few coins where  with human figures having no pedestal, others have boat like symbol, a Caitiya and the rest three lines, perhaps represents a pedestal  These three lines are interpreted s waves and some believe it to be a representation of the Caitiya

Similar practice on  medieval gold coins the Ran Kalandas.

The Six Dot around a single dot is on the silver 96  elephant  Stiver of 1808 AD  .

The lotus was used on the Rupee Five Coin of 1956.on which the 4 Pairs of animal stand.

The Lotus shape pond at  Polonnaruva the capital of Sri Lanka during 11-13 Cent AD is shown below.

Lotus Pond Pollonnaruva 12 Cent AD

There are over 25 different shaped ponds of the same period at Polonnaruva a Key shaped pond in shown below.

A performing Art Theater with a roof top open air  theater in the same shape as the Lotus Pond was opened recently in Colombo, o built by the Chinese Govt an  idea of Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge period.

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