The Science of Accounting in the world/ Ancient Sri Lanka

” The “Money Economies” had provided the means to express business trans-actions in terms of known values through the common medium of exchange. No doubt a single-entry type of Day Book or Journal had been in use for some time before Columbus discovered America. A Franciscan monk named Luca di Borgo Pacioli was destined to be given the title, “The Father of Modern Accounting.” Pacioli was born in 1445 A.D. in the province of Tuscany. After receiving a liberal education, he became a foremost mathematician, and taught in several Italian universities, including those in Florence, Venice, Padua, Naples and Rome. His abilities were recognized by a contemporary mathematician, the famous Leonardo da Vinci, destined to become one of the world’s great artists. Their common interests in mathematics produced a mutual and beneficial friendship”.- The National Cash Register

In Sri Lanka too where a well establish alphabet[ 5/6 Cent BC] and set of un-ambiguous Numerals[ 3 Cent BC] were available . The evidence of single entry Accounting is may be deduced from a set of Rules inscribed on Rock Inscriptions regarding the transaction of these religious institute. The Mahawansa Chapter XLVIII para 71 states that Abbabodhi issued a decree enforcing disciplines in the administration of Temples. The earliest of such decrees in found on the Heart-Hammillava Inscription of King Mahasena.

3 Cent AD

HEART – HAMMILLAVA ROCK INSCRIPTION- No 144 Inscriptions of Ceylon Vol II- S Paranavitane-  period of King Mahasen[277-304 AD] . This early record ends with the sentence ‘ This is a  legal enactment has been promulgated and recorded, having had it written on stone’. The line   of this inscription  mentions a Maha[ Ka]laka nakara [A revenue agency]. The lines regulate briefly the an accounting system in vogue in the  3 cent AD.


Line 12. – ka navaka makatta no-labanahi me savahi avasahi nava-kama karanakanata me ekankariha-sataha ca kariha[ about 50 letters illegible]



Line 13.  havajaraka     Navaka   -cadahi [  Luner month Jan-Feb] sava-rne [va ada] va   [ Income] batika kotu havajara     hi y(o)ji sakala viya      ko!ahi  [ Leaf] liya     [ write] tabaya     [Preserve]  vadaya aya                  [ Excess of revenue]-about 40 letters illegible)



In the month of Navaka in each year, all dues shall be collected and all the expenses that had been incurred during the year shall be written down on a leaf and preserved.  If there be any excess of revenue (over expenditure)[ 40 letter are ineligible]

[ Last line in Inscription]-


20. ” jadi ………….. Atanati magala tini anumavani Sata banavaraka pakana kotu vase vadiya hota nisa-muca labana vi damakama tabana lata vi salahi liva~ya patitipita…”


Line 20 To this effect this legal enactment has been promulgated and recorded, having had it written on stone.

Fair amount of Sealing’s  of clay has been discovered in the South of Sri lanka at Mahagama or present Tissamahrama.  Muller had examined these and the sealing were fixed or pressed on to leafs. Perhaps such method was used used to seal these documents.

Sealings- Functions & Typology- Walter Muller Ancient Ruhuna Vol I

Sealings- Functions & Typology- Walter Muller Ancient Ruhuna Vol I




The Sanskrit Inscription of the first half of the 9th Cent AD found  close to the Kottam Pokuna at Anuradapura is of two parts, the first part is yet to be found. This mentions the employment of Accountants which were people trained in that profession.

The part has 40 lines and in  line 3-5  states that

Every year whole Income and expenditure as well as the balance in hand shall be examined  with the help of the Accountant[ Ganaka]’

The Dambegoda Inscription[ 1 Km away from Gigantic Standing Buddha In The South of the country ] of Mahinda IV[956-972 AD] States  the In order that the Sasana (may flourish) for five thousand years, the following regulations, according to usage, were enacted with the regional officers of the Maha sabha and the Samgha in respect of the Mahavihara, and other Temples. It regulates what account has to be maintained daily in writing and balancing of accounts and these has to read out to all officials of the King, the Vihare and the monks.

Annually the monks of the savasa shall be convened and in the presence of the assembly an the royal officers and vihara officials, the records shall be read. The records should tabulate the items of income and expenditure (lit. how income was collected and how expenses were incurred) and of the allocation of nimi ( lands ) to serfs,  of the tax, dasakara, the balance should be retained as gurubhanda and should not be misappropriated.  If any dispute were to arise , the provincial royal officers should be informed


The famous inscription occupy a prominent place  on the Mihintale hill consists of two tablets. Both deals with rules and regulations for the Monastery. The slab A is relevant to the accounting procedure to be adopted. This documents elaborates on the Heart Hammilava Inscription and it lists out the officials that are involved in the temples, the security of documents such as placing of Sealings, the strong boxes to store these docments and the official responsibility, that documents has to be maintained monthly and compiling of the balance sheets from the twelve monthly documnets at the end of accounting year. A very transparent audit report at an end of year meeting.

  Lines 20-25 – “The officials who were in charge of the administration  the Lay warden who looks after the temple, the Stewards[ Akaniya], Almoners Pankaniya– who is in charge of items needed by the temple,

Lines 25-30 -The Registrar of the caskets[ Karanda leya] and the keeper of caskets.[ It also states that all these persons shall fix a place of business and shall attend to the duties connected to receipts and disbursements etc both internal and external]

Lines 54-58 ”Except that which is given as means of subsistence for the collectors’ of revenue of the villages and lands belonging to this Vihara, all [other] affairs transacted  bona fide with the concurrence of [officials at] all the respective places of business  shall be entered in the register. Whatever is spent daily on the maintenance of the Maha-Pa, on revenue-collectors and on the renovation of works shall be entered in the register.   [From the particulars contained therein] a statement of accounts shall be made with  the concurrence of [those at the respective] places of business, and such entries as are found false  shall be expunged from the account.  The sheet of accounts shall [then] be placed in a casket under lock [and key].  Every month the sheets of accounts [so deposited] shall be made public, and a [fresh] statement of accounts be prepared from them.   From the twelve statements of accounts [so made] during the year, there shall be compiled a balance sheet at the end of [each] year, which shall be read  out in the midst of the community of monks and be [thus finally] disposed of.  The employees who infringe these rules shall be made to pay ge-dand fines and be dismissed from the service……”



This accounting system for Monasteries  may have been summarized

1The official appointed for the administration and accounting, bursars etc of all expenditure and Income in all types of transactions are spelled out. The include accountants, bursars, Pankaniya-[ who is in charge of items needed by the temple], the Registrar of the caskets[ Karanda leya] and the keeper of caskets, Security Guards. .

2. They shall assemble at a designated location.

3, The type of documents to be maintained are spelled out, the sealing and security by placing them is included.

4, A simple Single entry Book-keeping system is spelled out

i. All transactions[ a-kala]income[ Aya] and expenses[ Vaya] will be recorded[ Lekam kara] daily perhaps under different heading in the Register[Pas- pota-hi].

iiThey shall be balanced end of each month , and the statement of Accounts [ At- vatu] sealed and locked up in caskets .

iii.They balance sheets[ At-vatu- gota] will be prepared at the end of each year.

5 System of Audit Annually and a General Meeting at the end of the year.

I. The 12 months Statement[ Dolos-At- Vatu]  shall be read out at an assembly all of Priest of the monastery, royal officials, the all the officials of the Monastery.

6. Disciplinary Action –Banking ethics

. .All employees who infringe these rules will be fined and dismissed.

.These are a collection of facts written by famous and new historians and epigraphists, thanks to the large number of text and inscriptions that the ancient left behind for posterity. Done by a retired military Officer lacking the expertise in Banking and Accounting. Perhaps a study by the experts could yield many more unseen deductions.

Address all comments and observations to

Brig Siri Munasinghe. E-mail


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