The Buddha advice to all reigning Kings during the period.

The King who merely  collected taxes from a land troubled by brigands and anti-social elements was not doing his duty. Banditory and strife  could never be  suppressed by force or draconian punishments. The root of social evil was poverty and unemployment. This was not to be bribed away by charity and donation , which which would reward and further stimulate  evil actions. The correct way was to supply seed and food to those who lived by agriculture and cattle breeding. Those who lived by trade should be furnished with necessary capital. Servants of the state should be paid properly and regularly so that would not not find ways to squeeze the state. New wealth should be generated, the states liberated  from robbers and cheats. A citizen could bring up his children in comfort and happiness, free from fear, in such a productive and contended environment. The best way of spending surplus accumulation, whether in the treasury or from voluntary donations, would be in public works such as digging well and water ponds and planting groves along the trade routes“.

Most Historians believe that ancient Sri Lanka was not a coin based  economy. Most transactions and trade was by barter and services or labour undertaken for the state was rajakariya system. King Dutugemunu had ruled that people should be paid for the labour for the construction of Mahaseya etc. However Dr S Paranavitane in Inscription of Ceylon Volume I has provided  evidence of private corporations and ownership of tanks etc, a list of professions that is required  for a coin based economy. The  large  numbers of coins been unearthed throughout the Island in layers of earth that were C 14 dated to cover the period from almost 4 Cent BC.


KAHAPANAS, Kahapana or Kahavana is the ancient Sinhalese name for Karshapana the  eastern or Indian  standard weight for Silver coins. The karshapana was of 32 unit weight or 3.4- 3.5 grams This weight goes back to the Indus Valley culture, where accurately cut stones of this magnitude is found..- Culture & Civilization of Ancient India DD Kosambi. Among the beads, coins and other metal objects that remains while sweeping for gem in the ancient fortress of Mahagama or Tissamaharama  are three metal pieces perhaps of Lead of the same weight.

It would be interesting to check if similar ingots of same weight has been found in archeological digs at Tissamaharama and Anuradhapura.

In the Has Ebu Kasi- Sirisoma & Amarasinghe states that Panas was trade and Karsha[ Kaha] was  a weights- hence objects or weight used for trade. These may the pieces of money originally issued by Traders and the Merchant  Mariners who traversed the two  great Trade routes the Uttara-path and Dhakini-patha and the Maritime routes of the Indian Ocean . The  Kahapanas or Punched Marked Coin hoards are found from Afghanistan to South India and all around Sri Lanka along these routes. Earlier issues may have been the unmarked silver pieces which were checked regularly for correct weight and purity and approved by the examiners of coins with their marks. These may be the Nila- kahapanas or those approved by money changers as pure, by placing marks. Later the Magadhan/  Myruyan  empire issued coins of same weight with 5 marks.

The man silver pieces found in the Island of the same weight are now considered to be the coins with no name mentioned in the early Sinhalese texts -the Mahavansa. The number mentioned are large and some reason to believe the numbers were exaggerated by the ancient authors.Here some of these numbers mentioned  will be examined,by comparing with the  data available in other countries during the same 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[ calls her Dear One] the flee leaving the children behind. Then Vijeya 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 access to the silver pieces called karshapanas in circulations in North Indian Janapadas. In India those silver pieces of series  II and III [ Gupta & Hardekar] are found  along the trade routes that Vijaya grand father  plundered. The value of 200,000 pieces if taken as silver Kahapanas of the Maghdan empire [ Weighs 3.46 grams each] would be 680 kilo. If so the tribute is at commodity value of Rs….


ECONOMIC CONDITIONS IN INDIA 3/2 CENT BC. The Kings of the Magadhan / Maurayan  empire had a standing army whose soldiers were paid  in silver kahapanas. DD Kosambi quotes from Arthasastra [ Chadragupta period] the normal annual pay from the very highest to the lowest were:-

  1. Chief Priest. High Councilors, Chief Queen, Kings Mother,Crown Prince and Commander in Chief         48,000
  2. Expert Miner/ Engineer/Spy etc                                                                                                                                           1,000
  3. Normal trained soldier/Scribes/accountants                                                                                                                   500
  4. Carpenters and Craftsmen                                                                                                                                                            120
  5. Common labourer                                                                                                                                                                            60

The senior officers in the Army  and Superintendents of trades etc got more

The chief architect of Mahaseya was paid 12,000[Mahavansa-Chap XXX p  ]  perhaps an yearly payment

The Kahapanas of India was 3.4-3.5 grams in weight, Ten of them was approximately I Ounce in weight[ 31 garms].

Cunningham –States that Pana was the daily pay of a servant with food etc provided- 16 panas = 1 kahapana = 1 Rupiya.

DD Kosambi states that 60 silver pieces were the minimum requirements to keep body and soul together with perhaps something left over for dependents. This was 17.5 grams of silver per month. Which he states was exactly what the British East India Company  paid to lowest labourer in early 18th Century.  A 1000 per annum may be taken as a decent minimum for a middle class Magadhan house holder to lead a comfortable life. During  the visit of the  four Emissaries of Devanampiyatissa to the Magadhan Empire , why did  Asoka bestow on Arittha the rank of a Commander of the army, the Brahman the dignity of Chaplain, the Minister the rank of staff bearer and the treasurer that of Guild Lord.[ Chap XI para 25] Perhaps the levels of hospitality was according to the  order of protocol of the court of Asoka.  An effort is made  below to verify  the views of certain  historians that the figures of the Mahavansa are  arbitrary , fictitious or most of the  time fabulous and exaggerated .

1.They first case study is of the very first  Military Budget of a hundred thousand kahapanas[ each weighing 3.4-3.5 grams] to recruit and arm and train 500 soldiers is in para 24 Chap X, during the period of King Pudukabaya[ 400 BC]. This was  340 Kgs of silver having a commodity value of over  Rs 50million according the present value of silver[ US $ 40 per oz or 30 Grams approx- Aug 2011]. If Pandukanaya  adhered to  Indian standards of pay ,the monthly allowances of 500 trained soldiers would have been 500/12 x 500 > 20,000 pieces at the Arthashatra rates. So the Initial would have sufficed for 5 months, leaving aside the cost of arming and training. What is mentioned in the Mahavansa is reasonable and Prince Pandukabaya would have had  enough for to at least to pay Trainee soldiers , the chronicle further states hence  forth  he derived the revenue from the conquered districts[ Mhv X para].

Roman Army Pay

Compare above expenditure with Pay of the  the Roman Army  in 2 Cent AD, it had a strength of over 150,000 first grade troops. 5 Million Silver Denarii was required each month for payment, which was about 180,000 Kgs of Silver. Lot of this silver was sent to  East[ Sri Lanka} for the purchase of Cinnamon  etc. More Roman Copper Coins are found in the Island than in Rome.

2. Mahavansa transalation by Gieger states “As wages for the workmen employed on at each of the four gates of the Ruvanveli Dagoba 1,600,000 kahapanas at each doorway” (cap. XXX 18). This dagoba took 14 years to complete. Using the Arthshastra allowances an approximate average numbers of workman that would have worked could be deduced.

  •  Average monthly allowances at 4 gates is four times  1.6 Million  divided [12 x 14] the number of months in 14 years which is about  39,095 Kahapanas.This is the amount Kings treasurer had to provide each month. Mahavansa relates the finding of silver  in a cave at Ridiyagama.A  monthly yield of about 4,000 ounces of silver were required if new kahapanas were minted  for the pay, but a greater % of the previous month pay would have been recovered into the coffers of the king by way of taxes etc. Many moulds for the minting of Kahapanas of this period were discovered at Ruhuna[ Bopearachchi & Wickremasinghe and at Anuradhapura, Gedige Excavations[ S Dereniyagala]. The later was dated  as found in layer of earth C 14 dated to the 2 Cent BC-200 AD.The size is small and of Coins  1.5  x 1.2 Cm, The Sun and Elephant Symbols are visible. Probably Coins of Chadargupta/ Asoka period. Large numbers of these symbols are found here.
  •  Assuming that for each skilled Mason, Carpenter etc there were five unskilled labour for other chores -Such as brick-making and transport, lime mixtures, carpenters for scaffolding , manual labour etc .
  •  The Arthashastra standards ,the pay was about  Ten   kahapanas per month for skilled and 5 for unskilled [Addition perks mentioned  kind is also given as per the chronicle].

Then a fair guess at Maximum average of number of workmen other than the chief and other manager  could have be worked out. If  skilled persons working is Y . Then   the cost of payment for skilled labour was  10Y and at 5 helper per skilled person the l pay for unskilled is  5 multiplied by 5Y is 25Y . The total cost is 35 Y which is the cost per month for labour ,which is 39095 Kahapanas.Y works out to is less than  1200  skilled craftsman   and 6000 unskilled labour on an average during the 14 year period of construction. This  figure is far more reasonable than the fabulous figures of Herodotus- the father of History ,  where he mentions that 100,000 were employed at any one time to build the Pyramid of Gizeh[History of Mathematics- David M Burton]. The modern mathematicians claim that no more than 36,000 could have worked on the Pyramid with getting in each others way.

3.Kahapanas first appear by name in cap. XX 26 in which it is recorded as an act of munificence that the Tamil king Elara spent 15, 000 kahapanas to replace fifteen stones of the Stupa on Cetiyapabbata or Mihintale, accidentally broken by his chariot.Approximately Ten Kahapans is equal in weight and commodity value to 1 ounce of silver or $ 40.This value is 1500 ozs by 40 is $ 60,000 or Rs 6,000,000.

Speculate 100,000 Kahapanas= 10,000 0zs the commodity value is a $ 400,000.[Aug 2011 rates].

An engraving on stone at Dakkinastupa Anuradhapura, showing an object been covered with coins in the shape of Silver Kahapanas of King Dutugemunu's period.

An engraving on stone at Dakkinastupa Anuradhapura, showing an object been covered with coins in the shape of Silver Kahapanas of King Dutugemunu’s period.The Dakkina Stupa was constructed entombing King Dutugemunu’s ashes.

4. King Elara’s Sinhalese conqueror Dutugemunu,. BC.161-137(G 101-77), rewarded the archer Phussadeva with a heap of kahapanas large enough to bury his arrow set upright up right in the ground (cap. XXV, 99, 100), and the designer of the Ruvanveli Dagoba with a pair of garments worth a thousand and ornamented shoes and twelve thousand kahapanas (cap XX 14).

One thousand= 100 ozs =$4,000

5.As wages for the workmen employed on the Brazen Palace, King Dutujemunu  deposited 800,000 of gold Hi-rannas at each of the four gates,  (cap. XXVII, 21  The Tika commenting on the first of’ these two passages explains that the amount was 100,000 hi-rannas[ Rannas or Gold Pieces], each reckoned eight kahapanas, and this may be a genuinely ancient tradition.

6.The amounts spent by  king Dutugemunu seem fabulous ; thus, 19 kotis were expended on the Mirisvatiya 30 kotis on the Brazen Palace, and 1,000 kotis on the Ruvanveli Dagoba. Such large sums in money are incredible, and if there be no exaggeration must represent the estimated value of the work done.  If this was the money expended during the period these edifices were been built , as the author of the Mahavansa divides the period king Dutugemunus  rule.

 One Kotti is 10 Lakhs.


1.The  ancient text Sahasvathuprakaranaya states that during the reign of Dutgemunu  father King Kavantissa, the Army commander  Nandimitta purchased Venison worth 3 Kahapanas. It also states that during King Sadatissa period [He  reigned after Dutugemunu],  the purchases price of a cow was 8 kahapanas.

2.The earliest transaction on inscription ,mentioning the name of coins in use is that at Mampita Vihare near Kegalle, where Uttara,  an officer in charge of Canal along with Phussa ,a Lapidary by trade had donated 2 and 1 Kahapanas .The may be early as 2 Cent BC.

3.Ancient text mentions of Senapath[ Army General] of Dutugemunu purchased Venison[ Gona Mas] spending 3 Silver Kahapanas. During the period of his brother King Sadatissa, the family purchased a cow for 8 silver Kahapanas.



  1. Pingback: Tabib Jivaka, Para Pelacur, Kathina dan Ayur-Veda! | wirajhana1

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