Sanka -Right-turning conch/Chank

The right-turning white conch shell Sinhalese Sanka or Hak gediya representing the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddha-dharma which awakens disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others;Chanks turning right has been fashioned into shape of vessels and deposited in Garbhapatras at Madirigiriya. Dr Paranavitane believes this may have been used in the anointing of kings, and deposited by that king, as a token of humble devotion to the Buddha

The conch shell is thought to have been the original horn-trumpet; ancient Sri Lankan  Text  relate heroes carrying and blowing of Conch  shells in Battle. Pussadeva the General of Dutugemunu  is famous for blowing the Conch and dispersing the enemy.

The earliest coin with a Conch, is perhaps on the Copper punch mark Coins. On one side the Conch like mark is seen. The coins of this type found in SriLanka is very worn or well used or in circulation for a long period, unlike some coins found in India which seems to be in mint condition.

Another coin with conch or Sanka found in Sri Lanka is the Bull and Elephant coin. On this coin  the Conch is found as a minor mark over the Elephant.

Another coin is where the Chank or Conch is perhaps used as indicate the phonetic value or the reading as Sanka or Sanga , as suggested by Mr KNV Seyone, a past President of the Numismatist Society. It is shown above a Bo Tree branch, which Mr Seyone suggest the sound BO. The Sinhalese Nagari Letter Sri as found on Dambedeniya coins on the other side of then coin. He suggest reading the coin as Sri Sanga Bo. The coin was perhaps issued by King Akabodhi III or IV.

The Sanka was used extensively on the Kalandas of Gold coin series issued perhaps during 7-10 Cent AD and on the coins of Pollonnaruva, Dambedeniya and those of the Kotte periods.The coin  shown below is Type I “Chank” coin named after the the Conch that is held over the Palm of the seated figure on the reverse. This is perhaps one of so far confirmed 7 or 8 veriaties  of coins of type I. 

A Conch is also attached to the left Lotus stalk on which the figure stand on the obverse of the coin. Incidently the other stalk to right ends  with a Bo– ankula. The is no Sri to complete the Viduru name of  some of the Kings – ”  Sri Sanga Bo  ” as  they addressed them selves in their inscriptions. But a distinct Srivatsa is seen over the Chank under the outstretched right hand of the King. This need further examination by any experts who has studied these coins in detail.

The chank over a Pot  is also found on the adakahapana or half Kalanda which is has on the reverse the Name of state Sri Lanka- and a nagari letter Ka, which Dr Paranavitane is the Value or equivalent to 8 silver coins.

Another coins is the quater Kalanda of Gold shown below, the legend in Nagari reads Sri[?] Lan ka Ma. which also denotes the name of issuing state and the value or weight Ma

An example of a silver Kalanda or Massa with the nagari letters Sri Lanka Va ha is shown below. Th seated figure holding a chank sits or hovers over a rectangular kostagara having 6 compartment- which according to an interpretation given by a Numismatists who spent his entire life of studing these Gold kalandas Mr OMR Sirisena – means that there is six gold masus of the total weight  of 16 Masus.






  1. Coins were of monetary and dynastic value
    SL had a system of writing; Brahmi, (Pali, Sinhala, Tamil)
    The symbolism of the coin is as it is presented and needed to be recognized throughout the region on trade
    Symbolism to represent sounds was not even the norm in Indian coins, perhaps only in Egyptian.
    Additionally, we cannot just fail to recognize the symbol in preference to an interpreted sound (which is not also consistent when trying to interpret the range of historical coins we have)
    The peasant classes of yester year who are now the dominant culturally are uncomfortable as the symbols do not fit the popular renditions of history propagated by them, now accepted as history, hence the twist.

    • Yes, if Mr Seyone speculation is correct, then it is some thing new that symbolism to represent Sounds on coins.Like Sri Sanga Bo or Sri Sanda Bo etc. Dr Paranavitane speculated similar sounds-m ‘Pala panca’ or the Five cyphers or breast on gold coins to mean kalanda etc[ Story of Sigiriya].The Pancala Coins is of special interest to student of inconography.The kings were named after Deities, Suryamitra, Agnimitra etc , they had the Sun and a human with hairdo of five flames etc. The Sinha coins too had these features too. We have coins with the standing figure having hair do like flames jutting out, or cobra heads etc.I have published some of them as described by H Parker in Ancient Ceylon.MH Sirisena speculates that the criss crossed Rectangular Asana under the seated figure may indicate the weight of Gold in maskas in the allying of metal for coin. These ideas will hurt most of the die hards of what they learnt earlier. But then we see a gradual changes that occured in the inconograhy on coins during the last 2500 years,we can analyse and show how , but we like to know why?. The smart young numismatist of the future will have to answer this.Sorry for delay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s