The sixth and seventh centuries are the ” Dark Ages ” of Ceylon; internal strife prevailed, and few, if any, contemporary records are in existence. The Mahavansa, however establishes a rough synchronism with Indian history; telling us that Manavamma got possession of the throne with the aid of the Pallava king Narasiha, for this monarch, Narasimhavarman I. defeated the Calukya Pulakesin about AD 642, and claims to have conquered the Pandyans and Colas and to have occupied Ceylon itself (S.I.I. vol. I, 152 : II, 343) The fifth successor of Manavamma, Aggabodhi Vll [AD781-787), left Anuradhapura for Polonnaruwa but the old capital was only abandoned finally in favour of the new by Sena I, whose accession is dated by Wijesinha in AD. 846, but by the Nikaya sangraha in AB. 1362 (AD. 819-20). In this reign Ceylon was invaded, and Anuradhapura sacked by the Pandyans in the ninth year, however, of his successor, Sena II, the incursion was avenged, the Sinhalese army taking Madura, a source of pardonable pride (Bilibewa inscr, E.Z.,II, 38 ; Ellevewa inscr., AS, 7th Report, 1891, p 45). A period of prosperity now set in, and contemporary lithic records are not infrequent; these as will be seen later, are of some importance from the numismatic point of view.
Kassapa V, the author of the Dampiya atuva getapadaya, a translation of the commentary on the Dhammadada, unsuccessfully supported the Pandyans with an army against the Cola king, who in all probability was Parantaka I, the conqueror of Madura (inscr, 12th year, AD 918-9, A.R E., 1906-7, paragraph 33; Udayendiram plates,15th year A D. 921-2, S.l.I,, 38?). Under Udaya II the Colas invaded Ceylon to secure the Pandyan crown jewels, which had been entrusted to the Sinhalese king, but though they drove their opponents to the South were unsuccessful in their quest (inscr. 37th -year, Parantaka 1, AD 943-4, AR.E, 1906-7, p 73, paragraph 34) ;and Mahinda IV repelled an incursion by Vallabha Raja, apparently the Rashtrakuta Krshna III. Tamil influence became redominant under Sena V. and it is noticeable that his brother Mahinda V, came to the throne at Anuradhapura, and not at Polonnaruwa. in his twelfth year his Kerala rnercenaries rebelled, and he fled to Rohana ;the great Cola conqueror. Rajaraja I (AD.985-1021); now saw his opportunity, and invaded and established Himself in Ceylon between AD 1001 and 1004 (inscr., 20th year SII, III, No. 52), but it was reserved to his successor Rajendra Cola (AD 1012-1042),to complete the conquest in 1017 by the capture of Mahinda and deportation to the continent, where he died twelve years later in the forty-eighth year of his reign (inscr., 6th year Rajendra Cola. S.II,92).
The North of’ Ceylon now become a cola province, with its capital at Jananatha-pura or -mangalarn, the new title of Polonnarurva (AS, 1906, p 27 1909, p. 27). The effectiveness of the conquest is witnessed to by the Saiva temple that city and by the inscriptions of Rajaraia I, Rajendra Cola I, Rajendradeva, and Adhirajendra (AS 1891 p 64, ib 1906 p 26,38,ib 1890, No 30, 1906, pp 26). The Sinhalese were reduced to anarchy vainly attempted to recover their independence (Marimangalaam inscr., 29 Rajadhiraja, AD . 1046, SII,III, 52), and further efforts in the same direction followed the accession of Vijaya Bahu I (Manimangalam incri., Rajendra, AD 1055,SII, 59 ;7 Vira Rajendra, AD. 1069, ib ,84). This prince, taking advantage civil war in the Cola country, which ended about AD. 1073 in the overthrow of his rivals by Kulottunga Cola I, recovered Polonnaruwa in his fifteenth year, expelled the Tamils, and re-established the Sinhalese dominion
Pakramabahu I perhaps the greatest of Sinhalese monarchs, came to the throne after civil war in 1153.After the war with Ramanna in his twelfth year (A.D. 1164-5, Devanagala inscr., Kegalla District Report, p. 73, ff ),this prince espoused the cause of Parakrama Pandya, against his rival Kulasekhara,-aided by the Colas ; the Pandya was killed but the Sinhalese army entered south India and established his son Vira Pandya an the throne, the edict at same time issuing that the kahapana coin, bearing the superscription of King Parakrama, should be used though out the country (MHV,-LXXVII, 104). This expedition must have taken place between AD. 1164-5 and 1167-8 the fifth year of the Cola-king Rajadhiraja II, as is referred to in an inscription at Arppakkam (A.R.E., 1898-9, No 20 of 1899) The Sinhalese probably were finally expelled or defeated in fresh campaign shortly before or the death of Parakrama Bahu, as Kulotunga Cola III claims to have taken Madura, put Vikrama Pandya, the Rival of Vira Pandiya, and his son on the throne, and driven the Sinhalese army into the sea, in an inscription of his ninth year no mention of this feat being made in one of his seventh (A.R.E., l899-1900, paragraph 3g ; S.I.I.,No 86)’ Nissanka Malla, however, claims to have proceeded twice to the Pandyan country where he received presents from the kings of Pandyan and Cola, and to have set up a pillar of victory and built a temple styled Nissankesvara at Ramesvaram (AS., 1911-1912, inscriptions Nos. 3 and 4, pp. l01, l02). The Sinhalese sovereigns continued to reign at Polonnaruwa until driven southwards to Dambadeniya by Magha, an invader from Kalinga, who ruled from their abandoned capital, under the name of Kalinga Vijaya Bahu ,from AD 1215 to 1236,when the enemy was expelled there from by Parakrama Bahu II. His sons, Vijayabahu IV and Bhuvaneka. Bahu l, reigned, the first time at Polonnaruwa, and the latter at Dambadeniya and at Yapahuwa, a royal seat in the time of his father. Apparently after Bhuvaneka Bahu’s death and before the accession of Vijya Bahu’s son, Parakrama Bahu III, Ceylon was invaded by the troops of the Pandyan king Maravarman Kulasekera Pandya (AD. 1268-1310), who succeeded carrying off the Tooth Relic ; the seat of Government was transferred in the next reign to Kurunegala, and thence in AD 1344 to Gampola,and later on again to Kotte, in the vicinity, of Colombo, where it remained until the Portuguese period.

Sinhalese Sovereigns

The period of minting of the Kalandas of Gold or the Kahavanu may quite possibly be from the time of King Manavannma.Dr S Paranavitanne in his book ‘Story of Sigiriya’ states that King Kassayapa regulated the Gold kalanda. Direct evidence of Suvanna, kahapanas,Hunas of gold,Kalandas of Gold ,Deakas of gold and Akas of gold which apperas in Text,inscriptions of this period is shown below in a chronological order

  .. reign .. Culavansa   Mentions
  .. A.D. .. referance .. of money
Manavanna[Mahalapano] .. 684-718 .. Clv 47.1 ..  
Aggabodhi V[Akbo] .. 718-724 .. Clv 48.7   26,000 Suvanna repiars to Cetiya Pabbta
Kassapa[Sulu Kasuba]S .. 724-730 .. Clv 48.20 ..  
Mahinda I[Mahindel] .. 730-733 .. Clv 48.26 ..  
Aggabodhi VI[Akbo]S .. 733-772 .. Clv 48.42 .. A
Aggabodhi VII [Kuda Akbo] .. 772-777 .. Clv 48.68 ..  
Mahinda II[S.Mihindu] .. 777-797 .. Clv 48.76 .. Image of Buddha -60,000 Ran 300,000Jambonada suvannas
Udaya I[Uda] .. 797-801 .. Clv 49.1 ..  
Mahinda III[Somi Mihindu] .. 801-804 .. Clv 49.38 ..  
Aggabodhi VIII[Madi Akbo] .. 804-815 .. Clv 49.43 ..  
Dappula II[Dapula] .. 815-831 .. Clv 49.65 ..  
Aggabodhi IX [Pasulu Akbo] .. 831-833 .. Clv 49.83 ..  
    Reign Inscription of Ceylon Coin Type
    A.D. Volume IV PtI mentioned
Sena I .. 833-853   ..
Sena II .. 853-887 No 13,18 Kalanda of gold, Huna of gold
Udaya II? .. 877-898 No 48 Huna of gold, Kalanda of gold
Kassapa IV .. 898-914 Nos65, 75, 81 Massa,Aka Of Gold, Kalanda of Gold
Kassapa V .. 914-923   Ran, Aka of gold
Dappula III? .. 923-924
Dappula IV? .. 924-935 Pt II No3 Aka of gold, Kalanda of gold
Udaya III .. 935-938
Sena III .. 938-946 No 40 Kalanda of gold
Udaya IV .. 946-954 Nos 44,45,46,55 Kalanda of gold
Sena IV .. 954-956  
Mahinda IV .. 956-972 Nos 72,73 Aka of gold
Sena V .. 972-982
Mahinda V .. 982-1029 No 74 200 Tanaka

Huna’s of Gold, Nika’s of Gold

In Inscriptions of Ceylon Volume IV pt 1-Sirimal Ranwella -” As evident from litreture and inscriptions of the late Anuradhapura period, a gold coinage , pada , Aka and massa, and two other large coins termed as huna and nika which are equal to three kalandas and fifteen kalanadas of gold respectively, had been used as a medium of commercial transactions and payments during the ninth and tenth centuries in Sri Lanka, Our records however does not refer to all these varieties of coins mentioned above; however they have mentioned only the huna,kalanda, aka and the massa. The Polonnaruva Council Chamber inscription of King Udaya II[ No48.15] referes to the huna and aka coins; various amounts of kalandas coins ranging from one to fifteen are mentioned in the Mihintale plith Course inscription of Sena II [No 13.8]. The term massa occurs in the Alutvava and Kale-Divvilveve Pillar insxcription of King Kasappa IV. According to the Dhampiya Atuva Gatapadaya, the kalanda coin of Gold appears has also been known as the kahavana; the Abhidanappadipika[v 465] refers to them as dharana . A huna according to the Dhampiya Atuva Gatapadaya and the Ruvanmal Nighantuva [v 385] was equal to three kalandas of gold or three kahavanas and a nika to fifteen kalandas of gold. No coin of this weight has been published, but five cast Inscribed gold ingots been excavated during the Central Cultural Fund excavations at Abeyagiri Dagabo , Anuradhapura[ Abayagiri Vihara at Anuradhapura- TG Kulatunge CCF 1999] .The weights of the Ingot is inscribed in the sinhala script of the century. Another Gold ingot inscribed “ekunanuva” was found at same site.

Mahinda’s capture having occurred in 1017, Wijesinha’s dates are through out about twenty years too late The figures given by Hultzsch are obtained by working back from the accession of Parakrama Bahu I.

    A.D. |     A.D
Vijaya Bahu I .. .. .. .. c1055-1111 | Dharmmasoka .. .. .. .. 1208-1209
Jaya Bahu .. .. .. .. c.1109-1148 | Anikanga .. .. .. .. 1209
Vikrama Bahu .. .. .. .. c.1111-1132 | Lilavati(restored) .. .. .. .. 1209-1210
Gajabahu .. .. .. .. c.1132-1153 | Lokesvara .. .. .. 1209
Parakrama Bahu I .. .. .. .. 1153-1186 | Lilavati(restored) .. .. .. .. 1211-1212
Vijaya Bahu II .. .. .. .. 1186-1187 | Parakrama Pandya .. .. .. .. 1212-1215  
Mahinda VI .. .. .. .. 1187 | Magha or Kalinga Vijaya Bahu (with .. .. .. 1215-1236  
        Jaya Bahu IV (Mhv LXXXII,27)    
Nissanka Malla .. .. .. .. 1187-1196 | Vijaya Bahu III .. .. .. .. 1232-1236
Vira Bahu I .. .. .. .. 1196 | Parakrama Bahu II .. .. .. .. 1236-1271
Vikrama Bahu II .. .. .. .. c. 1196 | Vijaya Bahu IV .. .. .. .. c. 127l-1273
Codaganga .. .. .. .. c. 1196-1197 | Bhuvaneka Bahu I .. .. .. .. c. 1273-1284
Lilavati .. .. .. .. 1197-1200 | Parakrama Bahu III .. .. .. .. 1284-1295
Sahasa Malla .. .. .. .. l200-1202 |
Kalyanavatl .. .. .. .. 1202-1208 |

3. The earliest mention of coins by name in the medieval period occurs in a Tamil inscription in the ” Hindu Ruins ” at Anuradhapura dated in the fifth year of, Siri Sanga Bodhi, recording the gift of 30 Illuk-Kasu “Ceylon kasu” for a lamp ; the letters are archaic, dating at the earliest from the seventh and at the latest from the eighth century (AS., 191l-12 p. 110, and letter of M. M. Ry Rao Sahib H. Krishna Sastri Avargal to the author).This coin is discussed in Chapter VI, section 17.

Aggabodhi V (AD. 726-732) is recorded to have made a gift of 26,000 suvnnas, (Mhv., XlVIII. 7), and “ 300,000 ” and 60,000 of Jambonada suvannas, i.e., pure gold were spent on various works by Mahinda II (AD. 787-807 ; ib.,136. 137), Kassapa V, in his work already alluded to translates the Pali hiranna by kahavanu, and suvanna by rat-ran , or ” red gold ” (Appendix A, 28 (a) and (b)), This is the usual interpretation of the commentators. Thus, Aggabodhi gift may refer to the kalandas of uncoined gold, so often mentioned in the inscriptions of the ninth and tenth centuries. But it is not impossible that his suvanna may be a translation of the Sinhalese Huna, found in a few inscriptions (e.g., Appendix D, 33. 36), and so be roughly identical with Moggallana’s suvanna From the analogy of the later Tamil pon and Canarese honnu, it might be argued that the huna was a synonym of the kahuvanuva cain, but the early medieval pon seems to be a kalanju of gold. and not necessarily a coin and the Sinhalese equivalent would be ran. discussed below in chapter VI section 23.

Though the use of kahavanu by Kassapa V does not prove the contemporary currency of coins of this name, as the Pali equivalent occurs in the original of his work, yet gifts of kahapanas are recorded by the Mahavansa as having been made by Sena III, not many years later. That payments by weight continued side by side with payments in money is proved by inscriptions in South India.Thus, to choose from many, a record at Tirukkovalur dated in the seventeenth year of the Pallava king Vijaya and Nandivikaramavarma ( (?) VII-IX century, saka era. Ep. Ind.Vol VII, p. 139) mentions the endowment of a perpetual lamp with 15 kalanjus of gold equal in fineness to the “old kasu” ; and as late as the reign of Kulottunga Cola III (AD. 1178-1217), an inscription of his twenty-fifth year at Karuvur records a payment of 3 kalanjus of gold. Taxes appear computed by weight ; thus, in a Perumber inscription of the eleventh year of Kulottunga Cola I (.AD. 1070-1118)the tax on land amounted to 11 ¾ kalanjus 1 2/10 manjadis of gold, while in a Conjeeveram record of his fifth year a plot of land was purchased for 11 kalanjus of gold equal in fineness to the Maduratakan-Madai (S.I.L, III, Pts. l, 2) ; the name of the village tax, ur-kalanju, itself denotes payment by weight. The taxes due from goldsmiths, capenters, and blacksmiths were so paid as late as 1614 in the kingdom of Kotte (Livro 3. do Tombo, fol. 33). In Ceylon un-coined gold may have been current as dust on in small ingots possibly the rang engili, Golden fingers ,which with royal maidens and other tribute Nissanka Malla claims to have received from the kings of Southern India (E.Z. II, Pt. 2 ; see also Chap. VI, section 26). In the account of the miraculous-supply of naturals for the construction of the Ruvanveli Dagoba given in Mahavansa , Chap XXVIII it is stated that ” there appeared nuggets of gold of different sizes ; the greatest measure a span, the least were of a finger’s measure”.,according to the Tika, the Atthakatha explains that the smallest nuggets were of the width of a finger or anguli which must be angula or one twelfth of a span. The term viral pon, “finger gold.” exists in Tamil, but its meaning is not clear. Marsden- in , his ” History of Sumatra ” (London, I81l, p171), writes :In those parts of the country where traffic in this article (Gold dust) is considerable, it is employed as currency instead of, coin ; every man carries a small scales about him, and purchases are made with it so low as to the weight of a grain or two of padi.” The author proceeds to state that various seeds were used as gold weights- but more specially two known in Ceylon as the olinda and the madeta

4. The weight of the so called ” Lankesvara ” coin coincides with that of the kalanda as ascertained to have been employed from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century, and the conclusion can hardly be avoided that the coin was a gold kalanda of 68-70 grains. This is practically the value cf the modern Tanjore wieight of 2/3 tola (Madras Manual of the Administration, Vol. III, s.v. Niray), and it is just as possible that the weight of this lighter kalanda as opposed to the one of 80-90 grains based solely on the heavier manjadi, was fixed by the currency in South India and in Ceylon of the late Rornan and Byzantine solidus, of which the latest specimen found in the Island : ”signs of Heraclius I or Constans II, and of the early dinar.

According to a paper by Mr. H. H. E. Craster, on ” Roman Gold Coins found at Corbridge ” in the Numisatic Chronicle of 1912, Pt. III. p.265.ff., the coins of the find were of the following weights :-

Valentinian I .. .. .. .. 69,69.4,68.8 grains
Valens .. .. .. . 68, 68.4 grains.
Gratian .. .. .. . 69.4,69,68.4,68.3,69.4,69.2,68.1,69.8,69.6,69.1,68.7 grains
Valentinian,ll .. .. .. . 68.6, 70, 69.6, 69.4, 69,68.7 grains
TheodosiusI .. .. .. .. 70, 69.6,69.4,68.2 grains
Magnus Maximus .. .. .. .. 68, 70.4,69.6,69.5,69.2,69,68.8,68.6,68.5.68,67.7 grains

“An edict issued by Constantine in 312, and renewed by Valentinian I in 365, established the weight of the aureus solidus at 4.55grammes (:70.22 grains}. With the exception of the Constantinoples aureus, which weighs 82.2 grains, and an aureus of Maximus weighing 70.4 grains, all the coins in this hoard fall below the standard weight,;and vary from 61.7 to 70.0 grains. This lightness of weight is not due to wear, since all the coins are fresh and in condition, but is a general characteristic of the late Roman gold coinage. (ib.,p.277). The heaviest kahavanuva, which has evidently been in circulation but is in good condition weighs 69.3 grains. [ Note 1 In the Rajaraja inscription No. 7 at the Rajarajesvara Temple at Tanjore, the akkam is said to be reckoned at one-twelfth of the Kasu(S.LI.,II,Part I). Two Kasis went to the madia, which weighed .an kalanju of gold(A.R.E., 1913,pp.96,97). The akkam, therefore, was one -twenty-fourth of the kalanju. It is a coincidence that the Roman siliqua was the same fraction of the sextula or solidus, and the Arab tassu of the rnithqal. See Chap. I, section 16, The Sinhalese aka also was the one-twenty-fourth of the huna, but this is due to the last named weight consisting of three kalandas each of eight akas].

5. In the Vinaya the pala or quarter is stated. to have consisted of five masakas; twenty, therefore, made a kahapana (v., Chap.II). We have seen that in the twelfth century the manjai or madeta was considered to represent masaka ; so the kahapana (Sin kahavanuva) of 20 masakss must have been thought to be identical in weight with a kalanda of 20 madetas or 8 akas which, indeed, are said to make a kahavanuva in the Abidanmaldana. This is confirmed by the Purana Vinaya Sannaya of Dimbulagala Medhankara and Sangharakkhita, pupils of Sariputta Thero who flourished under Parakrama Bahu I, where the sentence of the Vinaya : Rajagahe panca masako pado hoti”. “At Rajagaha five masakas were a pada”, is turned into Sinhalese : Rajagahanuvara pas mandatek palek vei “in the city of Rajagara five mandekas were pada,”[ Noter 2] Cf Appendix D,14, paye. payaka; 37, pe ; 41, pa ; 42, paya, and modern pela, the quarter of an ammuna], and the value of a. pala is given as two akas. Again the Mulkasika Getapada Vivaranaya explains the phrase in the Mulusika ” goods worth a pala ” by ” goods of the amount, the taking of which involves expulsion from the Community, or any goods worth two akas of masuran; here two akas of masuran equal one part if the now existing kahavanuva be divided into four parts each of two akas. The late use of the gold kahavanuva revealed in this passage is confirmed by the Mahavamsa, which states that Vijaya Bahu III paid to the scribes employed in copying ” as many gold kahapanas as there were divisions in the book of the Law ” (Chap. LXXXI, 45), and by a small find in the Matale District in 1915 of four gold kahavanu of types I (A) and (B) with one copper coin of Dharnmasoka Deva.

The so-called “Lankesvara,” therefore, was a kahavanuva as well as a kalanda of gold, and may, perhaps have been struck first as a deliberate revival of the kahapana of the Buddhist-scriptures, supposed by the commentators of the fifth century and their successors to have been a coin of gold. The name was also applied to silver and copper coins Buddhaghosa’s statement that the kahapana was ” either of gold or of silver or the common one ” is amplified in the Khuddasikkha Tika: Kahapana is either of gold or of silver or the kahapana now common ” ; and the copper coins of Parakrama Bahu I were also known by this name (Mhv. LXXXVI, 104).

6. We can now give the following table of the gold coins, with their denominations and weights :

Kahavanuva .. .. .. .. About 68-70 grains
Ada kahavanuva .. .. .. . 34-35 grains,
Pala or de-aka .. .. .. .. 17-17.5 grains
Aka .. .. .. . 8.5-8.75
( ?) Massa .. .. .. . 3.4–3.5 grains


  1. Hi. So, just to be clear, a Massa is like a “cent” coin, isn’t it? Just what is a “nila karshapana?” It’s mentioned in the Pujavaliya, I think….? Plus, is the ada kahavanu half the value of a kahavanu?

    • A good question, to the best of knowledge ,a copper Massa was small change of 20 to 16 to one silver Massa , and 20 or 16 silver made a gold massa. There were half massa, quarters , eighths and sixteenth massa of record, That made up the coins in circulation, from the lowest value to an high value items.About two copper massas or two and half could buy enough rice for a family of 4 ? per day, which was the lowest wage or payment either in massas or in rice[ which is divisible too]. high value gold massa , eight of them could buy a paddy land of sowing extent paddy about two and half acres approx.The value of Gold to silver to copper varied according to demand and supply.
      A nila kahapana is certified coins of certain composition of metal gold , silver and alloy. The ratio of these metals are laid down Uttara Vinissara Tika of the Polonnaruva period, see page 182 of CCC of Codrington.

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