WEIGHTS OF COINS IN MEDIAEVAL SRI LANKA

WEIGHT OF GOLD COINS

The weight according to ancient tradition wasGold  coin weights

Th these weights  was not followed in Sri Lanka in the 7/8 Cent AD to which the script is assigned to , except for the value of 1/2 Suvarna ie 72 grains of rice. The fractional pieces were fractions of this ie 36, 18 and 9 grains. Dr Paranavitane suggests that a value and/or the first letter of the value is inscribed in Nagari on the coins. The name of the country Sri Lak is on the first three fractional pieces

Value inscribed on Coins

COUNTRY VALUEThe name of country shown in blank and value in red

COINS & CURRENCY OF CEYLON- HW CODRINGTON.1924

CHAPTER V- Para 3.

THE WEIGHT GOLD COINS.

3. The earliest mention of coins by name in the mediaeval 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 un-coined 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 coin, 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 l1 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, carpenters, 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 sma1l 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, 1811, pg 171), 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 of 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 Numismatic 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. . 69. 4, 69, 68.4, 68.3. 69.4, 69.2, 68.1.
Gratian  69. 8, 69.6. 69.1, 68. 7 grains
Valentinian,ll . 68.6, 70, 69.6, 69.4, 69,68.7 grains
Theodosius I 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 AD, and renewed by Valentinian I in 365AD, 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 manjdi or rnadeta  was considered to represent  masaka ; so the kahapana (Sin kahavanuva) of 20 masakas 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 : Rajagaha-nuvara pas mandatek palek vei “in the city of  Rajagara five mandekas  were pada,”[ Note 2 Cf Appendix D,14, paye. payaka; 37, pe ; 41, pa ; 42, paya, and modern pela, the quarter  of an amurna], 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 Dharmmasoka Deva.

The so-called “Lankesvara,”[ wrongly read it is Sri La Ka Vi Ha – The set of Type I is shown above.] 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.

The Set of Kalandas of corresponding weight -Type I -Chank over Vase or Pot.

n

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

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