ANCIENT MONETARY SYSTEM IN SRILANKA BEFORE 5 CENT AD.

A Complete Monetary System is hidden. written between the lines in the many ancient Palm leaf Manuscripts  of the 4/5 Cent AD , these were copied by  Buddhagosha from older Sinhalese Source which were available at the Mahavihare.A few of these books are the Mahavamsa ,  Vinaya Pitakas , Attakatha,Samantapasadika and other Commentries and they are similar to that in the Indian sources such as  Arthasastra and Manu, etc.

The well-organized state
(a) The preparation of the budget and maintenance of accounts of revenue and expenditure as prescribed . A wise Chancellor[ Amatya No 1192- Called a badgarika- a Treasurer]is one who collects revenue so as to increase Income and reduce expenditure. He shall take remedial measures if income diminishes and expenditure increases.
Mahamata- maha Amataya[No 268 269, 702]-Three types- For Civil Administration, Voharika or Judicial function and for Defense as Senanayakas. No 161,797,1202,1064(a Aya),1179,1202, 1205,
We have Panita Badakarika- Perhaps suggest a Reserve Treasury,-[No 1035]
No 1192- a amataya was Badagarika or Store Keeper or TRESURER
The chancellor shall divide the countryside into four and [clearly] demarcate the boundaries of each village. He appointed a Governor (Sthanike) for each province and a Record (gopa) for every group of five to ten villages.
(b) The Record Keepers (for the villages under their charge the Governors (for their provinces) shall maintain records as follows
Ancient Village Administration
The villages shall be classified as best, average or lowest. They also be classified according to whether they are tax paying ;exempt, whether they supply soldiers in lieu of tax, and weather they supply [fixed amounts of grain, cattle, gold, forest produce and labour or other commodities. [within each village,] Every plot or shall be numbered and its use recorded according to the classifications cultivated or fallow, Paddy fields -dry or wet cultivation[Irrigated etc], park, vegetable [and orchard], enclosed area, forest, sanctuary, temple, water works, cremation ground, rest-house, public drinking-water facility, place, pasture and road. These records shall be used for determine the location of fields, Tanks, Canals, forests and roads in case of boundary disputes and to record transactions such as gifts, sales, charitable endowments , and tax exemptions. [Likewise, each house shall be numbered classified as whether tax-paying or tax-exempt. Records of the inhabitants shall also be kept under the following headings: (i) the Varna.(ii)Occupation (such as farmer, cowherd, trader, craftsman, labourer, slave); (iii) the number of males and females as well as the number children and old people, their [family] history, occupation, income and expenditure; (iv) livestock and poultry owned; (v) the amount, tax payable in cash or in free labour; and (vi) tolls and fines that is be due.

An Average Village in mediveal or ancient Sri lanka

The villages shall be classified as best, average or lowest. They also be classified according to whether they are tax paying ;exempt, whether they supply soldiers in lieu of tax, and weather they supply [fixed amounts of grain, cattle, gold, forest produce and labour or other commodities. [within each village,] Every plot or shall be numbered and its use recorded according to the classifications cultivated or fallow, dry or wet cultivation, park, vegetable [and Orchard], enclosed area, forest, sanctuary, temple, water works, cremation ground, rest-house, public drinking-water facility, place, pasture and road. These records shall be used for determine the location of fields, forests and roads in case of boundary disputes and to record transactions such as gifts, sales, charitable endowments , and tax exemptions. [Likewise, each house shall be numbered classified as whether tax-paying or tax-exempt. Records of the inhabitants shall also be kept under the following headings: (i) the Varna.(ii)Occupation (such as farmer, cowherd, trader, craftsman, labourer, slave); (iii) the number of males and females as well as the number children and old people, their [family] history, occupation, income and expenditure; (iv) livestock and poultry owned; (v) the amount, tax payable in cash or in free labour; and (vi) tolls and fines that is be due.

Ola Leaf Book

This story from Sirimavatthu. clearly explains the division of money used during the ancient period ie  Silver Kahapanas,Massa and Kakanika , these were the names used for the coins and their fractional pieces

names of coinsThis meaning of the word Kahapana is sinhla
Definition of KahapanaWhat could be considered as Money, any material with or with out marks placed on themSamatapasadika

Closest Definition of money

 The composition of metal and other detail on coins mentioned in ancient text

Legal definition of Kahavanu

Denomination or Fractional Pieces.

H. W.Codrington has traced the names of the different Valued coins available in the ancient period from the books written before Buddhagosha,  and other books prior the the 5 Cent AD . In H W Codrington’s – Coins & Currancy of Ceylon 1924 in Appendix A and B gives over 50 referances.

,

  •  i.The Gold Masaka, then the Kahapana( 3.4 grams), , half Kahapana(1.7 grams), Pada(0.8 grams) ,all of Silver , the Masaka(9 grams), half Masaka(4.5 grams) and Kakanika(2.3 Gram) of Copper [ CCC Chapter II.5.page 13].

  • Fractional pieces

    A Set of Standing lady Coins, a unique 4 pana piece found is with a member of the SLNS. Most issues such as Lion, Elephant, Tree and Railed Swastika and their variation all have fractional pieces in same order

     ii. The value of Silver kahapana to a Copper Massa was Twenty.

    iii. The value of Silver Pana to Copper Massa may have been Fraction Ma[ 1/20] and Copper kakina as kani or 1/20 . These were divisions used in measure of sowing extent of land in Paddy Seed.

Composition of Metals.

[Sources or Referances –Vinya Pitaka,Kankhavitarani Attakata, Civaravagga etc]

  •  i.Coins or Rupiya [ Coined] may be of Gold, Silver, Copper and of the like, of wood[ Sara and  Bamboo] or even Palmyra leaf, lacquar or Gum( off trees), even seeds of fruit. etc.[ Only the metal coins had survived except  rare discs of Resins or Gum off tree with marks and letters. However large number of sealings on examination had leaf inprint indicating they were on [Palm] leaves, are found in fair numbers( published by Walter Muller-German excavation team at Akurugoda). The Sealing has the very same or similar marks of the Lions, Elephants and Bulls, Raile Sawstika identical to those Marks such as the Elephant, Bull, Lion, Railed Swastika on Coins].

  • Sealing onpalm leaf Marks on Coins and Sealings
  • ii A suggested composition of the Gold Alloy ,was a quarter of gold, a quarter of silver and two quarters of Copper.

    iii For copper Alloy the mixture of other metal is in Arthasastra. –  ”The superintendent of the mint[ Rupa-deka is  Superintendent of coining] shall manufacture Silver Coins made up of 4 parts of copper and 1/16 part of any metals- Tikshana(Iron),Trapa(Tin),Sisa ( lead) and Anjana(Antimony). The copper coins made up of parts of an Alloy shall be a masaka, half a masaka, Kakani and half Kakani”.

 a.Two Sinhala Coin fragment from Kantarodi Jaffna were examined and published by PE Peiris and the of Lead to Copper was 4:1, Traces of Iron and minute quanties of Ni was present.

b. 2  x Standing figure Coins  contained 96% Copper while one Contained 6 % Copper, 81 % Lead and 4 % Aluminium tarces of other metal.A Kahapana had 87% Silver,9 % Copper, 1 % Lead and traces of Gold. All thse coins from Mantai[ A Tantririge, R hewamanne and R Somadeva

c. This was for Durability, many coins after a long period of use, then dropped and found in fair condition after 2000 years.

Marks & Symbols.

The ancient Books defines money as below

  • i.Elakaloma vagga, 8th Sikkapada states that any piece of metal, wood, even bone or skin, etc With or without an Image raised up thereon.

    ii.Uttara Vinicchaya Tika -Vacissara defines coins as Impressed with letters, Elephant Feet and the like and of some Images.

  • iii.The word Mala-kahapana according to Codrington may be the ‘Wreath’ or Flower [ Mala],it  may be the Lotus flower which is few of the Coin Types.

    [ The Marks or Symbols on Coins may have served any of the u/m purposes and requirements.a. The marks or symbols were  well known to the people and readily accepted. Marks or Symbols selected with the aim easy Acceptance as a legal Tender with in the boundaries of the Island.( Separate them from coins of other nations in the region). To  authenticate  the weight and metal content of the Coin, with out the receiver having to weigh it and analyse the metal content. Were the marks of Authority of the King or Religious, or both. Gave  protections to the owner as Astamangala Symbols,Some time used as Pendent as seen in few coins. Was a means to propagate the virtues of the doctrine and to remind the people to practice it.

  • The Railed Swastika is a Mark found on one side of most coins  and is belived by most Numismatists  as a Royal Emblem as the State symbol found on present day coin. The different dynasties that followed had their own symbols of various types of coins issued during these seperate period. There was a uniformity and a sort of specification laid down for the arrangement of Minor symbols around the Major Symbol.Most coins in good condition has around 8 symbols on both sides. So much so that they indicate Astamangala Discs which was a certification for metal piece or any other to be  used as currency and had a added value of bringing some sort of Protection and good luck or sacred to the holder. A practice and belief occuring in ancient Greek , Roman and Indian traditions.

 High and Low value Goods and Services.

  • i.lowest Cash Wage was about Five Kahapanas per month and from stories found in ancient books etc  – Arthasastra [Bk 5 Sect 3] and from Rasvahini II page 17[ Social History of Early CeylonH Ellawala pg 61]. The same story in Sadharmalamkara[Society in Mediveal Ceylon-MB Ariyapala], a servant named Naga in Nagadipa employed for 60 Kahapanas( perhaps per year if conditions tallied with Arthasastra) during the day and she requested a further 60 Kahapanas for working the night shift.

  • The Pujavaliya the Manual Wages were called Vatup matra.Pg 211. The ancient stories Saddharamalamraraya talks of many servant employed by the rich in ancient days.

  • ii. The system of Barter( Had distinct dis-advantages. The Buyer had to first look for someone who was willing to part with what you want, in exchange what you have for exchange- Double Coincidence of Need) and Food.

    A story in the Sadharmalamkara , refers to the fact that a servant received only food for return for services renedered[pg 281].

  • The wages paid in Rice was called Vatup sal [ Pujavaliya]. Four Neli of paddy was the cost of service for  chopping wood in ancient period. We could infer that the minimum daily wage would be able to purchase at least this amount of Food to feed a family[ Arthsastra reccomend this amount of rice for the family of four per day, and even the recommended Daily rations to soldiers is given in Arthsastra].

A high Value Gold Nugget used in 8/9 Cent AD.

Gold Nuggets

The smallest gold piece was found down South in Walve ganga at Embillipitiya weighs 0.215 gms is a Maska of Gold it is inscribed in Brahmi as GO. twenty of which is a kalanda

Abeyagiri Excavation by CCF revealed many more Gold Nuggets, one  was inscribed 102 Kalans which is the highest valued object found so far in Sri Lanka. These are much smaller than the Nuggets discovered during  Dutugemunu’s period, they were said to be Angula to a Span in size. They helped to finance the building of the Mahaseya. The cost of Labour as wages paid at the Four gates was 6,400,000 Kahapanas over a period of 14 years. The commodity value was about Rs 5,129,000,000. Which averaged  over  Rs 350 Million per year, most of this money recycled by the king’s treasurer by Taxes, sale of Goods and food etc. Golds nuggets and the Silverand Copper finds mentioned in Mahawansa financed these Mega Project of yesteryear.

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