BO-TREE AND RAILED SWASTIKA COINS OF SRI LANKA

TREE AND RAILED SWASTIKA.

The two main symbols are the Tree in a square enclosure and the Railed Swastika. This symbols is compared with similar one found in India and traced back to the Indus civilisation. But tracing roots back to our own traditions , i.e those found in our Chronicles, it is stated that during the time of Pandukabaya that Tree worship was in vogue during the pre-buddhist era. The custom of building  platforms or terraces  for sacred trees of which Banyan, the Tamarind and the Palm Tree is mentioned in our ancient texts. 
The Tree Symbol.

The only Tree of symbolic value that was known to all Sri Lankan since 3 Cent BC was the Sapling of the Buddha-Gaya  Bo-tree brought here by Theri Sangamitta during the period of King Devanampiyatissa. It had more than religious values to the people. It was considered to have the powers to bring rain , the much required resource for an agricultural based economy. Though many trees are considered holy, the only tree with a barrier or a railing even in the India was the Bo-tree at Buddha Gaya. It is now believed  is be found on the silver kahapanas of the period of King Kalasoka of the Maghadan Empire. The Bo-sapling continued to be used on the Kalandas of Gold up-to the 10 Cent AD.

The Railed Swastika

This symbol is found on all the coins issued by early Sri Lankan king.If a survey is taken to find out which symbol  is the most common on all ancient artifacts found, this symbol out number all other symbols put together , that were used on art and architecture of ancient Sri Lanka. Not only on coin like objects but the Railed Swastika in found  on Seals and Rock-inscription. Most of these seals and inscriptions can be traced back to Royalty.

There are many variations in the symbols and the shapes and sizes. Perhaps these are expected due to these coins been used perhaps from 2 Cent BC to 2 Cent AD.  Circular, Rectangular and those cut into a pentagonal shape has been recorded. The sizes and weights too vary. The number of branches in the Bo-tree vary from  3 to 7. The symbols are in double circular lines, single circular lines or a set of dots. In most coins the lines or dot border is worn off. On the reverse the Swastika may rotate right or left.

There appears to be  two symbols flanking the Tree in enclosure. The Three dots appear above these symbols. But on most coins these are no longer visible.The two  may be variations of the Nandipada or Triratna symbol, the variations of the Asana or Drum like symbol or the Standard. Some time the double asana appears in either side.

On the reverse two symbols of the same symbols as on the obverse flank the Railed Swastika and in some coins the Caitiya or three arched Hill appears below the Railed Swastika.

All these features or special characteristics that  found on  other Sri Lankan coins :the Multi-symbol Elephant and railed Swastika Coins, the Lion and railed Swastika coins while a limited number appears on the small elephant and railed Swastika.They all seem to follow some minimum requirement that implies some meaning or a pictograph or idea-graph the meaning of which  is now lost.

16. Four-branched tree:-
.(1A)Obv. : Four-branched tree within enclosure of four compartments. on the upper corners of which apparently a dot surmounted by two small lines forming a right angle with the apex uppermost. To r., two symbols, No.1 above with group of three dots on r. side and below swastika. Symbols to l. off flan.
Rev. : Large railed swastika revolving r. between two indistinct symbols perhaps Nandipada to l .and No. 4 to r. To upper r. of last a group of three dots under swastika a (?) caitya.
Diameter: 0.94in. Weight: 37.4 gr. Thin and worn, Found in river bed 4 feet from surface immediately below the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Temple. The remainder, unless otherwise stated, are from Vallipuram.

(1B) (a)(i) Obv.: within double-line circle within enclosure of four compartments tree with two branches at the top . The treetop and each branch ends in a group of three dots. Two branches also spring from the base of the tree at the enclosure, the l. hand with two dots at the end, the r. hand with one. To l. of enclosure symbol No.1; to r obliterated
Rev : Railed swastika revolving r.; a group of three dots to l of head To l, symbol No l, to r Nandipada with two dots above.Rectangular with circular die.
Size:0.53 x 0.57 in, weight :41.8 gr, Peries,XIV,1.from Kantarodai

(ii) Obv . In line circle similar tree. Symbol No 1 to l., Nandipada to r,
Rev : As last, but no dots. Horizontal line over symbol No 1 : symbol to r off coin Caitya below rail.Rectangular with circular die ; Obv. die placed diamond-wise. Broken
Size : 0.55 x 0.41 in Weight : 18.2gr Pieris XIV,2 Pl 12

(iii)Obv. : In line circle similar tree as (i); but three dots at ends of lower branches. Symbol to l, obliterated ; Nandipada to r.
Rev: Railed swastika; symbol No 1 with two projections or r. side to r; Nandipada with horizontal line above to r.Rectangular with circular die; Obv die placed diamond-wise.Rev.: worn.
Size : 0.45 x 0.37 in Weight : 17gr Pieris, XIV, 3.

(b)(i)Obv : In double-line circle four-branched tree in enclosure of four compartments. To l, symbol No 1; symbol to r off coin.
Rev: Railed swastika above remnant of caitya; to l.Nandipada,to r remnant of symbol No 1.
Diameter : 0.68 in. Weight : 52.8 gr, From Kantarodai.

(ii) Obv. : In line circle similar tree, but top and upper branches end in triple and the lower in quadruple fork; enclosure divided by three vertical lines. To l. (?) symbol No. 1, that to r obliterated.
Rev.: In similar circle railed swastika revolving r. betweenNandipada with square top on l, and or r. variety of symbol No 4 ; in it the two side lines meet, and from their junction a small vertical line springs. In lieu of the cross line in the middle is a short projection on the l and over the whole a horizontal line
Diameter : 0.70 in. Weight 42.3 gr Slightly broken PerisXIV,12. PL 13

(iii)Obv : Similar tree branches ending in triple fork ; enclosure of twelve compartments. Symbols off coin
Rev.: Railed swastika revolving r. To r. symbol with horizontal line above, symbol to l off coin
Diameter :0.62 in. Weight, 26.8 gr

(iv)Obv : As last, Rev.: As last ; to r symbol perhaps the same as on (ii), that to l obliterated.
Diameter 0.62 in. Weight 26.6 gr, Broken Pieris XIV, 18.

(v)Obv: Tree as last, but enclosure of four compartments; indistinct symbol to l symbol to r off coin. All in line circle.
Rev : Railed swastika revolving r, Indistinct symbol on 1.,symbol No 1 on r,Rectangular.
Size 0.47×0.45in Weight:21.8gr. Pieris XIV, 4.

(vi)Obv. : Similar tree, enclosure not visible. To r symbol No 1 with short projection on l, Symbol to r. obliterated.
Rev. : Railed swastika revolving r.
Diameter : 0.43 in Weight : 15.1 gr,

(2) Six-branched tree:-
Obv: with in bead and line circle six branched tree, each branch ending in triple fork, in enclosure of twelve compartments; to l. (?} variant of symbol No4, to r. symbol obliterated,
Rev: Railed swastika revolving To l. obliterated symbol, or.(?)pot.
Diameter : 0.?8 in Weight : 62.2 gr. Slightly broken. Pieris, XIV, 13 PI 14.

(3) Eight-branched tree :-
(i)Obv: In line circle eight-branched tree with in enclosure of four compartments.To r. symbol No1, off coin.
Rev: Railed swastika revolving r, symbol to l. obliterated ,symbol to r off coin.
Diameter : 0.5? in Weight : 22.8 gr Pieris XIV, 6.

(ii)Obv. : Similar tree but in enclosure of six compartments; to l symbol No. 1, to r. indistinct symbol.
Rev.: In line circle railed swastika revolving 1; (?) variant of symbol No 6. with smaller triangle above on L Symbol to r. off flan.
Diameter : 0.53 in. Weight: l9.8 gr Pieris, XIV, 5

(iii)Obv. : As (i), but each of the four compartments contains a dot. To l. Nandipada; symbol to r is off the flan.
Rev. : Railed swastika revolving r. with line beneath. To l symbol as last, to r. indistinct symbol of which the upper part consists of two horizontal lines,
Diameter : 0.53 in Weight,16.3 gr. Pl 15.

Few Interesting symbols found on coins published by Bopearachchi & Wickremainghe. form Ruhuna.
These pages was inserted  by Brig. Siri Munasinghe, on  August 14, 2009

Please direct any comment to sirimuna39@gmail.com

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