SETU COINS FROM JAFFNA

SETU COINS

18. These coins are usually assigned to the Setupati princes of Ramnad, who, judging from their inscriptions, flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Their rise to independence can hardly date earlier than the subversion of the Pandyan kingdom in AD. 1310, and in all probability took place after the end of Muhammadan rule some fifty years later, or even after the time of Kampaua Udaiyrir, whose inscriptions at Ramnad are dated in A.D. 1371 and 1374 (Sewell’s ” Sketch of the Dynasties of Southern India,” p 20).

The coins are described by the Rev. J, E. Tracy in his paper “ Setupati Coins ” in tie Madras Journal of Literature and Science, 1889-94 and form his ” earlier series,” According to him, they are (1) below, ” are not uncommon and have been found in Northern Ceylon as well as in various parts of Southern India.” The coins, however, are said to be comparatively rare on the mainland, though far from uncommon in the northern part of the Island, and certainly formed the currency of the medievalkingdomofJaffna.Tracy’s ” later series.” bearing the legend Setupati, arc totally different from the above both the type and fabric ; they have never been found ilrCeylon, and the formation of the letter ,S shows that they cannot be earlier than the sixteenth century. It seems open to question whether the two series were issued by the same dynasty, and it has been suggested that the earlier coins are those of the Arya Cakravartis ofJaffna.

The history of these princes is contained in the Vaipava Mrilai, an eighteenth century collection of legends of little historical value. But, according to the Seka Rrisasekara Malai (ed., Baskara Press, Jaffna, Kali 5004,an astrological work composed by the Brahman Soma in the reign of Jaga Rajasekhara, this Jaffna king is stated to be from the Ganga country, and to be descended from two Brahamans appointed by Rama to rule over Ramesvaram with the title of “Arya King ” and the right to the bull-flag. An unnamed king of this dynasty is said to have defeated the Canarese in battle at Antaravalli, and another to have punished the Posalang (Hoysala) by cutting the trunk of his Elephant which charged him, while a third inscribed in profusion the bull-flag, ,Setu, and the nine long necklaces. Jaga Rajasekhara himself, among other exploits, pursued and defeated a strong army a Kachchaytturai, about 4 miles east of Chavakachcheri (Introductory verses 3-ll). In the work itself he is described as the Arya king, or king of the people of Manavai, residing at Sinkai, that is, Simha, tbe Sinkai-narkara of the Kotagama inscription (Report on the Kegalla District, p. 85), as displaying the bull-flag, and as guardian of Setu (cap. II, 12,52 Vlll,3l,32 ; III, 5). Similar epithets occur also in the contemporaneous Dakshina kailasa Puranam. In Arasakesari’s Raghuvansa, written at Jaffna under Pararajasekhara, the king is styled “Ganga Arya” while in the Kailiya Mailai, apparently a late work, but one of the original authorities of the Vaipara mailai, Pandi Ma!avan, who brought over Sinha Arya as the first King of Jaffna from Madura, is described as a favourite Ganga kula. The use of titles indicative of the original home of the dynasty is not uncommon inIndia[Ep. Ind VII, p.224).

The presence of the bull and the legend Setu on our coins is now explained, and there can be little doubt that these should be attributed to the Jaffna Arya Cakravartis, and not to the Setupatis. The seated bull surmounted by a crescent enclosing the sun was also the device of theEastern Gangasof Kalinga. A branch of this family from Simhapura in that country sat on the Sinhalese throne at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century, and the Magha, successful invasion from Kalinga about A.D.1215 doubtless was made with the object of vindicating the right of the this family. This King is known to have possessed fortresses in the Jaffna peninsula (Mhv,, LXXXIII,21 ; Pujavaliya),and as this region was once part of the Cola empire and was certainly held by Parakrama Bahu I, if not by Vijayabahu I, its independence must date from the decline of the Sinhalese power in all probability shortly after the end of Magha reign in 1236.It again came under Sinhalese rule for a few years in the fifteenth century in the reign of Parakrama Bahu VI. The coins most commonly found in the peninsula apart from the Polonnaruva-Dambadeniya copper, are out Setu and the ” Lion ” of Parakrama Bahu.

The Setu coins fall into two main divisions. Those of type I (1) are clearly allied to late Cola copper of the thirteenth century, though slightly larger in size, the Tarnil Setu substantiated from Nagari Sri Rajaraja. In type I (2),though the blank is even broader, the same design is retained, but the recumbent bull now appears on the obverse in a vertical position. The coins of type II the seated figure is replaced by the bull with the legend beneath it, while on the obverse the crown, the garment without the central piece and the fire-altar recall the latest type of aka which has been found in the peninsula, and probably was current until a comparatively late date. The execution of varies from the fine minting of II (1) to the debased minting of II(6) and their issue, perhaps, was extended over a considerable period of time. According to Tracy our I (2) is a clear imitation of the lion coin of Parakrama”. But save the position of the Bull, it would be difficult to find two coins of the same general Ceylon type wider apart, and it is with-the obverse of type II (4) that the “Lion” though having strong Sinhalese affinities, has the closest resemblance. If, therefore, the “Lion” was issued by Parakrama Bahu I at of near Ramnad, We must conclude that the Setu coins of type II preceded those of type I. But it is clear that the legend of type I is earlier than that of type II, which closely resembles the script of the Tamil inscription at Lankatilaka of c.A.D. 1347-8, and may be as late as the fifteenth century; the removal of the bull from the design unexplained ; and further, there is no evidence that, the Setupatis were then more than feudal nobles in the Pandyan kingdom, or were in a position to strike money in their own name, as they are not even mentioned in connection with the campaigns of Lankapura in the neighbourhood of Ramnad, while the attribution to Jaffna at that period is excluded by the possession of all Ceylon by Parakrama Bahu I, an inscription of whom exists at Nayinativu.

The alternative indicated by the epigraphical evidence is that type ll is later than type l, the prototype of which is a common to the thirteenth century Cola coin and therefore that the “ Lion ” was struck by Parakrama Bahu VI probably at the capital Nallur, after his conquest of the Jaffna kingdom, in which the Setu pieces, whether issued there or not, formed the usual currency medium. But the Seka Rasasekara Malai does away with the last difficulty in the attribution to Jaffna. Accordingly, the coins of type I may have been issued towards the end of the thirteenth or in the early part of the fourteenth century, and those of type-II about the middle of this century at the time when the kingdom and presumably its art was at a Zenith. Type II (4) thus would fall into the fifteenth century, and is the prototype of the obverse of the “Lion” while the coins of type II (6) are indicative of the decline of the kingdom. The Ceylontype persisted until quite late in India, and is found in the Dutch Negapatan copper and in its final form on the eighteenth century fanams.

In the Portuguese period the Jaffna monetary system differed from that of the Sinhalese districts ofCeylon.The Pardao then was equal to five Chakrams, each of these was divided into Ma or ” twentieths”. The kasu was still in circulation in 1645 (Foral of Jaffna)

19.Type I, Ceylon Type.-(l)As coarser copper Cola Sri Rajaraja coins but some what larger. On obverse in some cases the hanging lamp becomes a Trident. On reverse, in lieu of the Nagari legend is the Tamil Setu vertically. The Kombu is comparatively small, varying in size from about a quarter to over a half of the S , which , with the final letter, is sometimes unusually deep.

Diameter : 0.74 in. Weight: 56grains Elliot,III,132 PL 88.

(2) Obv.:As last, but crown consists of two lines and a dot. Trident under arm; under l. a bull couchant

vertically with a circle before it. All in bead circle.

Rev. : As last, but crown as on obverse

Colo.Mus. No. 240. Diameter: 0.80 in Weight : 6l.5 gr Pl 89

(3) As (2), but larger and coarser. The r arm on obv seems to be raised and not bent downwards ; underit hanging lamp, which varies in shape, and usually more or less like a trident. The kombu in the legend is .over half the size of the S.

Diameter:0.82 in.; Weight : 59.9 gr PL 90

Prinsep’s No. 12 (Essays Vol. I, Pl. XXXV) seems to-be of this variety. The kombu is relatively very small and the diameter is 0.84 inch and weight 58.1 grainsTracy, Nos 3 and 2.

Type II, Standing figure and Bull–(l) Fine minting Obv : Standing figure; head an oval open to rest as on “Lion” of Parakrama Bahu, No 1; Crown composed of two lines and a dot. Under right arm hanging lamp symbol of various types(a) three transverse bars, ball at bottom ; (b) the same, but without ball : (c) twotransverse bars without ball , (d) transverse bars not carried straight across but are broken, sometimes three on one side and two on the other, ,sometime to on either side,there is no ball. ln l. hand a ball, forefinger and thumb closed. Dhoti shorter than on the Lion, nothing between legs In right field a tall fire-altar or standing lamp the upright of which is of various types (a) a cross piece in the middle (b) as (a) but with dot on upright below: (c) as ( a), but with a dot above and below (d) as (a) but with two shorter cross pieces above and below; (e) the upright has only a dot in.the middle (f) as ( e), but three dots one above the other. To r of this symbol another vertical. like a mace, consisting or two parallel lines ending in a ball at either extremity; from the upper one projects a point. All in line circle with dots outside.

Rev.:Bull in trappings couchant,1; above crescent with sun in its horns. Below in exergue in large Tamil letters : Setu.

In fireld group of two or three dots or single dots, as follows, counted from top to bottom;-

Left Right
3,2,3 3,1,3,1,3
3,1,3,1,3 3,1,3,1,3
3,3,3 3,3,3
1,2,3 3,3,3
2,2,3 3,3,3

 

 DFiameter: 0.78-0.82 inch      Weight 68.8 grains   Pl 91Elliot,IV 172;RD 19, Tracy  No4 

(2)Half above, which it resembles. In lieu of dots in Perimeter a chain of small circles connectedby links. The variants of obverse(a) Crown ; this consists of line and a dot ; two short lines and a dot :two short lines, of which the one near the head is slightly curved,and a dot ; a line and two dots; or three dots (b) under the arms are usually two dotsrarelt two groups of three dots. (c) The hanging lamp is composed of a vertical line with one or , two cross pieces of irregular lenght and.position’ (d) The standing lamp usually has a ball at the bottom and another in the centre of the shaft ; somrtimes only a ball in the centre with or without a horizontal stand.

Rev.:The exergue line runs right a cross from one side of the circle or falls short at one or both ends onthe left, when it does not run beyond the kombu; there is found a single dot or a group of three dots. On the right Bull a tail sometimes joins the exergue line, which in some cases is not carried beyond. The tail of the kombu in the legend is either merged in the exergue line of curves over below it ; the vowel mark in the tu is partially in into the containing line circle. In some specimens also the left limb of the head of the s and r joins the loop of the letter as in modern tamil.

The dots in the field are distributed thus:- 

Left Right Left right
3 3,1 1 3
3 3 3
2 3

 

Diameter : 0.59-0.66 in. Weight : 34 grains RD, 18 ; Tracy No 5  Pl 92

(3) Bull in Frame.–obv. as on type II (1). Short dhoti ; under each end of garment a group of three dots.Hanging lamp, a vertical line with two curved cross pieces. The standing lamp has a horizontal stand a cross piece. And above and below this a dot. All in line circle and dots.

Rev.:As on II(1),but from exergue line springs a semi-circle connectod with the line circle by eleven short lines. within the frame so formed is a Bull and crescent, as usual between two groups of three dots .

Diameter Weight Diameter Weight

 

In Grains

 

In Grains
0.76-0.82 68 0.76 67.2

 

There is also an exactly similar coin with a diameter of 0.86 inch and a weight of 97  grains.  PL93.

(4) As II (l), but of rather rougher execution.-

Obv .: Hanging lamp as on last ; standing lamp also similarBut without dots. In the hand a Ball or quatrefoil. ln circumference dots only.

Rev. : Two dots behind bull ; to l of legend sometimes a dot.

Diameter ; 0.68-0.78 in. Weight : 55 grains.

It is this variety which is closest to the ” Lion ” coin PL 94

Variant.–Three dots behind bull ; kombu longer than on last. Diameter : 0.70 in. weight : 58.l grains.

(5) As last, but more debased.

Obv; Central horizontal line of head projects almost as far as the left hand.In r. hand, hanging lamp as in last, but ending in a ball ; the upper part is indented. Standing lamp has dot at bottom and in centre ; the head is a semicircle with three points at the chord. In circumference dots only,

Rev. : Bull and crescent as usual. To r. a vertical row of three dots ; no others in field. In the legend the kombu is separated. from the S, of which the cross line appears just to cut the vertical.

Diameter : 0.88 in. Prinsep. No, 14; apparently merely a variety of (4).

(6) Debased Type, with several variations:-

(i) obv. : Head l. ; crown, three dots, line, and dot ; body broad, arms raised. Below body a line following the contour, at each end of which a dot. From this line hangs the dhoti. Before face a group of four dots. On either side of figure a standing lamp ; that on l. being composed of a fairly long horizontal base, three dots, a shorter horizontal ling, a dot ,horizontal line turned up at either end, a dot, and at the top a trident-head ; that on r, is similar, but in lieu of the two dots with the turned up line between there are only two dots.All within circle of dashes.

Rev. : Bull couchant, 1., crescent and sun above. ,Setu below ; large kombu, In front of bull large rosette of six petals, below which a group of three dots. Similar circle of dashes.

Diameter : 0.82 in Weight : 96.6 grains,

(ii) As (i), but on obv. to L au inverted pyramid of balls, l, 2, 3, above which two dots, and again a ball.

Rev. : No rosette; behind rump of bull a quatrefoil.

Diameter :0.78 in.

(iii) As (i), but lines of dhoti separate from line below body. To l. three semicircles with dot above each, disposed vertically ; to r. lamp, the stem of which consists of a large ball between two smaller balls, and the head of a horizontal line curved upwards at either end and enclosing a flame.Betwen figure and lamps on l. two dots and on r. one.

Rev. : Apparently as (ii), but in lieu of quatrefoil three dots.

Diameter :0.74in.

Variant.-To l. of figure lower sem-icircle absent; on either side of figure two dots. Rev. : To r.and l. of bull a group of three dots.

Diameter : 0.76 in. Weight : 60.7 gr. Pl.95.

(iv) As (i), but body as last. Lamp on r. as (iii), but with horizontal foot ; Lamp on 1. has similar bead,below which a ball, and under this a horizontal line curved upwards at ends ; bottom obliterated.

Rev. : as (iii).Diameter : 0.66 in.

(v) As last, but body thin. Curved object on l.; lamp on r. as on (i), but in lieu of trident-head a line curved up at either end and enclosing a dot. Rev, : as (iii).

Diameter : 0.70 in.

(vi) Similar to (ii), but on rev. before bull peacock or hamsa, Tracy, No. 7. Weight, 40 gr. The average weight of the above, excluding (i), tie variant of (iii), and (vi) is 51.3 grains.

(7) Obv. ‘Setu’ across a circle in centre of octofoil, all in dot and line circle.

Rev : Bull and crcscent ,above ‘ setu’ ; in field to r. group of three dots, to l. of which sometimes another dot. Beneath exergue line three similar groups, disposed horizontally. All in dot and line circle.  Pl.96.

Diameter Weight Diameter Weight

 

In Grains

 

In Grains
0.53

0.59

27.6

35.5

0.55 32.8

 

 

 

This coin in Tracy;s No 8 , but his description is erroneous.

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