This type of rectangular coin, is not much talked of, since its discovery by Mr Henry Parker at Tissamaharama. Since then many were found at Mullativu and Anuradhapura and these were published by him in his book Ancient Ceylon. Many of these pieces have appeared at Tissamaharama and Anuradhapura. The obverse face is a standing or seated figure and the reverse which has a Railed Swastika which is flanked by two other symbols. Henry Parker has published most of them.

I have access to 4 of these pieces which are shown below.

A piece with the the Bull right of  the Railed Swastika was found at Tissamaharama in the South of Sri Lanka by  the German Excavation teamand published in” Coins and Token from Ancient Ceylon” by R Walberg as No 33 on page 94. This need be studied further. This was found in Layer belonging to 1 Cent AD and need be confirmed by other such finds.

Many Cultures of the early period used different Standards as a measure of value. According to ancient Greeks laws of the 7 cent BC, certain offenses were punishable by imposing a fine, the value was measured with the Bous (Oxen or Bull). The Roman derived their Measure of Exchange or Money from Cattle and called it Pecunia. People of Crete used lebetes or Bowls as a measure and marked their early coins with Bowls. The Romans used the Amphora a Vase on their coins, Perhaps their standard measure of the quantities of Grain or Wine in such Pots or Vases.
This is most probably the only answer as to why the Bull and Vase [ Pot] was popular marks on few of our early coins.

Bull carrying a Pot Images are found in Indus valley , shown in first figure.

The Standing  Figure.

The standing figure has a Thin waist and most of them distinct Dots are placed around the head  may number from 5 to 7. These are described in detail by H Parker below

The reverse, the Pot and Bull is found on either side of a Swastika placed on Railing.

The Pot and Bull Symbol

This is perhaps the earliest appearance of these symbols on Coins of Sri Lanka. The Humped Bull is common symbol on the Silver kahapanas or Punch Marked Coins, which is found in fair numbers in the Island. The Bull is found in standing position and seated Positions on PMC’s.The Bulls horn faces front.

But the Bull on the Coin of Sri Lanka coins are in standing and what looks like in a running or in a recumbent position.  But this position of the Bull seems to typically Sri Lankan as it continued to be used in Sri Lankan art and on coins.

The next coin with a Bull appeared on the what is now known as the Rectangular Bull Type  of the 4-5 Cent AD, but this is humped bull similar to the Bull in question but in a standing position. The Pot continues to appear as a smaller symbol in front of the Bull.

The Next Bull on coins appear on the Bull and Pot Coins, which has a similar Obverse of  Standing Bull facing a small pot, and on the reverse is a large Pot of plenty.The Bull is different to the Bull on the Punched Mark Coins shown below.This Bull was imported to Sri Lanka during the last few centuries and are seen on our roads

The Recumbent Bull on Sealing’s and the Astamangala Slab at Colombo Museum.

The next coin on which these symbols appear is the Series C coins mentioned by Ms Chandrika Jayasinghe.these are circular coins and there are many variations. The Bull on coins take the position recumbent position or the standing position and later kneeling position.The same bull is found on the Aastamangala Slab at the Colombo Museum . The art of most symbols on this slab seems to have a close resemblance to those adopted by artist who made the dies for coins.

Walking Bull on the Traditional Sinhala Moonstone.

The standing and recumbent position of the bull seems to be used in the Sinhalese Art and is found on clay seals, on Intaglios and on other art. Few example are shown below.

It is interesting to see if there is any characteristic by which this bull can be identified with local bulls. Any expert on this subject  reading this please comment.

The 3 Bulls found in the Garbhapatra.-TB Karunaratne-Ancient Ceylon

The Bull is now accepted by numismatist in Sri Lanka as Vedic symbol and as the Vehicle [Vahana] of Vishnu.The Bull symbol was a symbol of the Hittites, adopted by the Aryan tribes driving their cattle through Mesopotamia on the slow journey  to the east from their original homelands. Also found is a prestigious symbol of the Indus Civilisation.

The question why the ancient Sri Lankan  too used this symbol on their art and on coins?. Was it

a. As it was the  symbol of Vishnu?.

b. Was  this Vedic symbol later adopted as a Buddhist Symbol.

c For no special significance but as a symbol for decorative purposes?.

Three possible reasons as to why the Bull symbol  was placed on coin?.

a.Bull on Coins was accepted by the Buddhist in Sri Lanka  as  The vehicle of Vishnu? This the popular view.

If it was accepted by a predominantly Buddhist society that the vedic symbol of the Bull was associated with Hindu Gods. Buddha is  believed to be an incarnation of Shiva  by the Indians. How much  was this  true in Sri Lanka?. Why was the Lion and Horse symbols used on our coins which are not associated with Hindu Goddess.

b.Was the Bull symbol accepted as a Buddhist Symmbol?. Any lithic proof.

I refer to Rev Dhabara Amila’s Book.


 The popular Buddhist belief was that the Buddha himself was named as Vrusaba Raja  in the book Dviyawadanaya.The Buddha or his dhamma is compared with the King of Cattle of the Vishaba Kula for the honourable qualities of Valour and Leadership. The Sayuktha Atuvava refers to three catergories of cattle,Ushaba, Vishaba and the Vahaba. It is the Vishaba who takes over leadership as it has the qualities of Walking tall or Erect, not detered by the sound of battle, tolarate extreme hardships and carry any burden. Perhaps the qualities of leadership required of the Kings of Sri Lanka who associated them selfs with the Khastriya Clan whose origin can perhaps be traced back to the Hittites of Mesopotamia. Read Sirimunasiha.wordpress.com/Military Tradition of Srilankan kings.

This same things are said in a  different  way about, the symbol of the Bull in India, please get on the web and read on Bull Symbolism.

The Coin.

The King Vahaba who formed a dynasty of Kings had the name  similar to the third type of cattle mentioned above. This was in the first century AD, We have no evidence that the Bull and Pot coin can be assigned to the same period could be possible assigned to King Vahaba period, except for that single find during German excavation at Tissa. This is  mentioned earlier , but it requires further evidence before we arrive at  a firm conclusion.


These coins are also oblong of beaten copper, wider than those of Tissa; they are all of one type which differ in some respects from that of Tissa coins. Each has a standing deity on Obverse, and a peculiar swastika on the reverse.; but all are characterized by having in the space under the arm of the swastika and usually on the right side of central pole ,a  humped bull, sometimes kneeling on one knee, and on  the opposite side a vase out of which grows a plant. The flat  border of the Tissa coins is absent, as well as the line Under the base of the Swastika, and sometimes the circlet over head of the deity. These coins cannot have been long in circulation, the edges being sharp as though freshly cut; but on several of them the design is quiet faint.


No 7  Size  1.16 in. by .64 in.; weight = 49 grains

Obverse  Standing Deity, facing front., with is slightly apart. Arms hang  down, and hands grasp two upright lines at revel of hips.That on the left, has a boss on it below shoulder level ; opposite The neck it divides into two arms which are at first horizontal And then vertical, forming a bident. The other seems to be Similar. From top of inner prongs of bident an arched band raises over the head. Beginning above the shoulders  and extending round the head are seven clearly defined . beads,and another is on each side close to the hips. Bangles on both waist and an anklet on left  leg; the other- ankle and both feet cannot  be distinguished.

Reverse – opposed to obverse. Swastika symbol, turned right. on straight base. In space to right of central pole and facing Swastika a  Recumbent humped bull. In space to r. a round-bodied object, a vase with plant; one stem has three leaves. Mouth of Vase faces Swastika – Belongs to Henry Parker.

No8. 1.03 in. by 0.61in.; weight = 44 ½  grains

Obverse ; narrow – waisted  standing Deity , facing front, with legs well apart and arms hanging down, the left arm grasps a strong Upright pole, which at level of neck becomes a Bident or, trident,only one prong being recognizable. A bead above each shoulder and traces of two others above them. In circlet of beads passed round head they may have been only five in number.Feet and right  hand indistinguishable.

Rev ; opposed to obv- Broad-stemmed Swastika symbol, turned Right: with pointed arms. Recumbent humped   bull facing it on Right; a vase with indistinct plant on left, turned towards swastika.

No 9   Size 1.12 in. by 0.72i n.; weight = 32 ¼  grains.

Obv  A standing deity, facing front, with two large anklets on each leg.Arms hang down and hands grasp two upright poles near sides of coin, of which that on left .becomes a wide bident above level of neck, left prong ending in a barbed point. A bead above each shoulder, and, some kind  of covering of  head-dress on head, extending beyond it laterally.

Rev. opposed to o. Raised Swastika, turned right. Facing it on right,  the  remcumbent humped bull. Vase on left with plant,facing Swastikas.    Property of Henry Parker.

No 10.Size 1.20 in. by .0.70 in. weight= 38 ½  grains

Obv. Standing deity, facing front, very narrow waisted, with bangle on left  fist. Side uprights barely distinguishable; that on right- appears to end in bident opposite neck. A circlet of beads extends from shoulders round the  head, on each side of which, three are visible.

Rev. opposed to obv. Raised Swastika, turned 1eft, with arms and basal uprights pointed. Indistinct symbols below it; that on right may be the recumbent bull facing it. Henry Parker.

No 11 Size 1.14 in by 0.66  Weight =46 ¼ grains. About one-tenth of coin has been cut off right upper corner; allowing for this the weight would be about 50 ½ grains; Design is in higher relief.

Obv; Standing deity, facing front. with wider waist. Hands holds upright Poles or stems near sides of coin Arched line over head with lower edge scalloped. A bead above each shoulder, and another over it on 1eft.; there may have been seven round the head. There are indications of flowers on stems on each  side of the legs.

Rev ; Raised swastika, turned right. Base straight ; short side uprights resting on it are pointed at ends. In space to right.a kneeling humped bull, with right . fore-foot on ground. Tail is curled back on left  quarter, its end being on the ground. The bull is tied to the swastika by a halter. Two points on its neck may indicate two collars. On  left. a wide vase on a flat base; tree grows out of it, an upright stem, from which branch four side shoots, ending in leaves or flowers.[ Henry.Parker]

No 12  Size; 1.12 in. by .0.65 in.; weight 51 grains. 

Obv;. _ Standing – deity, facing front., indistinct. Hands hold uprights near edge ; that on right . may end in bident. A bead on each side  above shoulders and anklets on left leg . Transverse bar below  feet bent downwards in middle

Rev; opposed to obverse . A strong stem, ,turned right. Recumbent humped bull on l. facing swastika, with hanging ears and dewlap. On right. a round-bodied vase out of which grows probably three stems, two only being visible, each ending in a leaf or flower. [Henry Parker].

No 13 Size 1.04 in. by 0.6o in.; weight=29 3/4 grains.

Obv;. Standing deity, facing front Anklet on left leg ; lower part of other leg indistinguishable. Upright pole on right. appears above shoulder-to curl round towards head in a rough circle, which may possibly be a large trumpet- mothed flower

Rev;. Opposed to Obverse. Railed swastika turned left. The only two basal- uprights which are distinguishable end in points. To right ., recumbent humped bull facing Swastika. To left., vase ,with wide mouth facing swastika ; right . shoot from it ends in a broad pointed leaf. –No traverse bar under base line of swastika, this being the only  which shows clearly that this special feature-of the Tissa coins is omitted from those found at Mulleittivu. [Henry  Parker].

No 14,. Size 1.18 in. by ‘0.6 in.; weight =56 grains

Obv. Standing deity in relief facing front., feet turned half outwards ; hold upright pole at each side. That on right becomes .a bident at level of chin, with horizontal base and prongs ,sloping slightly outwards. A broad circlet Passes from inner Prongs over the head, and on the under side has a scalloped edge There are seven beads round the head; the two lowest being close to  houlders. on right. wrist two bangles, and anklet on right leg. To left. between leg and  ole, a raised symbol the side view of a lotus leaf on an upright stem. To right a thin .curved stem ending in large flower. A fold of the dress hangs down between the legs. Three cuts across right foot indicate a shoe or slipper.

Rev;. Opposed to obverse. Raised Swastika, with  thick arms turned right,, two short thin bars cross the ends of its arms and of the basal uprights. To right. recumbent humped bull facing Swastika, to which is tied by a halter – To left a wide heart shaped vase, pointed at bottom and having a high neck and lip, with upright plant ending in one leaf ; it has a right and left.branch,  former ending in a large leaf. [Henry Parker].

No 15.  Size 1.04 in. by 0.66 in.; weight =51 grains.

Obv;.. Standing deity, facing f., holding upright poles at sides; bangles on wrists. A flattened circlet passes  over head, from uprights.  Traces of beads round head.

Rev:. opposed to obverse. Raised Swastika, appearing to turn right, with pointed basal upright. End of each central arm of right only one distinguishable, seems to be bent horizontally towards the stem and to end in a fork. To right ., recumbent humped bull facing Swastika. To left.; a vase out of which grows an upright tree, perhaps ending in three large leaves.  [Henry.Parker].


No 16. Size 1.21 in. by 0.66 in. ; Weight = 54 grains

Obv;. standing deity (goddess) with narrow waist, facing front., and Grasping a thick pole at each side of coin. Two bangles on right. wrist, and one or more on left.; anklets on legs. A broad bead, on each side of neck.

Rev:. Raised swastika, the side uprights end in points ; ends of arms are not visible. Bull and vase as usual. [ColomboMuseum].

No 17.. Size 1.21 in. by 0.74 in.; weigh= 52 grains.

Obv: vigorous figure of deity (goddess) with very narrow waist, facing front. ; apparently an anklet on each leg. A raised bead on each side of neck. Hands seem to hold ,the usual  upright poles.

Rev: opposed to o. Raised swastika, turned, right. Basal uprights .end in points ; ends of arms not distinguishable.Usual bull and vase, transposed to left. and right. respectively.vase has flat base, very narrow mouth, out of which grows a plant of three shoots each ending, in one leaf. [Colombo Museum.]

No 18. Size 1.20.in. by 0.68 in.; Weight =51 grains

Obv:. Standing deity, facing front. ; one or two anklets on eachleg. Upright pole on right., at edge of coin. :

Rev. Raised Swastika, turned 1eft., on wide stem, with very short. basal uprights. To 1., recumbent humped bull facing base line ; the only instance in which it does not face the Swastika. To right . the vase also [ColomboMuseum]

No 19. Size 1.20 in by 0.71 in.; weight= 29 grains

Obv:. Standing deity with wider waist facing front two bangles on right wrist, and a bead above each shoulder. Feet and other hand not visible. upright pole to right. appears to end in bident with prongs inclined outwards. Portion of arched line over head b visible. on each side of legs are reliefs that I cannot identify.

Rev Opposed to Obverse. Swastika tuned right. Bull with curled tail; two shoots of Plant  visible.Colombo Museum

No 20. A portion only. 0.97 in by0.71 in; weight = 19 ½ grains

Obv;. Standing deity, facing front

Rev;. Recumbent bull, re-punched from Obverse.[ R. Massie],

No 21;?[ British  Museum]A portion only., Size 0.92 in by 0.56 to 0.64 in; weight 42grains 

Obv. Standing deity, perhaps facing half left. Bangles. And anklets as usual and upright poles at sides ; the pointed head of one, at shoulder-level, appears to show that they are javelins.A bead on each side of neck.

Rev– Opposed to Obv- Swastika, turned right Design to right indistinct; to left. a full -bodied vase in good relief, with small mouth and distinct lip. Parts of three shoots each terminated by a leaf. 

No 22 British .Museum Size 1.10 in. by 0.68 to 0.73 in ; weight = 47 1/2 grains

Obv;. Standing deity with narrow waist facing front.. Each hand  holds upright  pole. at side of coin that to right  having a square  knob at its base. Bangles and anklets as usual, and a bead on each side of neck. Circlet Passes over head, appearing to rest at each end on the side Poles.

Rev; Indistinct  ; part of swastika. usual bull and .vase ; Plant two shoots each branching into two.?.

No 23.To these I add one coin purchased for me atAnuradhapura,by my friend Mr. Balfour of the Irrigation Department as it is of the same as type as the foregoing, unlike others dug up at that town which are described below.

Size 1.09 in by 0.62 in.; weigh t= 41 grains

Obv;. Standing deity with narrow waist, facing front. Anklet On left leg. .Arms as usual;l.eft one holds an upright pole which appear to become a bident at level of neck..Rev;. Raised swastika turned r. Bull as usual ; one stem of plant on 1eft., ending in a leaf. [Henry.Parker].

No24– Another of this type found by Mr. Bell at Anurddhapura,at the structure surrounded by a . Buddhist railing, measured 1.12in. by 0.7 in., and weighed 51 1/2  grains.

Obv;. standing deity, facing front. holding the shaft of a trident in each hand.

Rev: The raised swastika, turned right. Recumbent bull on right., and plant of three stems on 1eft., each ending in a leaf, and springing from, a cross-bar. [Colombo. Museum].

Nagaraja- Abayagiri Vihare- Anuradhapura.


There are many characteristics that is observed in addition to Bull and Pot. One is the arrangement of Dots around the head of the deity.  There are many variation in the head that needs studies.

A scan of figure on a coin.

The heads are compared with the Naga Kings on the guard stones or the Nagaraja figures found in Anuradhapura.The similarity of the arrangement around the head of the famous Doratupalaon the Guard Stones at Anuradhapura is evident.

Sinhala Guard -stones.

There are some coins from India that have similar figures of coins.These have on the reverse inscriptions which may give some clues to the identity of the deity.Who were the deities that were familiar to ancient Srilankans ,according to their beliefs and traditions during the early Anuradhapuar period?.

Check out this coin?. Do you see two birds ?

Take a close look, how the ancient die engraver depicted a Human figure

Take a close look, how the ancient die engraver depicted a Human figure


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