To get an idea of the numerals found on inscription from 1 Cent BC – 4 Cent AD see Hela Numerals.


Published below is the abstract  of the presentation made at the Royal Asiatic Society Annual Session of 2011- By Brig Siri Munasinghe [retd]

Numerals of Sinhalese

A logically organised  collection of  Numeral is called Numerations systems. The evidence of Sri Lankan having  symbols and names  for numbers for the last 2000 years is on rock inscriptions. . The numerals for TWO and THREE in  the Sinhala numeration system is represented by 2 and 3 horizontal strokes on these inscriptions.

We can  assume that initially numbers were denoted by such strokes as in the marking found bones on tools found at Ravanella by Dr PE Peiris and  pot-shreds etc during other excavations. Larger numbers were represented by single symbol or a numeral. There is no evidence of how and when these system evolved in Sri Lanka.

Bone Tools from Ravanalla-Marks Cut.

A Summery of symbol from 2 to 10

The earliest dated was identified by Dr Arya Abeysinghe to indicate  the Buddhist   era  in Numerals  on the Perumaiyan-kulam Inscription.

Development in the Sinhala system for expressing the Multiples of Thousands

1050 &1150 Kariha of Land or Paddy

But there is evidence of an  intermediate stages of the development of the symbol for 1000. An early method adopted by the engravers of King  Illanaga[44-34 AD]  who curved out the inscription at Situlpavu which is perhaps  a legal Deed indicating the total land or crop in Kariha that belong to the Monastery at Situlpavu.The extent of each tract of land is shown in Numerals  with the symbol for a Kiriha[ Measure of  of land or Paddy- about2/ 4 acres]]. Two larges tracts of land  of  a thousand and sixty Kariha[ 2/4 Acres per Kariha]  and one thousand One Hundred and fifty is named in the inscription. The number are indicated by Numerals only and not subtanciated in words. These have been identified and read  by the former Commissioner of Archeology Dr.S. Paranavitane.

The grand total of the is shown at the end is 4470 karihas. The 4000 is shown by four symbols of 1000. As in the case of indicating the numeral 2 or 3 by two or three Horizontal Strokes .

This system of placing four Thousand numeral for 4000 was further developed by placing the Numeral for Four after the Numeral for Thousand in the next century in the Vilavila Inscription.

This later trend of writing Numerals continued and the symbol for 5000 in the Palu-Mekicchava Inscription was the Numerals for Thousand and Symbol for Five to the right of the Thousand Symbol. Examples of  Numeral for Thousands on Inscriptions is shown below , The Indian numeral for 1000 is shown Bottom left.

Two Different Methods of expressing multiples of Hundreds.

There is an other example of the use  of two methods adopted for  expressing  of numerals in writing, i.e two methods of writing the numeral for Four Hundred. In the 1 cent AD Situlpavu Inscriptions the Two Hundred Numeral was written by placing a short horizontal stroke to the left of the Hundred Numeral, similarly the numeral for  Three hundred by two stoke been added to the right of numeral for 100. 

The Total in the Situlpavu was 4470 , and the Four hundred numeral  is expressed by adding three stroke to the right of the Hundred Numeral. But in next Century  on the  Dakkina Stupa the numeral for FOUR is placed to the right of the numeral for Hundred.

Examples of this  practice of placing the numerals for 5,6.7 and  9 after the numeral for 100 is shown below.

Method of expressing multiples of Tens after 50.

The Numerals for 60,70  as on Situlpavu Inscription and on the Dakkina Stupa Inscription is shown below. The difference is that a Horizontal stroke is added to the left of numeral 60  and presto numeral 70.

Did the Sinhalese numeral for  80  follow the above practice  and that of  Hundreds in its development?. Was there a similar  intermediate step for the Thousands?. Perhaps new discoveries of inscription will verify these.The numeral at Torava Mylava  has two a horizontal line attached to the vertical line of the Numeral for 1000. Is this 2000?.

The Numeral on Torava Mylava Inscription.

There are symbols, other than those  that are now accepted by a few historians as Numerals on our Cave inscription between 300 BC to 100 AD. These may require careful scrutiny. I will thread in to an area where one should be careful in expressing view, but what the hell..

Numerals  like symbols

A symbol  looking like two fish[ No 43] is on Mullegama Inscription No1074[ IC Volume I]. The inscription shown below has the symbol no 41 , 42 and 43 in Inscriptions of Ceylon Volume I page xxvi in table of non Brahmi Symbols. The symbol 41 is very much like the Numeral four found on inscription[ Dr Abeya Ariyasinghe]. Th e symbol no 43  is  similar two numerals of ten of the ancient Sinhalese. This symbol look similar to a Sinhala Ma of a later period, as different Ma exists in inscription. Was this method of placing two TEN LIKE SYMBOL    to indicate the Numeral  20 as adopted for the multiples of Thousand by the ancient Sinhala Ganaka [ Accountants]???.

The Inscription at Nattakanda.

The inscription has symbols No 16 has two Horizontal Strokes to the left of a symbol that is similar to the Numeral Ten. Does this mean that it  it indicates the symbol 30???.

Nattukanda Inscription

Two Fish or Two Ma's or Two Tens??

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