Reinhold Walberg in 2008 supports the view that

“ It is observed  as early as 1897 that previous  to  the period of Parakramabahu I of 12 Cent AD the coin circulation in Ceylon have no distinctive character. They are either of the ancient Punched Mark pattern or the importation of Roman Brass due to foreign commerce [  Rapson 1897].

It is quoted and infered by R Walberg that

” ..neither the presence nor  production  of coinage in a gievn area is a sure indication of the extent and nature of the use of money”.[ Howegego 1995: 21]. “More over, it cannot be repeated too often that applicable numbers of hoards from a given area do not necessarily reflect a plentiful supply of coin in the area”[ Hendy 1985: 301 n. 224]. and that ” access to and involment in internanational commerce does not necessarily promote the adoption of a monetery system to facitilate that trade[ Wicks 1992: 109].

He asks the questions about all coins types.

a.Which specimen type can really be accepted as money.[ He does accept a Lion and Railed Swastika piece as a Maharathi Coin]

b.Where did these come from?.[ does not apply]

c.How were they used in Sri Lanka?.[ He goes on to say , these pieces with the trade mark of Railed Swastika is not money in the true sence]

He  has come to the conclusion that he has the answers the three question only in the case of PMC’s and  silver Ingots and the Roman Coins and their imitations. .

Over 40 types of Gold Coins minted by Sinhala Kings. This is a quarter piece with name of country of issue “Sri Laka” and value or weight “Ma”.

Then he uses the factor analysis based on the modern models of the mechanics of Money, he arrives that

The locally minted money from the 8/9 Cent AD, has the name of the Country ‘Sri Laka’  and the ValueViha“, or “Ka ” or “Ma” and “Aka” in black and white or rather in Gold, so he cannot disputes these pieces. But he states “On the other hand, the Goddess Plaques[ which has the Railed Swastika], Maneless lion tokens and ‘the  earliest inscribed coins’ can definitely be rejected in the regard.


The Raoman and Greeks held the view that Coins must be round, though square coins were in their colonies in the Alexander the Great, adhereing tothe traditions of the orient, where the square types were common.  Other odd shapes of articles of exchange such as Knife coins of China, the Fish and Turtle coins of Greece had their equivalents in Sri Lanka too.

R Walberg in his book ‘ Coins and Token from Ancient Ceylon- 2008 on page 44 in an attempt to show Punch marked coins were in use in 5/6 Cent AD.

He quotes the stone carving of Kubera and his two attendants from whose shoulders flows a stream of of coins , Square and Rectangular shapes  were the most easily recognisable sign of wealth intelligible to everybody.

The above inscription is of the 8-10 Cent AD.At  Mihintale Kanteka Caitiya South Vahalkada show a sculpture what may be coins of early Anuradhapura  period.This is shown below, with  a set of coins found at Kantarodi, Jaffna and a set of coins scans of the railed swastika series .


Coins   are accepted as a means of exchange?

A quote from a British Book

Money is not determined by the shape or size, or the metal or any such limitation. May take any shape,[ roundness is a recent concept, but different shapes are useful to differentiate between coins of varying values in the present day ], as long as they are accepted as a means of exchange.

Generally  coins around  the world  are accepted as currency if  they have

a. Name of issuing Authority, Name of Country or / and. Name of Currency and  or its value is placed on either face of coin.

Inscribed Coins . Do these lack the characteristics of money in circulation?.

b. A Royal Emblem/ City or Country , a Design or Symbol[ Human Figures/Animals/ Symbols/etc] which could be easily  identified with the  Ruler / Issuer of the Coin.

The questions that should be asked is
a.How did our kings who issued coins ensure that they were accepted by the people?.
b.What were the symbols available which were known to the people of that period, that would easily identified with the issuer .What addition inscription did  they place on the metal discs to  achieve above aim?.
c. Was the ancient  Standards in compliance with  the now Western accepted concept of coins?

The little we know of a definition for the issue of coins of ancient Kahapanas [ the meaning is perhaps Token for trade and exchange].

A clue is perhaps  is stated in Buddhagosha’s – in Samantapadika- Atthakatha[ 5 Cent AD]. Buddhagosha visited the Island and transalated  all the Sinhalese texts available at Anuradhapura. Over 12 such ancient Ola manuscripts can be summerised as [ read HW Codrington-CCC Appendix A]. They state an Image or a Mark or a Symbol impressed or cut on different type of materials.

‘Kahapanas are either of Gold or Silver of the common metal. The metal Masaka is the masaka made of copper and the like; the wooden masaka is of masaka made of sara wood,or the outside of bamboo or even Tala leaf on which an image is cut’.

 Whatever the metal or material, what would have mattered most was perhaps the Image or Rupa that was cut on them. The particular Mark or Rupa was most important, to ensure that who ever that pieace of metal or any other that was immeadiatly recognised it and accepted it with out taking the trouble to weigh it, as a known standard for the  exchange of goods. As Coin was the latin word for stamping, Rupiya was the Sinhala , Sanskrit  word for Markings. Rupiya was used in Dipavansa to describe an expenditure  for which Kahapanas was usedin the Mahavansa to describe the same expenditure.

The Standard Unit in ancient Sri Lanka , The basis for an old standard unit in England was the Penneyweight or Stirling which was a weight in  a chosen metal which was  Silver and was the equivalent of 24 grains of Corn.

In Sri Lanka as in India the standard system was bimetallic , and coins were struck at fixed ratio of one metal to another.In Sri Lanka the standard lumps of metal were weighed against 8 grains of rice for an Masaka or 160 grains of Rice verses the Kalanda, very appropriate as the first meal served to the first group of Sinhalese was ‘ Rice and other food’  by Kuveni , the Yaksha Princess[ Mahavansa Chapter VII verse 24]. The ratio of Gold to Silver varied between 15 and 20. The Copper to Silver was 16. The Copper series of coinage mentioned in ancient texts from JAS Journal ( Ceylon) Vol XXVIIII No 72 of 1919-Nagadipa- PE Peries is

           1/16 Pana                                                    09 grains                0.583 Grams

           1/8  Pana or Ardha Kaki                        18 grains                 1.066  Grams

            1/4 Pana   or Kakini                              36 Grains                 2.33    Grams

            1/2 Pana or Ardha – pana                       72  Grains           4.66    Grams

             3/4 Pana                                                           108 Grains          6.99    grams

                    Pana                                                             144 Grains          9.33  Grams

                     1 1/4 Pana                                               180 Grains            14 Grams

                       2 pana – Divi-Pana                              288 Grains            18.66 Grams.

The Coin type called Goddess Plagues by R Walberg is found in different sizes. The weights of these Plaques strangly fall into the weight categories plus or minus 10% mentioned above. I weighed sixteen numbers of the 1/16 Pana, eight numbers 1/8 pana, four numbers 1/4 Pana   against a Pana weight class Plaque on my old Medical Ayurvedic Scales and strangely they balanced.  Many Plaques in the range of 13 Grams and higher have been found[ I have two and many pieces of that size], a members of the numismatist Society showed a plaque with broken edges which weighed over 23 grams.When ever these plaques are produced at the Numismatists Society as Show and Tell items or at Auctions, many members are able to identify as a full pana or a quarter or a sixteenth by just looking at the size.  Are these  importants factors  to answer R Walbergs third question – How were these used in Sri Lanka?.

The Tree, Lion, Elephant  and Railed Swastika series too come in many sizes and may well with in the range of weights. 


The first reason for inserting a  type- that is, a distinctive Mark on a coin is to show who issued it or gave approval for its issue. In the case of Sri Lanka we have to assume that it was the King, who may have . The Rupadaka the Mintmaster shown on Sinhala Inscriptions may have issued coins under the King authority.

The Mark or Marks would have been well known to the people, that it indicated wioth out any doubt as under the  Kings authority. The normal practice in Europe was to have Badge of state or city of the chief God etc, on the coin. Later the Romans placed the portrait/ Head of Emperor replaced the Badge. In the Type or Mark was commemorative. Some countries used it as Political or Religious propaganda. Most symbol found on coins are found are adopted on religious Buddhist art in Sri Lanka and in Buddhist and other religious art in India. All but the Railed Swastika.

In ancient Sri lanka or in India  this was not the practise not to place the image of the Buddha in their art.  He or his message was represented symbollicaly on most ancient sculptures.

The selection of  Types or Marks the design  may be very important factor in determining  what these metal pieces were and also reflect the life of the  people for whome they were made or the other way  around.

The Railed Swastika  in found on one side of the coin like pieces in many different coins having other mark on the other face. The Railed Swastika is only rstricted to or  found on few Seals and Sealing that are inscribed mostly with Maharajas. Also found on many Inscriptions, mainly of Kings. These provide valuable deductions  and one can confidently associate this symbol with royalty of Sri Lanka.

While all most all other symbols are found on Buddhist art such as Astamangala Diagrams, Buddha Sri patula, Buddist temple  Art,  Yantaragalas under Buddha Stautes etc. They are also found on Coins of the Janapadas of the Buddhist period. An important clue is that the Railed Swastika in not associated in most of this. If the Railed Swastika unlike  the Swastika by it self, was a religious symbol why was it not found with the astamangala symbols or in religious art.


This series of coin like pieces, were in layer of earth  C 14 dated from the 3 Cent BC to 3 Cent AD[ some  pieces be found in layers that were C 14 dated to 5 Cent AD] do not contains any legend to identify the Issuer/ Country, except for the inscribed Lion and Railed Swastika piece. The only mark that is consistent on the pieces is the Railed Swastika. This mark is unique to the Island of Sri Lanka. It appears on Seals inscribed with King’s name and besides Rock Inscriptions of the many ancient Kings , most of them identified with the Kings of this period. This is now accepted by most numismatist’s as the Royal Emblem of the Kings who issued these coins.

The part of inscription around  the Lion coin mentions a son   of a Maharaja[ Great King], it is not certain that the issuing King identifies himself with a famous king who was his father . There are Lion coins with  the inscription around the Railed swastika on the reverse of some of these pieces.

In addition to the Railed Swastika,  placed on these pieces are  Human figures, Tree in enclosure,the Four Animals and auspicious Marks.These very same symbol were on popular  common  art of the ancient Sinhalese and well known to the people , remains of which has been excavated scientifically[ most easily recognisable sign of wealth intelligible to everybody].

However these  symbols, is not only found here  but in the art of India , Indus valley and other civilisations, thousand year prior to the minting of these coins in Sri lanka. They are well-known and  described in detail by prominent art historians of the world. These very symbols are found in most coins of ancient India.But no Janapada of India had the type of design of these symbol on our coins. They were easily distinguished by this arrangement and by the Railed swastika which in unique to our Island. In fact the South Indian states had similar lone symbols [ Ellephant]with their own Royal Emblem instead of the Railed Swastika on the other face.Read Royal Emblem of Sri lankan Kings.

These  symbols well known to the ancient Sinhalese who considered them as religious and good luck was a very appropriate selection  by our ancient artists and engravers of coins dies of Sri Lanka.The ancient people of Sri Lanka could identify the design of symbols around the the royal Emblem on these pieces with the issuer or the ruler of the country  . What interpretation  the design conveyed is now lost with the passage of time. Most of the symbols are mentioned in  our ancient text like the Mahawansa. The very same set of   marks is found on the Sanchi Vihare Gates depicting the main events of Buddha’s life. the foot-prints of the Buddha, the art and architecture of ancient Buddhist monasteries and on all types of Seals and Sealing’s. These were described in detail Buddhist art on Coins,Art on Sanchi Vihare, Maya devi Symbol, Bo Tree on Coins, Triratna and Asana of Coins. etc.The List of Human Figures, Tree in Railing, The Four footed Animals and Auspicious Marks on Railed Swastika Series of Coins.

The die makers had adhered to a specific design in the placement of these marks on both faces of the coin. A visual glace at the diagrams of the coins shows many characteristics  belong to and only to these set of coins,The coins of India share  the same marks and few of these characteristics except for the Railed Swastika, but the arrangement is distinctly different to those of our coins. Any person could distinguish these coins from coins of India.The arrangement of the symbols are analysed in detail in pages Symbols on Obverse and those on the Reverse.

Do you think that these coin like pieces lack Character in the choise of symbols and their symetric placment?

The symbols were adopted to give a  buddhist interpreation and were sacred and lucky symbols. They  were of enough value to be used as Pendents or even as Rituals items that were deposited in relic chambers/ Yantaragalas etc. The use of coins as Pendents and as Ritual items is world wide habit, do not mean they were not coins.

It can be concluded that the Railed Swastika and  a set of specified marks having having similar characteristic  were well  known to and easily recognized by the ancient people. This particular design enabled the the people living in Sri Lanka , to identify these as coins ISSUED BY THEIR  their  kings, during that particular period of issue for trade and exchange?.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s