Sinhala Numerals.

Long before numbers were invented, man kept numerical records by  finger counting or  making marks to represent each commodity or item . Notches cut on hunting tool of the stone age found at Ravanella [ P.E. P. Dereniyagala] may be the only available evidence of this type found  in the Island. When it came to large numbers, this procedure became cumbersome and it was simple to allocate a symbol for a group of marks. These numerals of the Island are similar to ancient numerals of India. Most of the Sinhala  symbols for Numerals on rock inscriptions are attested by number words. It is possible to infer that  20 numerals were used to express numbers. They are in groups of Tens- i.e  Ten numerals for units up to  Ten, 9 numerals for tens up to Hundred, and a Numeral for a Thousand . There is no evidence of the use of  Zero in this system . These 20 numerals continued to evolve up to the 19 Cent, alongside other counting system, until it was replaced by the present Indo-Arabic numerals by the colonial rulers.

Other Systems of Numeration- James De Alwis

Base 60 System

The Sinhalese used the  old Babylonians base 60 to record time in hours per day and yearly periods. They had 60 year periods, and 60 hours per day of 24 minutes.

Katapaya system

The katapaya system of using the Sinhala alphabet as numbers was adopted for their astronomical and medical calculations. Letters of the Sinhala alphabet was used for numbers from Zero to Nine.

But in the example given below the date is read from right to left given in James De A.lwis book .

Bhuta samkaya System

The Sinhalese  may have had access to the Indian Bhuta samkaya system that was used in Sanskrit and Pali  texts This system is a method of recording numbers using ordinary words having connotations of numerical values .

  • Zero was  nothing or Vacuum.
  • Moon with “One”- Only one moon
  • The number “two” can be associated with the word “eye” as every human being has two eyes. or with a birds– as they are twice born.
  • Any word meaning tooth– 32 – The number of teeth etc.

                         Moon-Bird- Vacuum- One is 1-2-0-1



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