The first Invasion of the Pandyans were perhaps the Seven  Dravidas ,during the time of King Valagamba or Vattagamini Abaya in 103 BC. They ruled for 14 years. The coins issued by them were perhaps those now known as Buddhist Chakram Coins. The so called Chakram  is the well known Fish emblem of the Pandyans.

The Pandyan Fish Emblem

The symbols in vogue in  India and Sri lanka  during this period were  the Elephant, Tree in railing, the Caitiya or Mountain , the Nandapadi, the Standards. What differentiated the coins of different nations was the Emblem of the nations.

A Coin of King Vahaba[?]

The famous kings of the period was King Vahaba[ 65-109 AD] . The Cholas under King Karikala invaded the country and took away 12,000 prisoners during the reign of his son King Vankanasika Tissa. However his grandson King Gajabahu [112-134 AD] retrieved the national honour by a counter invasion and brining back not only the captives from Ceylon , but also equal number of men of the Cholas. King Gajabahu[ Ones whose Arms is of the strength of an Elephant] names appears in the  Sangam literature of the South India.

The next invasion was Pandyan , after the death of King Mahanama[ 419-432 AD] , King Pandu from South India who invaded the country and ruled for twenty seven years , until King Mahasena regained power in 469 AD.

The next major Pandyan invasion was after 400 years of peace up to the  period of the reign of Sena I[833-853 AD].There was a treaty signed by the Srima Srivallabha the Pandyan King  and Sena I  and the  throne handed back to Sena I.  Prince Varaguna the son of King Srimara Srivallabha  came over to Sri Lanka and sought the help of King Sena II to overthrow his father. King Sena army went over and attacked Madura recaptured the Royal Treasures, gold etc taken away by King Sri Vallabha.

The Kalanda of Gold Called Chank over Pot with the fractional pieces- one of the oover 30 verieties recorded.

The 8-10 Cent AD  was a period where Gold Coins were used in Sri Lanka. There is evidence on rock inscriptions. Three types containing over 30 different veriaties of Gold coins are recorded in 4 denominations.

Mahinda IV the last great King of Anuradhapura ruled from 956-972 AD . He defeated two attempts  by the Colas from India to conquer the Island. The Mahawansa describes him as “ Rich in merit, rich in splendour , rich in military power and rich in fame”.

The Map of Rajarajas Influence from the Web site

His son who succeeded him was very poor ruler and people agitated against him and he fled to Ruhuna. The Chola King Raja Raja learnt of this situation and landed in the north and marched unopposed to Anuradhapura and sacked and set fire to it. The Cola viceroy ruled from Polonnaruva. Thus ended one of the greatest and most stable capital in South  Asia which lasted for over thousand four hundred years.

The Coins of Rajaraja and others  are found in Sri Lanka, the design was similar to the Kalandas of Gold type III.Most characteristics and symbol of the Cola coins of Rajaraja is same as the type III coin.

The only difference was in the Script  where the name of the country [ Sri Lanka] and the weight or value of Gold in the coin was replaced with the name of the Issuer . The Script  Raja ra ja was inserted on the Coin.

Gold Kalan of RajaRaja

Gold Raja Raja Revrese

The Cholas reigned from Pollonaruva , opposed by the Sinhala Princes from Mayarata and Ruhuna.

Raja raja Silver Obverse

Raja raja Reverse- Silver

Raja raja Copper Massa- The lamp to left appears as a Fish, next to the Trident.

Rajaraja Copper Massa – Reverse

Copper Half Massa Rajaraja?

Half Massa Copper Rajaraja?


The Cola Kings who suceeded rajaraja too issued coins , those found in the Island are-

Prince Kirthi unified  the Sinhalese and repelled the Colas.He ruled as Vijeyabahu I. Vijeyaba issued Gold and Silver Coins, he followed the tradition set by the Colas and inserted his name on the coin, instead of the name of the country and the weight of Gold or Value. This was followed by Kings[ some of them were Princes from Kalinga the birth place of the first King of Sri Lanka Vijaya ruled under the names  Nissaknamalle, Sahasamalle etc ] and Queens who too placed their names on coins.

The Coins of Kings who ruled from Pollonaruva between the Cola Invasion and the Magha Invasion.

In  King Magha of Kalinga invaded and ruled in the North in 1215 AD. While Vijeyabahu II ruled in the Mayarata  from Dambedeniya. Then there were invasions by the Pandayan after the defeat of the Colas by Maravarnam Sundra pandaya [ 1217-1238 AD].  Jatawaram Sundara pandya claims to have  killed one of the two king of Sri lanka, this is not confirmed by our Chronicles. The chronicles states that Bhuvenaikabahu[ 1271-1284 AD] resisted  and repelled the attacks of the Pandyan attacks.

The Coins of Sundra-Pandyans, found in Sri Lanka.

Pandyan  under Arya Chackravati captured Yapahuva  and carried away the tooth relic and the country was under the sway for a decade. Until Bhuvenaikabahu  expelled the invaders and ruled from Kurunegala.

CCC Chapter para 9-HW Codrington writes .

After the period of Pandyan prosperity signalized by the invasion of Ceylon in the reign of Sena I, the southern kingdom fell before the arms of the Cola conqueror Parantaka I, but recovered its independence on his death. It again became subordinate to the Cola power under Rajaraja I and his successor ; Rajadhiraja I defeated a rebellion by Sundara Pandya about 1043/4, and the country was ruled by a dynasty of Cola descent until about 1136.

In the twelfth century the rivals for the. Pandyan throne, as we have seen, were supported by the Sinhalese and Cola kings. The decline of the Cola power led to the ascendancy of the Pandyans, who were ruled by the traditional five brothers.

The coins with the legend Sundara  Pandyan are to be attributed to Maravarman Sundara Pandya I (AD. l2l2-l244), II (AD. 1238-1255), or III (A.D. 1294-1307), or to Jatavarman Sundara. Pandya I (A.D. l25l-1280), II (A.D. 1270/l – 1301), III (A.D. 1276-1293), IV (A.D. 1303-1318), or V (AD. l3l8-1337 at least).

Of these princes, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I claims in his inscription to have conquered Ceylon, while Jaatvarman Vira Pandya II ” who took ilam ” (A.D. 1253/4-1275), ” killed one of the two kings of Ceylon” captured his army, chariots, treasures, throne, Crown, necklaces, bracelets, parasols, chauris, and other royal possessions,planted the Pandyan flag with the double fish on Konamalai and the high peaks of the Trikutagiri mountain, received elephants as tribute from the other king of Ceylon, and subdued the Kerala ” (A.R.E., No. 356 of 1906 ; ib., 1912,p. 65). Maravarman Kulasekhara I, ” who was pleased to take every country ” (AD. 1268-1310), though his minister Arya Cakravarti invaded Ceylon and carried of the Tooth Relic (Mhv. XC.,v.43-47) ; he appears to have been murdered by his son Sundara Pandya in 1310, in which year an. appeal to Dehli by one of the claimants to the throne led to the great Muhammadan invasion of Malik Kafur, and the establishment of a Muslim dynasty. This was overthrown about 1365 by the rising Hindu power of Vijayanagar, which exercised over-lordship in all the South India for two centuries, The petty Pandyan kings were followed in 1559 by the Nayakkar dynasty, which was founded by a lieutenant of Vijayanagar, and continued until swept away by the Muhammadans in 1736 : from it prang the last four kings of Kandy.

The great majority of the Pandyan coins found in the island came from Tirukketisvaram, the site of a famous Hindu shrine in the Neighborhood of Mantota, the Mahatittha of the Mahavamsa and the great medieval port of the entry into Ceylon from South India. All the coins in the following pages, except those specifically mentioned, were found at this place.


The ” Horizontal Fishes and Bull ” type seemed to Tracy ” to belong to a period perhaps a century earlier than the Sinhalese invasion ” by Parakrama Bahu I (Madras Journal of Literature and Science, 1887-8, p. l44),

Nos. I and 2 of the ” Fish or fishes and varied reverse ” are probably older. The Ceylon type presumably is subsequent to the time of the Cola Rajaraja I. Our coins with legends are of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, with the possible exception of the small coins described in section II, (7), which may be of later date. The Numismatist when a fish symbol is on coins finds in the Island, they immediately connected them with the a immediate neighboring Pandyan nation that existed in the past. The Pandyan coins used a single Fish formed of straight line.



Coins with Fish

The Fish is a symbol used by almost all civilisations.

The two goldfish (Sanskrit: matsya;), representing the state of fearless suspension in a harmless ocean of samsara, metaphorically often refer to buddha-eyes or rigpa-sight; symbolises the auspiciousness of all sentient beings in a state of fearlessness without danger of drowning in the Samsaric Ocean of Suffering, and migrating from place to place and teaching to teaching freely and spontaneously just as fish swim freely without fear through water;

In the following quotation, the two golden fishes are linked with the Ganges and Yamuna, and nadi, prana and carp:

The two fishes originally represented the two main sacred rivers of India – the Ganges and Yamuna. These rivers are associated with the lunar and solar channels, which originate in the nostrils and carry the alternating rhythms of breath or prana. They have religious significance in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions but also in Christianity (the sign of the fish, the feeding of the five thousand). In Buddhism, the fish symbolize happiness as they have complete freedom of movement in the water. They represent fertility and abundance. Often drawn in the form of carp, which are regarded in the Orient as sacred on account of their elegant beauty, size, and life-span.

In ancient Eastern Indian mythology, the fish is a symbol of transformation and creation. This is observed in the ancient flood myth in which Vishnu transformed himself into a fish (Matsya) to save the world from a great flood. In this form, he guided king Manu’s boat (which contained the select few survivors & seeds of life to re-create the world after the flood subsided) to safety.

The earliest reference of the Fish symbol and its association with our Royalty in found in inscriptions of the 2/3 Cent BC. As decscribed by DR S Paranavitane in Inscriptions of Ceylon Volume I.

Hennanegala Inscription

“ No 406, from Henannegala in the Batticaloa District, records the grant of some villages, presumably to the ancient Vihara at the site, by the father of Gamani Tisa, and a personage named Majhi-ma-rajha. Ma-rajha presumably stands for maharaja, the elision of ha being paralleled by gapati standing for gahapati. Majhi, is equated with Pali. maccha, Skt. matsya; the full name would, in Sanskrit be Matsa-maharaja. The interpretation of the name in this manner is supported. by the occurrences in inscription of the symbol of a fish, and the symbol which we have taken to stand for Gamani Tisa.It is also worthy of note that the fish symbol is found in all the inscriptions at Kottadamuhula as well as at Bovattegala, where members of the Ksatriya family of Kataragama find mention. The fish appears therefore to have been the dynastic symbol of these princes. It may be inferred from this fact that they claimed to be scions of the Matsya clan which figures prominently in the Mahabharata. Virata, the modern Bairat, where an inscription of Asoka has been discovered, was the capital of the Matsyas. Their country lay to the east of the lower course of the Indus, and was not far from Latadesa, from which the Sinhalese are said to have migrated to Ceylon.  The father of Gamani Tisa, one of the donors in this inscription, was Gothabhaya, who is said to have exterminated the ten brother kings of Kataragama. Majhi- marajha was probably the chief of these ten brothers, and the writer of the inscription did not wish to have his name mentioned in the same breath as that of the prince who was his victim. His sympathies were clearly with the Ksatriyasof Kataragama, but as Gamani Tisa (Kakavanna) had, married, into that royal house, he saw no objection to his name being recorded. The writer of the Kaludupotana inscription had followed a different source. He did not wish to name Kakavanna Tissa, but referred, to him as the son of Aya-Abaya (Gotabhaya)”.

Few Inscriptions with Fish Symbol

The Fish on Sinhala Inscriptions

Some Inscribed Coin like objects found in Tissamaharama- Ruhuna, Sri Lanka

A Coin of a Sub king Cinta.

10, Fish or fish’s and varied reverse :-

(l) Obv. : Two fishes vertical ; between them a standard, which consists of a staff rising from a base and supporting a pair of wide-spreading horns, between which a ball.

Rev, i ? Hamsa,L ; behind it to right a ball, above which a crescent. Below traces of a ? bull facing left and of a sacrificial lamp, from which flames rise, before it.

AE. Diameter : 0.78 in. Weight : 47.7 gr.

(2) Obv. as (l) Rev. : Bull reclining r., head turned backwards ; over back a crescent. Before it a large indistinguishable object, the lower part of which may be sacrificial lamp.

Cf Tracy, No. 10.

AE.                  Diameter          Weight.

0.82                 35.2 gr

0.80                 22.8 gr very worn and broken; from Yoda-ela between   Kurunegala and Anuradhapura.

A coin of this type is figured in Rapson’s ” Notes on Indian Coins and Seals, ” Part V, Pl, 18, and is described thus on p. 309 :

Obv. : Humped bull reclining to right., with head averted ; right  Lingam and Yoni; above right, uncertain object or symbol.

Rev. : Sacrificial lamp ; on either side of it a fish.

AE. 0.8 inch, The “sacrificial lamp ” is the object described in No. (l) as a standard

(3)Obv: large fish vertical between two lamps.

Rev: Scepter between two vertical fishes ; crescent above.

AE. Diameter:0.90in. Weight :41.7 gr.

(4) Obv Two fishes vertical between two lamps.

Rev :A ?  pot between two lamps.

A,E Diameter :0.66 in” Weight ; 20.1 gr. Broken and mutilated.

(5) :Obv: Two fishes horizontal, upper facing right, lower 1., between two lamps.

Rev.:? Boar r., between two lamps; above, sun within crescent.

AE. Diameter ;0.76 in. Weight :7.2 grm Broken.













Vertical Fishes and Horse :


.(1) Obv: Three fishes vertical

Rev. Grotesque horse standing r. ; before it a lamp

AE. .Diameter : 0.88 in. Weight : 105.9 gr. Broken : from Jaffna

(2) Obv. Three fishes, vertical ; above, a crescent

Rev. Grotesque horse standing r. : before it a lamp and in front of feet squat fire-altar. Over back, conch.

Diameter : .70 in. Weight : .37 gr. From Mantota.

Vertical Fish or Fishes and Bull

(l) Obv. : Two fishes vertical ; worn space between.

Rev.  Couchant horse., ? head facing front, apparently between two lamps ; crescent over back.

AE. Diameter : 1.06 in. Weight :197.7 gr. Thickness 0.13 in.

(2) Obv. : Large fish vertical between two lamps. The whole in a line circle, outside which apparently ornaments at top, bottom, and sides.

Rev. : Couchant bull right., head facing front, between two lamps ; all in ? similar circle.

AE. Diameter : 1.02in. Weight : 71.2 gr.

Horizontal Fishes and Bull:–

(1) Obv. : Two fishes horizontal, the upper facing right, the lower 1., between two lamps ; crescent above, below, three parallel lines, the middle one being shorter than the other two. All in bead circle.

Rev : Couchant bull with one fore-leg extended r., between two lamps. Crescent and lines as on Obverse. Ail in bead circle.

A.E, : .  Diameter        Weight

In.                    Gr.

0.78                 36.3         –

0.80                 35.6     Good condition

0.78                 35.5         –

0.78                 31.3     Worn and slightly broken. Yoda-ela (see above)

0.76                 24.9         –

0.68                 24            –

(2) As ,(1) , But upper Fish to left, Lower fish to left .

A.E, : .  Diameter        Weight

In.                    Gr.

0.88                 51.8

0.88                 49.8 ..              Yoda-ela

0.82                 43.3 do.

0.78                 25.6                 “Elara’s Tomb” Anuradhapura

(3) As (1), but bull facing left.

Diameter : 0.76in. Weight :27.9 gr.

For this type see Prinsep’s ” Essays,” Vol. I, Pl. XXXV;16. All the above are more or less worn.

1l.  Fishes and Sceptre, and on reverse legend

(l) Obv. : Two fishes vertical with Sceptre  between, and flanked by ? lamps ;crescent above. All in bead circle.

Rev. : In bead circ1e under crescent Tamil legend in three lines : Kota | ndara | man.

AE” Diametor” :0.?0 in. Weight : 46.08 gr. Worn : Jatavarman Sundara Pandya III or IV.

(A. R.. E, 1918, p. 156).

(2) As last, but crescent between two dots, and legend : Sundara | Pan | diyan.


Diameter          Weight

In.                    Gr.

0.59                 34        Attikuli, Mannar District, C.S.I,, l4l

0.59                 28.8     Dumbara, C.P.

0.29                   7.7     Attikuli. Traces of legend only

Boar and legend



Obv. : In bead circle, boar standing right below, horizontal line forming exergue ; above, crescent to 1eft., sun to right.

Rev. : In similar circle legend : SuntaraPa |  ndiyan  above, crescent ; below, sceptre between fishes.

AE. Diameter : 0.61 in. Polonnaruwa, C.S.I., 148.







Ceylon Type :

(l) Obv. Standing figure as late Rajaraja, all in bead circle

Rev. Seated figure ; under arm two fishes vertical with sceptre between

AE. Diameter : 0.70 in. Weight ; 29.4 gr. Broken and worn, C.S.I., 146

(2) Obv. Standing figure as in (1), but fish in lieu of crescent

Rev. Seated figure and Tamil legend under crescent in three lines



Pd di

n ya

AE Diameter : 0.57 in. Weight : 39.5 gr. C.S.I., 133.

(3) obv. In bead circle enclosed by line, figure as in (2).


Rev. In similar circles, Tamil legend ; above, crescent, and below, sceptre between fishes :


Pa  di

a  n

AE.      Diameter         Weight

In.                   Gr.

0.59                 17.6

0.59                 23.

0.49                 22        Attikuli.Mannar District

0.45                 17.6

0.39                 14.4     Broken ; legend as above or Vira Pandyan. Attikuli.

041                  13.5     Attikuli

(a) The following are from Attikuli and are of the same type as (3) ; only a few letters of the legend occur on the smaller pieces.


Diameter          Weight

In.                    Gr.

0.33                 10.6                 ? Vira Pandyan.

0.35                 10.08               Sundara Pandiyan. Worn.

0.33                 8.1

0.29                 8 . .                  Sundara or Vira Pandiyan.

0.27                 6.3

0.31                 6.2                   Sundara or Vira Pdndiyan.

0.29                 5.5                   Broken.

0.23                 1.1                   ? V. Obv: worn.

Standing figure.



(5) Obv. : A standing Figure.

Rev. : Vertical fish between two lamps ; in margin Tamil legend read by Elliot as Samarakolahalan by Tracy as Ella nakaraiyalan, and by Hultzsch (Ind. Ant., XXI, p.324), as Ellantalaiyanan.

The whole is in a bead circle

AE. :

Diameter          Weight

In.                    Gr

0.64                 37.9

0.70                 28.8 Broken

C.S.I., 136 ; Tracy, op. cit.,p.l40. The legend as read by Hultzsch is a title of Jatavarman Sundara Pandaya I.(A. R. E., 1913, p. 114).

(6) Obv. : As Last.

Rev.: same legend between two vertical fishes flanked by lamps. All in bead circle.

Diameter          Weight

In.                    Gr,

0.14 ..              33.1

0.72                             Attikuli ; broken

0.61                 …         Yoda-ela broken

C. S. I, l37.:

(7) The following coins, possibly Pandyan, were also found at Attikuli :_

Obv : A horizontal line, beneath which ,two row of dots 3 and 2 in number.

Rev.: The Tamil letter ,Su, perhaps for Sundara.– ‘

AE :

Diameter          Weight ,

In.                    Gr.

0.31                 11

0.25                 4.3

(8) The following probably are coins of the late Pandyans of Tinnevelly (v. p. 72, note 2)

(a) Obv. : Standing figure between inverted moon on left. and sun on right.

Rev. : Seated figure ; battle axe to right. All between Sun and Moon.

Diameter : 0.61 in. Weight : 66.2 Gr.

Loventhal, No, 36.

(b) Obv. : Standing figure ; to r., voided diamond with dot at each corner and in centre.

Rev. : Seated figure; under raised arm  three dots. In field letter S and axe.

Diameter : 0.47 In. Weight : 31.2 Gr.

cf Loventhal, No.43.

Colonel Lowsley records a find of five silver coins of the Ceylon type with the legend Sundara; they were of the size of a half Massa  and weighed 42 grain each( op cit., p.222).



  1. //The Cholas under King Karikala invaded the country and took away 12,000 prisoners during the reign of his son King Vankanasika Tissa. However his grandson King Gajabahu [112-134 AD] retrieved the national honour by a counter invasion and brining back not only the captives from Ceylon , but also equal number of men of the Cholas.//

    This is a big debate. Any chronicles mentioned about Karikala Invaded ceylon and Gajabahu’s retreat? If means can you mention those lines?

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