As requested by a member of the Numismatist Society of Sri Lanka.
THE NAGIRI SCRIPT-
The script or the Alphabet is called Nagari, and this is only found on two inscriptions, two or three metal plaques and many clay votive tablets in Sri lanka. This was adopted on the coins of late Anuradhapura period and continued to be used up to the 15 century AD,Kotte period coins.
Nagari Script on Coins
The coins are those with the basic design of the standing figure and a seated figure on either face called by Codrington the ‘Ceylon Type’. This model of coins continued from the 7 Cent AD up to 15 Cent AD, with little alteration in the symbol placed around these two figures.The script appeared to the right of the Seated figure on the face now referred to as its reverse, in the large Kalanda or Massa coins . The half’s [Adakahapana], quarters[Palas], the Eighths or Aka’s has no seated figure, only the legend on the Reverse. A very small coin of Darmmasokedeva one eight massa weighing 8 grains is shown below. For Aka of Gold see under Script Aka.
All coins had the letter Sri on the top row. The origin of Sri may perhaps be Sha.The shape of letter showed a gradual changes through the seven centuries from the Type I,II,III, Rajaraja …Vijeba to Parakramaba VI. The present Sinhala letter is also shown for comparisions.
The fork is added to the right leg and a curved line to right placed over the Sha to indicate the letter shree . In Parakramabahu a fork is added to vertical line of Ka to indicate the letter Kra . See below under Ka. Notice that the fork was on the right side leg in the coins shown below. This is not always the case, some numismatists believe those Parakramabahu Coins with the fork on left hand side is of the first King- Parakramabahu I.
To a novice[ me] the letters like the vowel added Sha is seen on Dharmmashoka Deva and the Kalyanavati Me shi Coins. The last type is extremely rare , only two copies have been published , these are shown below for examination by experts. The members of the society should compare the basic letters.,In [ Cho( Sho)daganga?? is this a sho or Cho?]- and comment.
A coin of Darmmasokadeva is shown below
The ancient Sha was a slanting English F and in the 1 cent AD looks the line were curved and formed an English M or an inverted W. See under Letter De Va below.
The Sri on Kalanda’s of Gold.
The Kalanda’s of Gold is the earliest of the series of coins[ Standing & Seated Figure].The rendering of the letter SRI[ Tri] next to the Lotus Flower almost takes your eyes away from the Main symbol the Seated figure, a ruler or as some believe to be Kuvera, the God of Wealth. The rest of the letters are squeezed into a corner, so much so one can read from right to left Ka La Da [Ran?]. The 12 Cent Sinhala Ra was like Va
The Sri on Sri Vijayabahu Silvers.
The Sri On Sri Parakramabahu.
The Sri on Sri Rajaraja.
The Sri on Damedeniya Coins
Eye ball the Palas of Gold shown below. Notice the curved line over the centre letter. is it a Vowel placed over the centre letter Ka. or is it a SRI ??.HW. Codrington think it is part of the word Lakshmi. These are Type II De-Aka of Gold.
The script of the above is shown below. I have taken it as two letters and placed them from top Row as SRI , the second row is La Ka and Ma. Dr Patranavitane states that it Lak ma, like Sri Lanka Viha and it is a weight. If you dont agree with HW Codrington, then can it be read as Sri Laka – MA ??
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The letter La is common to both Kalanda series and the Dambedeniya Coins,. In the Kalandas series it is after the Sri in the first letter is Laka or Lanka , the name of the Island. It is on all Viha coin which Dr Paranvaitane opinion is the weight of Twenty[ Visa].It is on all the Half kalanda coins called Ada- Kahavanu[ Half kahavanu]. Dr Paranvitane states it on the Quarter or Pala or De -aka as La ka Ma.Ma is a weight while HW Codington reads it as Lakshmi., where the Ka , Sha and Ma is a conjoint constanant as shown above. It may be on the Aka of Gold as a conjoint constanant.The La on the Kalanda and it fractions pieces are shown below.
A circular dot is found to the left of the letter Ma on type I and II Kalandas of Gold. This is under the arm of the seated figure. In most coins the Circular Dot is above a Crescent Moon, very similar to the Sun and Moon symbol which is found on one type of Kalanda of Gold. This has been taken to form the Lam sound and Codrington states that it is Sri Lam ka. If it is taken as Sun and Moon symbol then the pronuciation would be Sri La Ka .
There are dot or two dots found under or over the letter La in the De-aka or in the Ada- Kahavanu.
It is also interesting to know where the name of the Island was was called Sri Lan Ka or Sri La Ka in our text or Inscriptions of the Kings?.
Letter Sa on dambedeniya Coins.
The letter Sa appears on Shassamalle.
Letter La on Dambedeniya Coins.
The letter or its medials appears twice on both Lilavati and Nissankamalle [He calls himself-Ka La Ga La Ke Ja on Coins]. But they appear in different position, by remembering the shape of la and it position , it is fairly simple to identify these two types. The La and its double sounding LLa appears on Sahasamalle coins.
The letter is said to be in Nagari type of script, which the Sinhalese used to write Sanskrit Inscriptions of the period 7-10 Cent . The present deva-nagari which is the script of India.The letter Aa in this script and that of the present Sinhalese is shown below.
This letter appears on the Aka of Gold. Many interpretations are given in the reading by Rhys David, who read it Aa as two letters Ta Ra, U Ra , I Ra etc. The is curved stroke over the centre letter or vertical stroke in some gold Aka’s[ See diagram]. This could be mistaken for the letter Sri, and the jambolled first and second letter mistaken for a Conjoint Constanant La Aa if such horrendous combination occur/ exists?. The legend is then read as Sri La Aka. And perhaps Dr Paranavitane is correct.
The script the Sinhalese used from a very early date, found on pot shreds during excavations by Shiran Deraniyagala in layers of earth C14 dated to the 6 Cent BC. On one of the inscribed pot shred the letter Aa is also inscribed as a part of Biya Anuradha. This is shown below. The letter Aa and Da has changed but still recoganisable compared with the script on Dambedeniya Coinage.
The letter Aa is found on most inscriptions of the Sinhalese throughout there history.The gradual changes in its shape or it evolution is shown by Dr S Paranavitane in his books Inscription of Ceylon Vol I and II. By the Time of the minting of these coins in the 7/8 Cent AD, the letter took the above form similar to what is found on the coins. During the 9 Cent the Sinhalese used a different script for their Sanskrit Inscriptions.The letter Aa as on the Abeyagiri[ Jetawana?] Inscription is shown below.The drawing of the first two letter found on coins is shown below.The script used by the Sinhalese is now called Brahmi Script during the period prior to the discovery of Shiran Deraniyagala of it existence in the Island 4 centuries before the arrival of Rev Mahinda during the 2 Cent BC. It was first believed that he introduced this script to Sri Lanka. The name Brahmi is also a wild guess by the by the then Epigraphist. In the absence of a name for this script, they decided to call it Brahmi as it was the first bin the list of scripts learn’d by Prince Sidaratha. Even Dravida is a Sanskrit word found in the list of scripts learn’d by the Buddha. Even the South Indian in a their early inscription used a similar script[ up to about the 3 cent AD?], but the evolution or the development of such a script into Tamil from this script is yet to be discovered.
Sigiriya Script- Aa See under Letter Ka
The letter Ka and its Ke and Kra is found on Coins. Ka is found on all Kalanda or Gold, its fractional pieces as a part of Sri Laka or Sri Lanka.The Ka on the Sanskrit Inscription is.On the Sinhala Inscriptions it appears as ,and the Sigiriya Script – Ka. The letters Aa and Ka is shown below.
1.The fork on the Sri of the two fractional pieces of Parakramabahu I shown above is on the left leg, while that on the large coin of Nissankamalle it is on the right side leg.
2.Notice the strokes attached to Ka for Kra in the small Parakramabahu I and the Ka and Ke is the large Nissankamalle.
On the Dambedeniya Coins it appears as Ka, Ke or Kra, depending on the name on the Kings as seen below. In Parakramabahu coin it is first or the letter on the left in the third row. In Bhuvanekabahu it the second or the letter on the right in the third Row. In Nissankamalle It the first letter second row and as Ke it the first letter in Bottom row. In Dhrammasoke deva it is the second letter in third Row. I learn’d to identify the names by the Position of the Ka, Ke or Kra. The letter Ka on coins look like or are very similar the Sinhala letters on Inscriptions of the 8 cent, hence the people could identify this letter.
The letter Ga is only found on the coins of King Chodagagadeva. It shares the top letter SRI and the last two letters DE VA with King Darmmasokadeva.The letter Ga is similar to the ancient Ga from first century AD.It is an inverted U.
The Letter Pa
The Letter Ba and H.
The Letter Ma
The Letter Da and Va on Sinhala Coins.
The word Deva and Bahu, Vati, SriMat,are phrases used to begin and at the end names of Kings . The word DEVA appeared on many ancient Sinhala Inscribed Coins. One such coin relevent to students interested in the development of Sinhala Script on coins is shown below as it has the old letters such as De, Va, La, Ba and Sha which are found in the medieveal coins and discussed on this page.
Since the Da and Va appear togeather in Darmmasokadeva and Chodagagadeva coins they will be taken togeather. The Vi appears of the Kalanda of Gold. This differs from the Dambedeniya Coins but shows similarity to Va on th Abeyagiri Sanscrik Inscription. There is a Va in the Sri ra ja li la va ti and Sri ma[kalana]va ti meshi which has much in common with the Va of Darmmasokadeva and Chodagagadeva . The letter Va on the Gold series- the first letter of the bottom line is very much like the letter on the Abeyagiri Inscription and looks very similar to some sinhala Va‘s found on Sigiri Graffiti. Even the Ha the other letter on the bottom line forms the word Vi Ha could easily read by the Sinhala people of that period.
The Letter Va.
The letter Ja is on the second row second letter on the Sri Raja Lilavati and Sri Vijebahu coins, but the later has only 6 letters or a single letter on the bottom row. The Ja in certain Vijayabahu coins may be mistaken for a Ka and read as Vikra,??. If any of your coins have a Ja as the first letter in third row look again it may be very very very Rare Jayabahu coin which is shown below
Letter Ma is found on many type of coins. In the Pala or De-Aka of Gold the Ma according to HW.Codrington as a part of a joint letter reading Lakshmi. S Paranavitane is of opinion it is a separate letter in La ka Ma or it may even be Sri La Ka Ma. If you have any quarter Kalandas of Gold, take you time in examining the letters and make up your mind as to how the people of the middle ages may have read this legend. Shown below is Type IA- Sun & Moon and the Type I C- The Vase or Pun-Kalas. De-Aka of Gold.
Ddhryas or Ligatures in Dambedeniya Cions.
The ddhrya-ligature of Jana Sanskrit Sans.www.sanskritweb.net/itrans/sans99c.pdf
Consonant clusters of two or more phonemes are realized by combining the aksharas into ligatures. Typically, the preceding akshara loses its vertical stroke and is put in direct contact with the succeeding one. In cases of aksharas that do not have vertical strokes in their independent form, the following aksharas are usually placed underneath the preceding one. In some cases, the ligatures take forms not readily recognizable as composed of the individual aksharas (e.g. <jñ>). Consonant clusters involving <r> are treated as a special case: preceding <r-> is realized as a right-facing hook above the following akshara, and following <-r> appears as a slanted stroke attached to the vertical stroke of the preceding akshara. Similarly for a cluster /XYZa/, both X and Y would be “halved”. There are many variants for this consonant cluster writing in Devanāgarī script. The most common system is shown below for the traditional table. Here the second consonant is taken to be n, followed by a /ə/.
Members of the coin Society come across these Ddhrya in Inscribed Gold and Dambadeniya Coins.
The Shiri or Siri or Sri or plain Si is perhaps the commenest ddhrya-ligature which members comes across in all coins.This was shown above.
A ddhrya is said to be on the Pala of Gold read Consonant clusters of three Ka Sha Mi letter to form Kshmi.
Another Ddhrya is the Kra in the Parakramabahu’s coins . There are Three or more types of these coins. Of course if there were halves, quarter’s, eighth’s and sixteenth’s. Which some think is a subject that is taboo and get ticked off for suggesting these new thoughts. I checked the letter sizes and found they were different even of full coins.
Then the next coin most members of the society should know is that of Dhrrmasokadeva. The RMMA or MMA see Lapa’s book and read Codrington , John Still and Rhys Davies to get a fair Idea, The Consonant clusters of letterrs Ra ?, Ma and Maa.
There is a Ddhrya in the new Jayabahu coin, needs be read
Can you read Kalyanawati?? coin of Mr Sirisena it has a Ddhrya Second letter second row …. Is the letters Sri Ma Kalana. These letters appear in the reverse but not as a Conjoint, in 3 letters La Ka Ma on the Gold Coin.
This is the view of some one who is not trained in Nagari , but wish to learn as no body known to him is willing to correct him so far.Those who wish to read more about Nagari please go to the web site. For those who are lazy I have copied a straight from web site for eye balling.
The Nāgarī or Devanāgarī alphabet descended from the Brahmi script sometime around the 11th century AD. It was originally developed to write Sanskrit but was later adapted to write many other languages.
The name Devanāgarī is made up of two Sanskrit words: deva, which means god, brahman or celestial, and nāgarī, which means city. The name is variously translated as “script of the city”, “heavenly/sacred script of the city” or “[script of the] city of the Gods or priests”. The origins and meaning of the name are uncertain.
- Type of writing system: alphasyllabary / abugida.
- Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines.
- Consonant letters carry an inherent vowel which can be altered or muted by means of diacritics or matra.
- Vowels can be written as independent letters, or by using a variety of diacritical marks which are written above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to. This feature is common to most of the alphabets of South and South East Asia.
- When consonants occur together in clusters, special conjunct letters are used.
- The order of the letters is based on articulatory phonetics.
Used to write:
Some letters are two forms: the Classical, Northern or Kalikata (Calcutta) form is used in the north of India; while the Modern, Southern or Mumbai (Bombay) form is used in the south India and has become the standard form.
A selection of conjunct consonants
There are about a thousand conjunct consonants, most of which combine two or three consonants. There are also some with four-consonant conjuncts and at least one well-known conjunct with five consonants.
Download the chart (Excel, 39K)