INTERESTING COIN OF EARLY CEYLON [SRI LANKA] – SOME INTRIGUING THEORIES ABOUT THE KINGS WHO ISSUED THEM.
A paper presented on April 23, 1990 KNV Seyone FSI ,the President of Sri Lanka Numismatic Society , at tits meeting.
The earliest metal coins used in.Ceylon appear to be the globules with some punched marks. Next- appeared the “ puranas “ or Eldlings. They are mostly flattened silver with punch-marks and were in us during time of Vijaya. Some ancient copper pieces with punch and stamped marks are also known. These are followed by the single die coins showing such combinations as Elephant & Cakram [Stylized Fish] , Elephant and Swastika, Horse and Swastika Lion and Svastika, Bull & Three Dots,Lion and # Dots,goddess on Lion, Boy Peacock, Standing Goddess[ Lakshmi] on Lotus etc. Along with above mentioned Coins issued locally , Coins of Greece & Rome as well as the coins of the early Pandyan, Cholas, Chalukayas……were also used in Ceylon (As all early- coins had their intrinsic value of the metal used for minting. )
I have chosen two coins that have been minted in early Ceylon seldom outside Ceylon, which are also some-what rare and interesting work of art. Both do not have the name of the ruler inscribed on them. In certain cases the Ruler resorted to esoteric and symbolic ways of representing their names[ identities of coins issued by them let us examine two coins of this type.
The obverse of the first-coin contains an emblem of a curved fish read by Scholar as “SRI” and below is a Conch shell or shank or Sanka ( Sanku in Tamil) that can also be interpreted, as they have similar sounds.. As SANGHA. On the reverse Bo tree [often called BODHI. See illustration below. One is inclined to logically surmise by adding together such facts that the king whose name was SIRI SANGHA BODHI could have issued the above coin.
Before proceeding to examine a list of ruler of early Ceylon prepared by the department of Archeology, let us consider the views of reliable historians regarding the probable period when this coin was issued;HW Codrington in book-‘Ceylon Coins & Currency – Chapter V Medieval Ceylon,p 50 – says the sixth and seventh centuries are the dark ages of Ceylon; internal strife prevailed and a few if any, contemporary records are in existence . The Mahavansa, however, establishes a rough synchronize. With Indian History telling us that Mahavanama got possession of the throne with the aid of the Pallava King Narasimhavaraman I and defeated the Chalukaya Pulakesin to have conquered the Pandyan and the Cholas to have occupied’ Ceylon itself ( S.I.L. VolI 152:II,243). The fifth successor of Manavamna Aggabodh I VII(AD 781-787,)left Anuradhapura for Polonnaruva has been turbulent period for the issue of a coins from Polonnaruwa and and moreover Aggabodhi VII was also known as KUDA AGBO. He was never known as Sri Sanga Bodhi. I thought of mentioning an old collector friend argued. as to who could have been an issue of King Aggabodhi VII.
THE FIRST KING SRISAMGHABODHI
King Sirisamghabodhi ruled 306-308 AD.His claim to greatness consists in that he was a hero of righteousness (dharma-vira), .the art of the three classes to which heroes are divided according to Indian theory, the other two being yuddha-vira (hero in battle) and dana-vira(hero in liberality).
a.As king, he observed the five moral precepts (pancha-sila) of Buddhism, one of which is abstinence from killing. He thus practiced the ideal of the Buddhist Cakravartin who conquers without respond to force (danda) or to weapons (sattha).
b.He released criminals condemned to death, but did not consider it prudent to abolish capital punishment ; he had the bodies of dead men burnt in place of the criminals, to impress on the minds of the people that justice had taken its course.
c. When a severe drought was causing distress to his people, he is said to have forced the gods who control the weather to rain in torrents by resorting to what may be called satyagraha in these days.
d.He is said to have removed a pestilence, from which his people suffered, by offering his own flesh to the demon who caused it.
e. When his friend Gothabaya rebelled Sirisamghabodhi did not wish to cause the loss of human lives by defending-his rights ; so, he left the kingdom to anyone who desired it and himself disappeared from the scene, adopting the habit of a hermit.
f. When Gothabhaya; seized the vacant throne, but feared that the people might have Sirisamghabodh is recalled ; therefore he set a price on the head of the king.When Sirisamghabodhi heard of this, he is said to have himself severed iris head from the neck and given it to the peasant who brought him the tidings, so that everybody .
g. This practice of supreme liberality, the gift of one’s own life and limbs, so that he may attain Buddha-hood in the future.
He earned no military glory, he had no statesmanship which brought prestige to his country, nor did he undertake any public works which improved the material well being of his people.
But yet the Sinhala rulers from the seventh cent up to the twelfth cent AD alternately adopted his name as the throne name, as a symbol of the Hero of Righteousness. There after all the ruler called them self Sri Samga Bodhi up to Sixteenth Cent, this is evident on all their inscriptions
Now let us get back to a reliable record of Rulers and. look for, a king known as Sri Sangha Bodhi who also ruled for a long and steady period. We come across two Rulers both of whom had been known also as Siri Sanghabo.
Of these King who issued these coins?. Mr Seyone was of opinion the king may be Aggabodhi III (Siri-Sangha -Bodhi) who ruled for 11 years from AD 633 to 643. The other suggested by him is Aggabodhi IV who ruled for 16 years(AD 667-683). The latter kings has also been called Siri Sanghabodhi]. We can only await any further evidence to fix the date of issue more precisely.
Another interesting point is these rare coins[ 5 coins reported] were also deposited in the Kotavehera of Parakramabahu. Why did or was these coins deposited in the relic chamber. Perhaps they were of value. Read coins found at Kotavehera.