“The treatment of the Lotus by any Sittara[ A Sinhalese Artist] was the reduction of many varied and complex forms of flowers to some common denomination in art- the expression in the one of the many”-D.B. Dhanapala
The most popular Lotus plants in Sri Lanka are known in Sinhalese as the Manel ,Olu and Nelum . The Manel mala is the national flower of Sri Lanka. An artistic impression of the Manel Mala of the late Anuradhapura period is on a slab engraving , now at the Colombo National museum.It shows the 8 outer petals and the sixteen inner petals and the inner pods etc.
The symbols associated with the lotus known as Asta-mangala[ 8 Lucky Symbols] diagram to the right in above picture . What the ancient sinhalese created around the lotus is a subject by it self. Read Mr TB Karunaratna in the Royal Asiatic Society Journals.
LOTUS OF COINS.
All the diemakers of the ancient period appears to have adhered to tradition in the placement of these symbols on the face of the coin. A similar placemnt may be observed in the art on curving of the Buddha Foot, Yantaragalas under Buddha statues, Astanmangala slabs etc.These symbols mentioned on early Sinhalese literature were well known to the ancient people of Sri Lanka .The easy and instant recognition of these symbols was necessary for them to be accepted as money or as a means of exchange.
Earliest Coin with the Lotus – Found in the Island.
The earliest recorded coins are the silver Kahapanas or Punch Marked Coins[PMC]. Fair numbers of Silver Punch Marked coins or Kahapanas [ mentioned in our ancient Text and on ancient Inscriptions ] is found in then Island.Usually all Imperial Punch Marked Coins have 5 marks on them. Gupta & Hardekar has published over 600 such marks. The lotus symbol is found along with Disk as G & H Number 166 .
One of earliest PMC’ s found in Sri Lanka shown below has six Marks.The extra mark is The Lotus Flower , is not one of the 5 marks found on other coins found in India[ Gupta & Hardakar Lists] . This mark is perhaps a Bankers mark and used by examiners of ancient coins to approve its use by certifying its weight , metal or its authenticity.
The other symbols are the Fish, A fish in the rectangle with a spear flanked by two arrow heads[ perhaps a Battle flag], the six armed symbol , the Sun Symbol and the Bo- Ankula. Most of the symbols are found on the coins of the Sinhalese kings.
Another design of a Lotus is found on Copper Punch Marked Coins of North India that is also recorded at Anuradhapura and at Tissamaharama. This is shown below.
The Coin- Series II PMC No 269
This coin is published by HW Codrington in his book Coins and Currency Of Ceylon 1924. This appears as NO 1 on his plates. This coin is now identified by Gupta & Hardekar as an issue of the descendants of King Adjastaura, who ruled Maghada Janapadaya in the 5 Cent BC during the time of the Buddha. It is interesting that both our very ancient texts , the Mahawansa and the Dipavansa[ 5 Cent AD] mentions these descendants of Adjasatura in relation to the contemporary Kings of Sri Lanka.The kings who ruled in the Island during this period ,quotes from our very ancient text is given below
Mahawansa Chap IV
“Adjasatura son Udayabadaka slain-ed him and ruled 16 years, Anuradha killed his father and Munda and Nagadasaka all patricides ruled for 24 years”
Dipavansa Chap 4
a. Verse 27 – ‘The Twenty-fourth year of King Adjasatura reign was sixteenth year of King Vijaya[ First Sinhalese King] rule’.
b. Verse 41 – King Nagadasa had reigned ten years in Magadha when King Pandukula [of Sri Lanka] reign was twenty.
This shows that these coins with these symbols are as old as the Sinhalese race in Sri Lanka.
The lotus flower is depicted by placing 6 Dots in a circle around a single dot at the centre. Few other coins with this bankers mark is published in the the plates of the books ‘Hus Ebu Kasi’– Sirisoma & Amarasinghe , The Catalouges of Ancient Indain Coins – John Allen and Imperial PMC of Maghdhan Empire – Gupta & Hardekar.
The lotus is one of the six marks in the six armed symbol on a coin of King Asoka[270-175 BC] found at Akurugoda, Tissamaharama. The lotus symbol is found with three Arrow heads , A fish and a mark that looks like the modern numeral for One.
Other than on coins the earliest diagram of a lotus flower is perhaps that double Lotus on the famous necklace of Sanchi Vihare[ 1 Cent BC]. Other than the Lotus, the necklace carries the other auspicious or lucky symbols found on the 6-armed mark described above. Incidentally most symbols or marks on Sri lankan[ 3 Cent BC- 2 Cent AD] coins are found engraved on the Sanchi vihare.
LOTUS ON SRI LANKAN COINS.
The lotus appears on sinhala coins as
1. a pedestal for a symbol which is a standing or seated figure.
2. The above figure holding the flower by the stalk .
3. A a Flower over a hand.
On a Pedestal holding a flower.
These are coins known as Maya- devi Coins depicting the birth of Buddha also known as Lakshmi Plaques.Line drawing of some pieces found during archeological excavations is shown below.
Pictures of Maya-devi Plaques is shown below. Basically all the above designs have similar symbols though the figure is standing or sitting positions.
There is a large quantities of these found, some believe that coins were broken into two when making a payment of half the value of a Pana.[ Value and name of coin]. The lower parts of the broken coins showing the Lotus plant as pedestal is below.
There is no one single opinion as to who is depicted on the sinhala coins?. The very scene depicts Goddess lakshmi for the Hindhus. During 1 Cent BC, this scene as depicted on the Sanchi Gateways in India is the the symbol for the birth of Buddha.As all other ancient Sinhalese coins depicts the scene symbolizing the main events of Buddha, we may accept that it is the ritual bath of any Sakyan lady in the lotus pond prior to birth of a child. This case it is Maya devi. As it depicts Sri, Usha or later Lakshmi to the Hindhu’s , it is very much Maya-devi to the Buddhists and the scene depicts her bath in the Lotus pond at Lumbini before the birth of the Buddha. During the Anuradhapura period, this symbol has been placed in a Wahalkada at Abeyagiri Vihare[ now disfigured] at Abeyagiri Dagabo and above statue of the Buddha in the Makara Thorane at Issurimuni Vihare. In Yapahuva it is placed as a linton over a window at the Temple of the Tooth.It is appropriate for the scenes such as the birth of the Buddha to be so placed.
The only direct proof of a scene of a lady holding a Lotus flower is on an ancient coins of Western India which is inscribed pakala-vadi-devada Ambi– the mother goddess of the lotus. She holds a Lotus flower in her right hand
There are many instances of the use of this symbol on coins of aIndia at a later period 4 Cent AD during the Buddhist period.
The classic example is seen on a Gold coins of the Guptas, where a lady is seated on a Lotus throne holding a Lotus flower in the left hand. The Guptas age was called the Golden Age of Indian history.King Meghavarna of Sri Lanka sent a political mission to with presents to Chadragupta with a request to build a monastery at Bogh-gaya, which is granted and three hundred years later a Chinese pilgrim Hsuian Tsang describes this magnificent Establishment with a 1000 priests and rich decorations and massive grandeur[ UC HC].
A gold coin of the Gupta period where a lady holding a lotus flower in left hand and seated on a lotus throne is shown below
The Sinhalese artist used a similar design on their Kalandas of Gold. 7-10 cent AD.
These were used on Type II Kalandas of Gold.
DOUBLE LOTUS KALANDA OF GOLD.The Obverse of a Type II Ran Kalanda is shown below.A figure of a man facing a 8 petal Lotus held in the left hand. The figure perhaps of a King with a Sri symbol under right arm ,standing on a stalk ending with the Sanka and Bo -ankula. Please note these three symbol sounds add up to Sri Sangabo, one of the names, some kings of Sri Lanka from the late Anuradhapura up to those of Kotte called them self on inscriptions.
REVERSE OF COIN.
[Shown in the figure below]
This is an example of a seated figure holding a Lotus Flower in full bloom[ A mediveal artist’s minature version of the lotus (3 mm) -compare this with the Astamangala Slab shown earlier], the value of the the coin is written to left- Sri Laka Vi Ha , [ Sri lanka’s piece of Twenty]. It is seated on an tresure trove of 10 compartments. According to Mr OMR Sirisena, this indictes that in the twenty masakas weight, there is 10 masakas of Gold.
20 Masakas = 01 Kalanda [ Measures of weight of the Sinhalese]
The obverse of the Lotus Bud & Adahanda. The standing figure holds a Lotus Bud in left hand and stands on two stalks that are ending with two lotus flowers in bloom is seen in above picture..
The Sinhalese used lotus stalks as pedestals in their ancient buildings, many of these are still seen at Anuradhpura, Pollonnaruva and at teh Colombo Museum.
Similar pedestal on coins on which elephants stand in Maya devi coins.. The Indians too placed Elephant on lotus pedestals on their coins.
The Sinhalese also used lotus pedestals for statues of Buddha , Goddess, Royalty and to place auspicious symbol on them.
One very important characteristic of ancient and medieval coins having a standing or seated human figure is to place the figures on a Pedestal. The pedestal in most cases is a representation of a Lotus plant with stalks and flowers. There are few coins where with human figures having no pedestal, others have boat like symbol, a Caitiya and the rest three lines, perhaps represents a pedestal These three lines are interpreted s waves and some believe it to be a representation of the Caitiya
Similar practice on medieval gold coins the Ran Kalandas.
The Six Dot around a single dot is on the silver 96 elephant Stiver of 1808 AD .
The Lotus shape pond at Polonnaruva the capital of Sri Lanka during 11-13 Cent AD is shown below.
A performing Art Theater with a roof top open air theater in the same shape as the Lotus Pond was opened recently in Colombo, o built by the Chinese Govt an idea of Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge period.
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