“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.

A Lotus Flower with outer petals folded down. Found on Parakramabahu I Padaviya Inscription-12 Cent AD

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.


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.


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.

The above coins were excavated in strata C 14 dated 2 Cent BC – 2 Cent AD

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.


The Double Lotus on the Sanskrit Inscrption at Anuradhapura, the similar script [ high-lighted] is found on the Gold Kaladas

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.


[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..

Lotus Pedestals.

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 was used on the Rupee Five Coin of 1956.on which the 4 Pairs of animal stand.

The Lotus shape pond at  Polonnaruva the capital of Sri Lanka during 11-13 Cent AD is shown below.

Lotus Pond Pollonnaruva 12 Cent AD

There are over 25 different shaped ponds of the same period at Polonnaruva a Key shaped pond in 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.


There are many comment and requests  about this page.Please Note that any thing of interest on this page may published  with any  alterations or improvements , I would love to read these , please post them by e-mail to  sirimuna39@gmail.com. Thanking you Brig Siri Munasinghe.



The Emblems of Royalty of Sri Lanka.


‘The Duties of a Monarch propounded by the Buddha stated that the root of all Social Evil was Poverty and Unemployment. A King who merely collected taxes had the duty to supply Seed and Food for those who lived by Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Those who lived by Trade should be provided with the necessary capital. The Government Servant were properly paid or compensated so that they don’t squeeze the people. New wealth had to be generated, the Citizens was free from Robbers and Cheats, could bring up Children in comfort and happiness, free from Want and Fear. The best way to spend surplus accumulation, whether from the Treasury or from Private donations would be in Public Works such as Tanks, Hospitals, and Monasteries that provided Education, Health care, Banks etc along the Trade Routes maintained by the King.”

The Raja Anka or the heraldic Emblems of rulers of the Brihadhartha dynasty of Maghadha  was the Bull mentioned in the Mahabaratha. But the Bull symbol is a universal symbols used by other nations on the coins and art.Most  states of India too had their own Royal emblems that signifies the Royal authority of the King when placed on official documents and on coins. In fact in the text book Arthasastra of the Maghdan Empire ,the Master of the Mint was called Laksanaadhayasaka, Laksana in this name apparantly  refers to the Emblem of the King and State stamped on the coin.

Closer home, the independent states of the Southern India the Pandayan’s had the stylised fish, the Chola’s the tiger[ This Animal looks very much like a Lion, than a Tiger] , Cera’s the Bow etc. These heraldic marks was also placed on seals on copper grants etc. After about the 2 Cent AD, most  of these nations stopped using their  Emblems. The Sri Lankan used the Four Dots with a circle emblem or the Purangantha or the Vase Symbol after 2 Cent AD.After about the 6 Cent AD, they opted to inscribe on the face of the coin ,the the name of the Country and the Value  alongside the other traditional symbols. The gradual changes that took place , and why these changes took place over the last 2500 year of the  coins is a very interesting study.

The Elephant was a prominent symbol placed on coins of all different ancient Empires/Nations  in India and Sri Lanka. Most of these  different nations had their own Raja-anka on the other side of the coin.The Emblem on the reverse of their coins was a means by which   the people with in the area of Kings influence to identify  and accept  coins as money  or reject those with other emblems. A few examples of elephant and many Buddhist symbols on the obverse of the  coins with different reverse heraldic emblems is shown below.


The Swastika was the most popular symbol of the Indus civilisations , the later Aryan of India soon made this a religious good luck symbol. The ancient people of Sri Lanka too followed the suit and used the Swastika as a religious  or a good luck symbol .Some historian is of view this smbol also represented the Buddha or his taechings. But in ancient Sri Lanka  an emblem using swastika as the main component , standing on a central staff attended to by two short pillars on either side.This was called the Railed Swastika.

Two Important Factors is respect of the Railed Swastika.

a. Which is the most popular symbol  on ancient coins found in Sri Lanka?.  With out doubt it is this Railed Swastika, perhaps next to the Lotus- A rough estimate is that  over 10,000  ancient coins[ some of them dated to 3 cent BC]  with this symbols on them.  I have seen over 4000 of them at Museums,with Collectors and Dealers. A fair number  of ancient inscriptions of royalty has this symbol. A fair number of  seals inscribed with names and titles  of Royalty around the railed swastika has been published.

b. The Railed swastika is unique to the Island of Sri Lanka.


i.An unread inscribed Intaglio with a Railed Swastika, the mirror image of seal and this may read Ma Ha Sa[Se?] Na  Pa Tha……..to an untrained eye. This needs be read by experts. Dr Paranavitane identifies Mahasenpathi as King Dutugemunu on an inscription at              .

ii. Many Seals and sealing’ s with Railed swastika was discovered , most of them  are inscribed.The two below are legible.

    1. A clay seals with railed swastika with letters Maharaja[ Great King] is visible.
    2. A sealing with railed swastika inscribed .. [Ma Ha Ra ] Jha Ga Mi Ni Ti Sa ha de Va Na pi Ya[The Great King Gamini Tisa Devanampiya.Perhaps of King Sadatissa [ Bopeatachchi and Wickremasinghe ] . The German excavation team has published many sealing found in the same location as above sealing. The rear of these sealing was affixed on to Ola leaf’s as  the outline  of the grain of the Ola is  still visible.
  1. Cave inscriptions In Inscription of Ceylon Volume I – S Paranavitane.
    1. N0 835 :-This is found on Rock Inscriptions of kings identified as King Sada-tissa at Dambulla Inscription.
    2. No 406 :- On Gamini-Tissa and Mijhi- Maharaja at Henannegala.
    3. No 563:On Inscription of Royal Prince and Princess at Kottadamuhela identified with Queen Viharamaha devi. Ms Chandrika Jayasinghe published a coins from the British Museum of a lady Standing on a Boat of the Obverse with a Railed Swastika on the reverse.In our history a lady on  a boat can only be connected to Vihare Maha Devi , the mother of our hero King Dutugemunu.

    1. No 1018:-1027 – of a Maharaja-Gamani Abayasa– at Gallena Vihare.

    A similar coins was found by PE Pieris at Kantarodi in the North of Sri Lanka.

    British Museum Coin.

    This symbols was good enough for the ancient Maharaja to place next to their rock inscriptions and on their  Royal Seals. Henry Parker suggest that the central vertical cross bar represents the royal Standard while the four lateral lines symbolize the four fold army of ancient kings ,ie the Corp of elephants, the  Chariots, the Cavalry and the foot soldiers, He admits it is far fetched. From the above data this is quite possible and this had a strong connections with Royalty. This symbol is flanked by either the Standard, the Asana or throne and the Triratna which according to reputed writers had implicitly expressed an regal authority.

  2. The Railed swastika is usually found on the most early coins of the Island. It does not appear alone. In  good condition coins, two symbols are found on either side. In all the types of coins with the railed swastika, a few examples having the Caitiya or three arched hill appears under it.  The associations of these symbols with the railed swastika and their  placement around is a special characteristic of the Sri Lanka early coins. The significance of these symbols is quite relevant to Kingship as discussed by TB Karunaratne. This will be dealt with later.  

Of the Coins shown above, Dr DPE Hettiarchchi has speculated that the Multi symbol Elephant and Railed Swastika coin is that of Devanampiyatissa. C14 and Thermoluminance dating of layer of undisturbed layer of earth in which this type of coin was found , justify the credence of this statement. It is possible that this king had the Railed Swastika on his coin.

The Standard

In an RAS Journal Mr P Weerasinghe suggest that Mahatissa in the inscription shown above was King Devanpiyatissa. If this is so, then this suggest that  in addition to Railed Swastika , the monarch would have palced a personel monogram on thier coins , which was Dhajaya or a Standard which King Asoka used. So perhaps the Railed Swastika was the emblem of  of a particular Royal family which ruled during the issue of these coins, perhaps that  known as those of the Devanampiya Kula on inscriptions. Could it be that the Kings used the Railed Swastika symbol as the emblem that belonged to the Kula or as family emblem.Did they have their  own mongrams in addition to this??. But on coins more than one such symbol is placed around the Railed Swastika.

The Standard  suggested as used by Devanampiyatissa on coins is also found on Tree and Railed Swastika Coins, Lion and Railed Swastika Coin.

The Throne or Asana

.Mr MH Sirisoma in Inscriptions Vol II 1990 gave a number of symbols associated with inscriptions of Kings. One of them is of is from Minvila , and is of King Katakanna Tissa[ 41-19 BC].The symbol on the inscription is simalar to symbols on coins of Sri lanka with the Railed Swastika. This is found on the the King Devanampiyatissa coin on the reverse of the coin shown above to the right of the Railed Swastika. There are various forms of the Asana found on coins . The Asana is a auspicious  symbol of India and also of the Sinhalese. These Lucky symbols are used extensively of Sinhalese art and mentioned in our chronicles.those on coins are analysed on Symbols around the Railed Swastika.


The Swastika is found with the Inscriptions of Kings. The Swastika with out the Railing is found on our coins too.

One of the earliest inscriptions that can be historically dated from ancient text is thatof a daughter of the King Uti or Uttiya the brother of king Devanampiyatisa, and reigned after him. The cave donated to the Sanga for the benefit of her parents. This has two symbols , the first is a T on Railing and a Swastika. Therailing is similar o that of the Railed Swastika.

The First Three Lines

A Swastika –        “Success| King Abaya the eldest son of King Kuakanna and grandson of great king Tissa, the friend of Gods[ Devanampiya] dedicated the golden Vase channel at Galatataka to the Community of bhikhus in the Payelipavata monastery”.

Last Line

A Swastika-  “The great king Naga gave therefore said channel to the Sanga”.

The King Naga is identified as King Mahadathika Mahanaga [9-21 BC].

This king ‘s inscription at At Vehera  Minhintale  shown below has a Swastika below it.

The First part is of King Batiya Abaya[ 19 BC]. Great-Great-Great grand son of King Sadatissa, whose mother was Queen Vihare Mahadevi.

The second part is of King Mahadathika Mahanaga [ 9 -21 AD]- a brother of King Batiya Abaya.

The Swastika as a minor symbol on coins

This is a round Treein Railing and Railed Swastika Coin. To the right of the Tree is a Swastika symbol.

The Fish and Railed Triratna

The Fish and the Railed Triratna is found on inscription that is linked to the parent of King Dutugemunu. The Fish emblem is associated with the Kastriya of Kataragama , Dr Paravitane suggest they have connection to the Sakayan Group of Princess Baddhkacchana who came from India and some on them sttleed in the South[ Mahavansa].

Dr S paranavitane links Abi Savera as Princess Vihare mahadevi

The Fish and Triratna is popular symbols on Coins and is very common on ancient Sri lankan art.  The Railed  Triratne is not yet found on coins.


A symbol on Inscription of King Sabha[ 59-65 AD]. A Scythe like symbol is seen on an inscription of King Sabha. No such symbol is found on coins, but the Deity or Standing Figure and Railed Swastika coins there are many such symbol fixed at the end of the staff .

Pahala Kayinattama Of King Saba

For  Emblem of Kings of later period.

King Gajabahu II – Peace Treaty placed on a Rock Inscription

A few symbol on coins and similar symbol on Rock Inscriptions of Kings.