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Punchmarked coins


Ancient Ceylon
Medieval Gold
Sinhalese 12 to15 cent
Ceylon 1948 to 72
Sri Lanka Republic


[ Punchmarked coins ] Lakshmi coins ] Elephant Swastika ] Tree and Swastika ] Maneless Lion ] Rectangular Bull ]

The earliest form of money known in both India and Sri Lanka, called in Pali Kahapana, and in Sanskrit Karshapana or Purana (“old”), anglicized as “eldling”, consists of flat, more or less, rectangular pieces of silver cut out of a sheet of metal; the flans of the round and oval coins were probably cast in globules. They differ in shape, size, and thickness, and are punched on both sides with symbols and marks. Thus commonly called punch-marked coins (Pali salakkhana kahapana). , the circulation of this money in Ceylon probably commenced about the middle of the third century B.C. that it was still in use in the second century B.C., that is to say in the reign of king Dutugamunu, is the fact, attested by the Mahavamsa.

The punch-marked were manufactured by subdividing bars of metal or strips cut from a hammered sheet, the weight being adjusted where necessary by clipping the corners of each coin formed. The obverse is usually covered with punch marks, often overlapping and clearly impressed at different times. The marks on the reverse are usually fewer in number. 

Ceylon Purana coins are of two main types: (1) Rectangular (2) Roughly Circular.

Very few Puranas are known in Copper though a few have a copper core with a silver coating. At present the accepted view is that the punches on them were not struck with one die, but they were put on separately at one time by the authority issuing the coins, and not from time to time by private individuals.

Many of the symbols are taken from the animal and plant world, and others seem unintelligible. Some of the common symbols that can be recognized on the obverse of this money are the rayed sun, the crescent, nadipada (taurine symbol), the stupa, a six-armed emblem consisting of a circle with a pellet in the center and surrounded by six symbols - of which there is a number of varieties, the bull, the

 elephant, the dog, the rabbit, the peacock, fishes, and forms of trees; human figures are very rare. As to the meaning of the symbols it is suggested that they may represent a series of officials in diminishing order of authority. Perhaps the constant symbol, the sun, would represent the king himself, and the various forms of six-armed emblem, the highest officials next under him.

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