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
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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