Login    Forum    Search    FAQ

Board index » History & Archaeology » Archaeology




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Coins in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 3:00 am 
Coins in Sri Lanka

BY ANDREW Scott

THE Central Bank has issued a new series of coins in the denominations of rupees 5, 2 and 1 and cents 25 and 50 and will also issue a currency note in the denomination of rupees 2,000.

While this act of the Central Bank is most welcome particularly because there seems to be an acute shortage of coins for daily circulation in the country it is timely that we think about the fascinating history of coinage in Sri Lanka.

During the very ancient times like in all other countries there existed a barter system in Sri Lanka too and usually they reckoned values in cattle or other commodities.

The invention of the coining system came in when the idea of making pieces of metal of a fixed weight and standard, usually marked with a figure or inscription to certify them, came into being.

The earliest coins were simply bars of bronze weighing one unit. Much later, proper coins, circular in shape, with figures and letters stamped on them came into use and this became very popular throughout the world.

The Romans were the earliest people to invent the art of coining and they did this with the help of a tool known as a 'coining die.' Later coinage of silver was followed by that of gold.

The earliest coins may have been little Chinese cubes of gold. The ancient coins were crude lumps of precious metals stamped on one side only with a symbol, usually an animal or tree. Later man's artistic instincts made him to design coins with an ornamental appearance. Much later coins began to be replaced with notes.

The emperor of China appears to have issued notes in about the 8th century and in the 13th century, Marco Polo, the famous merchant traveller, described the Great Khan's money.

The concept of money has been made use of by the earliest Sinhala people throughout the centuries, either to a lesser or greater extent. It is said that in the 5th century even the Chinese greatly admired the gold pieces struck by the kings of Sri Lanka.

However, only a very few of these early coins have been preserved. One of these early coins bears the name and effigy of Lokeswara who usurped to throne in 1070 A.D. Copper coins of the 11th and 12th centuries were in abundance mostly in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka and some of these have been dug up and identified from time to time.

According to the Mahavamsa in 161 B.C., there was the Kahawanuwa (a gold coin) and even other early records mention of how pieces of gold were used as currency. Gold Messes were in circulation during the reign of King Dutugemunu.

Some of the earliest coins found in Sri Lanka were the Puranas (old). These were flat, oblong or oval shaped pieces of silver with punch marks. It is quite possible that these were imported from India where it was originally in circulation.

Between 985-1012 A.D. there existed two varieties of gold coins in this country with the legend Sri Rajaraja. According to H.W. Cordington, an Englishman who did much research on the fascinating subject of coins and coinage in ancient Sri Lanka, these closely resemble the Kahawanuwa.

It is said that King Parakrama Bahu 1, after the successful expedition against the King of Pandya, caused money to be coined in his own name before returning to Sri Lanka.

This fact is corroborated by the presence of coins which were dug up in various parts of India being similar to those dug up in Sri Lanka. Perhaps this is good evidence to suggest the frequent intercourse that existed between India and Sri Lanka even in those very early times.

The most common of the older coins at Anuradhapura depict a maneless lion on the obverse. These seem to have been known even in India and were called Pallawa.

The lion, being the dynastic symbol of the Sinhalese, there is no doubt that these coins were essentially of Sinhala origin.

King Vijaya Bahu 1 was the first Sinhalese king who had his name engraved on the coins. It was also during his reign that a new copper coin popularly known as the Dambadeni Kasi, was introduced.

Larins, a type of coin consisting of a silver wire about four inches in length, doubled in the middle and struck usually in both sides containing a Persian or Arabic legend suggests that from the very early times Arab traders frequented these shores.

In Sri Lanka this coin was known as a Kaha ridi. Coins in circulation in Sri Lanka during the Portuguese period were the gold and silver fanams and the Venetian pagoda. During the Dutch period the Dutch Stuiver, a copper coin also popularly known as the Tuttu, constituted the currency of this country.

This has also resulted with the formation of the Sinhala colloquialism Tuttuwak watinne nehe (Not worth a Tutuwa) which is being used even today. It was only in 1872 that the decimal currency with the rupee as the standard coin was introduced to Sri Lanka and it was in 1885 that the now existing Government note currency was begun.

During the early periods Dutch and British coins have been used in abundance in Sri Lanka and from time to time these have been unearthed from many parts of Sri Lanka. Between 1782 and 1806, a large number of copper coins minted in Holland had been in wide circulation in Sri Lanka.

Among the earliest British coins used locally were the popular gold coins named 'Star Pagodas' which were minted in England.

Silver coins with the emblem of an elephant and the year on one side and the legend 'Ceylon Government' on the other side were also in wide circulation. These coins minted in about 1816 were introduced to Sri Lanka just after the British conquest of the Kandyan provinces in 1815.

In keeping with the traditions of the other British colonies the monetary units of pounds, shillings and pence came to be used in Sri Lanka in about the year 1825.

Even though coins are heavier to carry than notes they are more durable and today we have coins for denominations of one cent, two cents, five cents, ten cents (through these are almost of no value in the present economic context) while coins for twenty five cents, fifty cents, one rupee, two rupees, five rupees and ten rupees are very much in circulation throughout the country though their buying power has reduced considerably during the recent past.


Top 
  
 
 Post subject: Few correction of dates
 Post Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 9:38 pm 
Quote:
Pointing out few date errors in Article.

> Between 1782 and 1806, a large number of copper coins minted in
> Holland had been in wide circulation in Sri Lanka.

Dutch copper coins for Lanka between 1782 and 1795

> Silver coins with the emblem of an elephant and the year on one side
> and the legend 'Ceylon Government' on the other side were also in
> wide circulation. These coins minted in about 1816 were introduced to
> Sri Lanka just after the British conquest of the Kandyan provinces in
> 1815.

Copper Elephant Dumps issued between 1801 and 1816
Silver Elephant Dumps between 1803 and 1809

Copper Elephant Stiver coins 1802 and 1815
Silver ELephant Rix dollar 1821

Kavan
http://lakdiva.org/coins/


Top 
  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
 
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] 

Board index » History & Archaeology » Archaeology


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

 
 

 
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron