2600 Sambuddhatva Jayanti Coins

By Kavan Ratnatunga

On 2011 May 16th the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, issued a sterling silver crown sized commemorative coin for the 2600 Sambuddhatva Jayanti. The Buddhist Era started in 544 BCE which is canonically adopted as Buddha's Parinibbana at age 80. So 2011 is 2555 BE which is 2600 years after the Buddha's enlightenment at age 35. There are many estimates which are 60 to 120 years shorter.

Obverse : At center symbolic representation of the Sri Maha Bo-Sapling in bowl with 2600 on a large pedestal. The words SAMBUDDHATVA JAYANTI appear within upper part of annulus in Sinhala at apex and Tamil and English to left and right. 2011 appear within annulus at bottom.

Reverse : At center a 24 prong DharmaChakra (wheel of doctrine). Along the upper part of Annulus the name SRI LANKA in Sinhala at apex, with Tamil and English to left and right. Face Value 1000 in numerals and RUPEES below at center in Sinhala with Tamil and English to left and right, within the lower part of Annulus.

A 2011 Nickel plated steel Rs10 commemorative coin, will also be issued into circulation. That order of coins is expected from Royal Mint in few weeks. It is minted to the specification of the standard Rs10 coin issued in 2010 April, and not yet in significant circulation.

At center of obverse has the same 24 prong DharmaChakra with the anniversary 2600 in central circle, The words SAMBUDDHATVA JAYANTI appear within upper part annulus in Sinhala at apex and Tamil and English to left and right. The words YUNJATHA BUDDHA SAASANE within lower part annulus in Sinhala at center and in English and Tamil to left and right. This Pali phrase means a "A Society that acts Righteously on Buddhist Philosophy".

Only 2000 of the silver 2600 Sambuddhatva Jayanti coin were minted, and with a face value of Rs1000/- are being sold by CBSL while stocks last at Rs7500 each. Only 250 coins were retained by CBSL, with rest being sold to Buddha Saasana ministry who proposed the coin issue, did it's designs and funded it's minting. This coin will become a difficult collector item unless the Buddha Sasana Ministry puts most of their coins for public sale.

The frosted proof coin is protected in a coin capsule inside a bright yellow leatherette covered Royal Mint presentation box. A printed numbered Certificate of Authenticity contains the specifications and the text in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

The certificate says the DharmaChakra represents the Four Noble Truths. The usual DharmaChakra adopted in Sri Lanka, like on the National Emblem has Eight spokes and represents the Noble Eightfold Path. The Wikipedia states the 24 spokes represent the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination and the Twelve Laws of Dependent Termination (Paticcasamuppada). The CBSL Press release says the 24 lattice symbolize Suvisi Vivarana the twenty four proclamations given to the Bodhisattva (future Gautama Buddha) by twenty four former Buddhas approving him as the Buddha designate. I could not find a reference to this association with DharmaChakra.

The Buddhist Dharmachakra with 24 spokes, is found on the stone pillar built by the Emperor Ashoka at Saranath in Varanasi, where Buddha preached his first sermon. The Ashoka Chakra was adopted in India as their National Emblem and put at center of the Indian flag. The chakra used on this coin is slightly different, by the additional circle of dots, one on each of the spokes, and convex nature rather than a central bump on each rim section of the Ashoka Chakra.

Spelling on the certificate of Sambuddhathva Jayanthi is different to the correct English transliteration found on the coin. This spelling JAYANTHI is used in the 2550 Buddha Jayanthi coins issued in 2006. The Press release uses this spelling and few other variations. Addition of h and switching V to a W are common English transliteration method adopted by those who converse mainly in Sinhala.

This is the 10th silver crown to be minted by CBSL since the first commemorative was issued for the 2500 Buddha Jayanti celebrated in 1957. Of these 10 coins 5 have been for Buddhist Anniversaries, 3 for CBSL anniversaries and one each for the 50th Anniversary of Independence, and the 1996 World Cup Victory.

In 1957 the coin was Rs5/- and 500,000 were minted and put into circulation. In 1962 when the silver value became more than the face value 258,000, of them were returned to Royal Mint for recycling. CBSL now sells circulated specimens for Rs8000 each.

In 1993 the 2300 Anubudu Mihindu Jayanthiya coin had a face value of Rs 500/- and 30,000 were minted, They were sold for many years at face value and the remaining stock at CBSL are now for sale at Rs8000 each,

In 2006 for the 2550 Buddha Jayanthi two silver crowns were issued. One with face value Rs2000/- had a gold plated image of Buddha. With 10,000 minted, they were sold at Rs7000. The other with face value Rs1500. With 20,000 minted, they were sold for Rs 5000/- each, The remaining stock of both are now sold by CBSL for Rs9550 each.

The increase in CBSL sale price of the silver coins have been necessitated by the rapid increase of price of silver over last few months to over US$48 per troy ounce on April 30th. At that price each of these crown size coins had Rs4500 of silver. Hopefully the price will decrease as the International price of Silver has now droped to under US$35 in 2 weeks.

Author maintains an educational website on Lankan coins at http://coins.lakdiva.org/, and is President of the Sri Lanka Numismatic Society.

An edited version of this article Coins for Sambuddhatva Jayanti By Kavan Ratnatunga appeared in the SundayTimes of Sri Lanka on 2011 May 22nd.