8th to 11th century - Sri Lanka
Late Anuradhapura Period - Kahavanu

The anonymous gold coinage appears to have been initiated in 8th century CE long before Rajaraja Chola invaded Lanka in 990 CE, and struck through the period when the Cholas dominated the island (1017-1070), and continued by closely similar coins struck for VijayaBahu (1055-1110) after he re-established Sinhala Independence in 1070.

The Kahavanu has Kuvera standing on obverse and Bahirava seated on asana on reverse.
The three main Types and subtypes as defined in Codrington are adopted in general. Kahavanu Types I and II coins are more rare and characterized by elaborate formations of the Sri with two parallel curved lines on upper right edge, the fineness of the lettering and the more sinuous lines of the body. Kahavanu Type I coins have the left arm of Kuvera bent in to breast with elbow outwards. Kahavanu Type II are the rest with elaborate Sri. In Kahavanu Type III with coarser figures the Sri resembles that of the Chola King Rajaraja; the letters of the legend are thicker and letters on the right slightly higher than those on the left.

Type Kahavanu 1 Ada 1/2 Pala 1/4 Aka 1/8
Plate Plate Plate Plate
Ira sanda Sun & Moon I A 45 46 @ _ _ _
Purnaghata Full Vase I B 47 @ I 55 JL I - JL I 63 JL
Adahanda Cresent Moon I C - M - - - - - -
Lotus and Adahanda II (1) _ @ _ II (1) 56 @ II (1) - JL
Adahanda and Lotus II (2) 48 @ _ II (2) 57 @ II (2) 64 @
Double Lotus - _ II (3) 58 -
Double Adahanda II (3) 49 @ _ II (4) 59 @ II (3) 65
Jasmine Bud and Lotus II (4) 50 @ _ _ _
Trisula and Adahanda - - - @ -
Ball and Annulet III A 51 52 @ _ III A 60 61 @ III (1) 66
Jasmine Flower and Chank III B 53 54 @ P M _ III B 62 @ P III (2) 67 68 @ @

Key to links in above table

The coin number on Plates in Codrington for 18 of the 21 types listed in that 1924 publication is given in table. The Plates in the original 1924 edition of Codrington are of excellent quality unlike the more recent lithographic reprints. However I now understand that to increase image contrast, Codrintion has used photographs of casts made from the coins. This is reflected by the frequent surface cavities like visible on the coin images on these plates.

The descriptions of each type of fraction in Codrington has been abbreviated with reference to previously described types. To keep the descriptions in each web page complete and self contained I have as far as possible expanded by editing in the text referred.

All of the coins are round in shape and have a plain edge. The General description of the Lanka type gold Kahavanu, is as follows :-

The obverse is a Standing figure Kuvera, head to right, crowned in a dhoti (garment), indicated by the curved line on either side of, and sometimes by one or more between the legs, and standing on a lotus plant stalk with varying finials. The left arm is bent, and holds in front of the face, a flower or other object. The right arm is extended with hand over a symbol (1a) consisting of a straight shaft with short cross pieces, ending in four prongs, which are narrow and curve upward and downward. The elbow is over a similar symbol (2) but with a plain shank and upside down. To the right a varying number of annulets with or without dota in center or balls. A beaded circle along the periphery of the coin.

The reverse is a figure Bahirava, resembling the "seated horseman" at Isurumuniya, Anuradhapura. Head right, crowned, squatting upon a asana (bed-like throne), represented by a rectangular frame divided lengthwise by a line and crosswise by a varying number of lines; dhoti represented by one or more lines between the legs, the two ends at the waist appearing at either side of the body. The right arm is pendant over the right knee, which is drawn up; the left arm is bent, and holds in front of the face a chank or other object. In field to right, Nagari legend in three lines :
1 2 3 4 5
SriLankaVibhu Vibhu is a title of Vishnu.
A beaded circle along the periphery of coin.

The symbols are apparently intended for standing and hanging lamps indicative of the religious liberality of the monarch. The fire-alter or sacrificial lamp appears on the Kushan and Gupta coins, and fractional pieces of the kahavanu, and on the Setu copper coins, where it is elongated into a trident.

From the Nagari legend Lakshmi on the quarter fraction Pala, and the presence of the lotus, the chank, and the cakra or discus, described as annulet, it is surmised that the standing figure on the Kahavanu is Vishnu, the guardian of Lanka in his incarnation as Rama (only two arms portrayed).

I have made individual pages for each major coin type and linked (click on @ in table) to the types in my collection. This table will be expanded as I get more types or able to obtain scans from a major collection or museum which is reliable as authentic. I believe the coins shown from sources stated are genuine but I always welcome comments if you have evidence to disagree.

Text from
* Ceylon Coins and Currency By H. W. Codrington. Colombo 1924
   Page 54 Chapter V Medieval Ceylon - Kahavanu
* Medieval Gold Coins of Sri Lanka ( 700 - 1100 )
   by O. M. R. Sirisena 2002 Colombo, Sri Lanka