Stamp Bulletin No. 482 Commemorative Issue

Indigenous Coinage of Sri Lanka


Philatelic Bureau
Department of Posts,
Transworks House, Colombo 00100, Sri Lanka

The Philatelic Bureau of the Department of Posts issued four new stamps in the denominations of Rs. 3.50, Rs. 13.50, Rs. 17.00 and Rs. 20.00, and a Miniature Sheet on 18th June, 2001 to commemorate 2,200 years of the issue of indigenous Lankan coins.

The stratigraphic dating of coins in archaeological excavations in Anuradhapura in the past few years has assisted in the dating of most of the pre-Christian indigenous as well as other coins used in Lanka. The elephant with symbols and railed swastika (peculiar to Lanka) have been dated to circa 200 B.C. Similar coins with the "railed" swastika, the lion, goddess Lakshmi, a tree with enclosure and a horse are common to this period. The earliest non-indigenous coins used extensively in Lanka are the Indian Janapada series punch-marked coins. They are dated in India to the 5th century BCE. The Mahvansa commonly refers to the coins of this period as Kahapana.

The Lankan coinage continues through periods of invasion. Indigenous coins, as well as Pandyan, Chola and Chera, other coins from the Indian sub continent, Roman, Kushan, Chinese and Mohammedan to name a few, are commonly found. With the occupation of Lanka by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, the coinage continues as a combination of their respective coinages, as well as indigenous issues. The post independence (1948) coinage continues as a purely indigenous series.

Rs. 3.50:

Kahavanu 9th, century CE, the oldest Lankan coin inscribed in Nagari and struck in gold has the legend Sri Lanka Vibhu. This coin is popularly referred to as the Kahavanu. The coin illustrated being of the Kalanda weight category of the type I Sun and Moon variety weighing 4.45g. and 20mm. in diameter. They were issued in the weight categories of a Kalanda, half (ada Kahavanu), quarter (De-aka), one eighth (aka) and one sixteenth (masaka). The three types are Type I, II, III which vary distinctly. The obverse and reverse of the coin depicts a stylized human figure in standing and seated positions.

Rs. 13.50:

Vijayabahu I 1055-1110 CE. The first Lankan King to issue any coin with his name inscribed in Nagari script was Vijayabahu I; subsequent Kings bearing the same name issued coins with the same legend. His coin, however, features a distinct difference in the Sri in the legend inscribed in four lines-Sri-Vi-ja-ya-ba-hu. This form of the Sri is only used by one other king Parakramabahu I, 1153-1186 A.D. The coin illustrated is in silver weighing 4.26g. and 2l.5mm. in diameter.

Rs. 17.00:

Sethu. These coins with a couchant bull with trappings and legend Sethu are generally attributed to the Arya Chakravarthi's of Jaffna. The seated bull is always surmounted by a crescent with a dot signifying the sun and moon and the auspicious Tamil legend Sethu below. These coins can be attributed to the 13th and 14th centuries AD at the earliest. The coin illustrated is of copper, 3.87g in weight and 20mm in diameter.


Buddha Jayanthi Five Rupees. The first commemorative coin issued by Sri Lanka since independence (1948) was in April 1957. It commemorated the 2500th anniversary of Buddhism. It became the first Sri Lankan "Crown" size issue (of interest of worldwide collectors). The coin illustrated is 0.925 fine silver with a weight of 28.22g and 38.74mm in diameter. The design has an adaptation of the Anuradhapura Moonstone and a jasmine flower, surmounted by a lotus flower. The jasmine flower and the lotus are retained through our indigenous coinage in various forms from the earliest swastika coins dating from circa 200 BC.

The illustrations and narrative have been provided by retired Wing Commander Rajah Wickremesinha, a very senior Lankan numismatist, a Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society, member of the Oriental Numismatic Society, London and a life member of the Sri Lanka Numismatic Society.


Technical Details

Date of Issue 18th June, 2001
Denominations Rs. 3.50, Rs.13.50, Rs.17.00, Rs. 20.00
Designer Pulasthi Ediriweera
Format Horizontal
Stamp Size 38mm x 28mm.
Printing Process Offset Lithography
Printers Security Printers, Malaysia
Sheet Composition 100 stamps per sheet
Colours (used) 4 process colours
Gum Particle gum
Paper 102 gsm. security postage stamp paper
Perforations 14
Quantity Printed 1,000,000 each
Miniature Sheets 30,000 - Rs. 54.00 each
Miniature Sheet size90mm x 150mm

PBB482 Miniature Sheet

PBB482 First Day Cover