Stamp Bulletin No. 667 Special Issue

Ancient Sri Lanka - Stamp Series

Proto-Historic Era & Early Anuradhapura Era


Philatelic Bureau Department of Posts,
Postal Headquarters, D. R. Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo 00100, SRI LANKA

The Philatelic Bureau of the Department of Posts issued a set of 6 stamps of the denominations Rs. 5.00, Rs. 10.00, Rs. 12.00, Rs. 15,00, Rs. 30.00 and Rs. 40.00 depicting various phases and features of the Proto-historic period and Early Anuradhapura period on the 30th of April, as the 2nd set in the series of stamps depicting the historical heritage and features of Sn Lanka, by the name of "Ancient Sri Lanka".

Diverse information relating to the humans who lived in hundred and twenty five thousand years ago, has been revealed by Lankan sources, as depicted in stamps relating to the Pre historical period issued earlier as the first of a series of the set of stamps of "Ancient Sri Lanka". Revelations have also been made that ancient Lankans in 1000 BCE had the pride of possessing a superior cultural heritage and that they were manufacturers of clay untensils, utilizing their technological knowledge, and that they were competent in the use of Iron while being engaged in agricultural activities with the application of irrigation techniques. This transition period ranging from 1000 BCE to 600 BCE is identified as the Proto-historic Age.

Out of the aspects relating to the period, the only disclosure that has been made relate to the burial grounds used by the then inhabitants, for funeral purposes and the clay utensils used by them. More than 50 such burial grounds have been identified in various regions of the Island. The society represented by such burial grounds is identified as the megalithic culture. Only four types of the aforesaid types of burial grounds, have been found in the Island.

1. Pit burial
2. Cist burial
3. Urn burial
4. Dolman

Excavations have been conducted in several burial grounds at Ibbankatuwa, Yatigalpotta, Pomparippu, Gal Sohon Kanatte venues, Black, Red clay utensils are considered as high technique creations of the megalithic culture.

It is throughly considered that Anuradhapura emerged as a citadel in 900 BCE of the Proto-Histonic Age. Factual evidence affirm that during the period from 900 BCE 600 BCE, Anuradhapura city was rich with human settlements of an urban nature, spread within an extent of 50 Hectares. This venue situated in the precincts of Malwatu Oya was abundant with mineral resources, water and fertile soil and surrounded by a thick forest cover which shielded the area from invasions. It is evident that the above indicated factors led to this venue being selected internationally for the creation of a city.

Anuradhapura located in the North Central Province, 250 Km away from the capital city of Colombo was reformed as a settlement once again by a minister named "Anuradha" in the 6th century BCE. The particular Minister was one of the retinue of Princes who accompanied Prince Vijaya to the Island from Jambudeepa. It is believed that one other prince by the name "Anuradha" lived in the village functioning as its chieftrain and that he had constructed several tanks. The great chronicles further state that the venue came to be known as Anuradhapura, as the venue was the abode of two persons known by the same name "Anuradha", and also for the reason that the citadel was named Anuradhapura, as it was established under the constellation "Anuradha" alias "Anura" at the auspicious time.

According to an ancient Brahmi script indicated in particle of a clay utensil considered to be belonging to the 6th - 5th centuries BCE identified by Dr. Shiran Dheraniyagala, confirms the identification of the area as Anuradhapura. In the 4th century BCE. King Pandukabhaya made Anuradhapura his capital and laid out a systematically planned city of a highly artistic nature. During the period from 250 BCE to 1st century CE. Anuradhapura city and the surrounding area was an extensively developed region extending within an area of 100 or more Hectares. Since the beginning of the 3rd century CE, which signified the advent of Buddhism to the Island. Anuradhapura shone as a significant religious nucleous, centered around the concept of Kingship. From thence onwards Anuradhapura city functioned as the capital of the island for nearly 15 centuries to 10th century CE and is considered to be the cradle of a civilization nurtured with Arts, Crafts, Literature and high Technological skills, predominantly of a superior and unrivalled nature in comparison with other world nations.

Evidence uncovered from the Horton Plains region reveal that agriculture which gained groundbefore 1 2,000 years to-date, flourished during the Anuradhapura Period, reinforced by the support through Aryan invasions and also with state patronage. King Pandhukabhaya built the Abhaya Wewain Anuradhapura, the first of its kind and later King Devanampiyatissa built the Tisa Wewa. The Kings Wasabha, Mahasen, Dhatusena were the stalwarts who fostered and nurtured the irrigation systems of the Island and with their superb contributions the Island was endowed with magnificent irrigation system of high technique. This was the strong foundation which converted the Island into a self sufficient state.

Although there is no positive evidence relating to when literacy firstly started in the island, it is mostly believed that it can be traced as far as the 3rd century BCE. But, however, no acceptance can be given to the fact that such an extensive subject as literacy emerged instantly. It should havebeen the final outcome of a long lasting process. Some megalithic cemeteries belonging to the 10th centuly BCE, found in several areas of the Island indicate some symbolic characters. Dr. Shiran Dheraniagala is of the view that the art of letter usage may be traced towards 6th - 5th centuries BCE. This signifies that the art of letter usage prevailed in the Island prior to 3rd century BCE.

But however, literacy in the Island which gradually expanded through a symbolic letter system grew up fostering the creation of the Brahmi Alphabet, thus commencing the dawn of a new era in the art ofwriting. Several evolutionary phases of the thus progressed Brahmi Alphabet can be identified Viz.

1. Pre-Brahmi Age - 3rd century BCE to 1st century CE
2. Brahmi Age - 1st century CE to 7th century CE
3. Post Brahmi Age - 7th century CE to 15th century CE

As it is considered the use of iron was originated by humans of the PreHistoric Age, the humans of the past may have had the skills to transform rock surfaces tosuit their own needs. Rock creations which emerged with thefabrication of rough rock plates in Megalithic cemeteries developed into the birth of great rock mouldings which stunned the whole world, during the Anuradhapura period. This technological wonder paved the way to convert the island into the great exporter of iron and steel in the Anuradhapura period.

Confirming the above situation> Iron melting furnaces can be found in areas all around the Island. The ancient settlers possessed the technological know -how to process not only iron but also other metal such as Copper, Silver, Gold and Bronze.

Even in the Pre-Historic Age humans were compelled to follow the practice of handing over the excess of their produce to others and to obtain from them their particular needs. As such the barter system came into existence. During such as age where a trace of money transaction system not visible, the barter system expanded extensively as the chief mode of transaction. With the passage of time practical difficulties which arose in the barter system, made the community consider some otherform oftransaction agreeable to all. As aresult the system ofmoney transaction came into existence.

When contemplating the evolution of the system of money transactions in the Island, the earliest type of coin used in India as well as Lanka from the BCE era was known as Purana. Such coins, made of Copper and Silver and were circular, oval, rectangular and triangular in shape. It is seen that the coins were manufactured to be of equal weight. These coins used by the community from 3rd century BCE to 4th century CE bore the symbols of the sun, trees, animals, human beings, fish and mountain ranges Punched on them. Hence they are identified as Has Ebu Kahapana.

When considering the evolution of the art of painting in Lanka, a study needs to be maderegarding the Pre-Historic Age. We are fed with information from all over the world regarding a Pre-Historical of painting and we cannot ever come to a conclusion that the Pre-Historic Man was unaware of the system of art, as he possessed a superb knowledge of the use of colours. Two instances where a customary practice of applying Red Arsenic on the limbs of human beings could be traced from cave excavations conducted at Ravana Ella and Pahiyangala. Further, several colour engraved rocks have been found at Pahiyangala. Red Limestones and Yellow Limestones in decayed conditions, as a result of usage have been found in several areas of the Island. At the Pidurangala excavations pieces of graphite and red brick stones have been found. These factors reveal that the Pre-Historic Man was in the practice of using colours for their works of art.

Painting carrying symbols of human hands have been found at Sithulpawwa Magul Maha Vihara premises. Apart from the above, rock surfaces with graphite carved all overhavebeen found Dorawaya and Hakbelikandha pre-historic venues. further 48 venues with primary cave painting, which have been subjected to much conflicts of opinion among the intellectuals as to whether they are pre-historic paintings or veddha paintings have been identified to-date.

Literary and historical sources disclose information regarding the existence of a clear system of painting in the Island in the Pre-Historic Age. With the visit of Arahat Mahindha to the Island the art of painting which existed may have reaped some progress. The chronicles state that with the branch of the Sri MahaBodhi being brought and planted in the Island many clan of artistes arrived and settled in the Island. The chronicles in explaining the erection of the Lova Maha Pasada, further declare that in the 2nd century BCE a Buddhist Bhikku had drawn a sketch of a Godís Mansion on a strip of cloth and had presented it. It has also been stated that painting depicting the Vessantharaiataka and other Jataka stories had adorned the inner walls of the relic chamber of the Maha Stupa. Fahien records declare that in the 5th century CE both sides of the road from the Anuradhapura inner city to Abhayagiriya was decorated with "Pethikada" painting for public view.

Apart from information relating to paintings and work of art of the early Anuradhapura period sought from literary sources a number of archeological venues have been found todate. Situpawwa, Sigiriya, Wessangiriya, Mihinthale Relic chamber, Hindagala, Pulligoda, Galgeya, Ganagolla the Western City Gate are notable.

Rs. 5.00 Pre-Historic AgeóMegalithic burial ground found at the Ibbankatuwa area and a carnelian chain of beads

Ibbankatuwa is abunal ground ofthe(CistBurial) typebelievedtohavebeen existing between 750-400 BCE. The burial ground has been erected in the form of a stone trunk by placing four large stone plates. As the technology particular to this type ofburial grounds clay pots containing human body parts and articles consumed before death are placed inside and closed with a stone lid. The carnelian chain of beads found at the Ibbankatuwa burial ground is one of much significance.

Rs. 10.00 Early Anuradhapura period Abhaya (Basawakkulama) Wewa

Abhaya alias Basawakkulama Wewa is considered as the first bank built in the island in the 3rd century BCE by King Pandukabhaya.

Rs. 12.00 Early Anuradhapura period - the Vallipuram Gold Plate

This plate has been found at the Vishnu Kovil premises in the Vallipuram village in the Vadamarachchi division of the Jaffna Peninsula. The small gold leaf 3 1/2 inches in length and 1 inch wide contains a mini letter of 4 lines in Brahmi characters. It belongs to the period of King Vasabha(65- 109 CE). This letter states that Minister Isigiriya who ruled Nagadheepa during the reign of King Vasabha, had erected the Piyangukatissa Viharaya in a place called Bandakaraatana.

Text - Sidha Maharaja Wasabha Rajehi Amaithe IsigiriyeNakadivaBujameni Badakara Athanchi Piyagukatisa Vihara Karathe

Meaning May you be blessed with prosperity during the reign of King Wasabha. Minister Isigiriya who ruled Nakadiva (Nagadeepa) erected Piyangakatisa Viharaya at Bandakaraatana

Rs. 15.00 Early Anuradhapura period - Alakolawewa Iron melting furnace

The particular premises with the iron melting furnaces is located at Alakolawewa area, close to Sigiriya and which provide information relating to the age old Iron melting Technology. The Sigiriya Proj ect of the Central Cultural Fund and the Archaeological Post Graduate Institute of the Kelaniya University had jointly revealed the iron furnaces through the archaeological foundation and the period connected has been determined to be 1st - 2nd centuries CE.

Rs. 30.00 Early Anuradhapura period Gaja Laksmi coin and Hasebu Kahapana

The Lakshmi coin used in Lanka was unique in nature. The coin made of lead and copper bears the portrait of God Lakshmi on its obverse and the railed swastika symbol on its reverse. The coin has been in use in the Island from 1st century BCE to 4th century CE.

The swastika coin is 2 to 2.5 centimeters in size and nearly 16 grams in weight. A significant factor is the depiction of railed swastika symbol on the obverse. This type of coin is found to belong to period from the 2nd century BCE to 4th century CE. There had been several types of this coin bearing the symbols Lion and Swastika and Tree and Swasikia.

Rs. 40.00 Early Anuradhapura period Sigiriya Paintings Sigiri Frescoes believed to have been drawn in the 5th Century CE during the Sigiri Kasyapa period has been discovered at 5 venues by now.

1. Deraniyagala Cave 2. Watura Bakkigala Cave 3. Naipena Cave 4. Painting at the western fissure of the main rock 5. Paintings of the outer wall of the mirror wall

It is noted that the female figure has been mostly used as the base for Sigiri Paintings. Portraits of more than 500 females are said to be painted in the Sigiri graffiti. Intellectuals have expressed different views regarding the Sigiri paintings Mr. Anandha Coomaraswamy is of the opinion that the pictures depict the portraits of Goddesses. Dr. Nandadeva Wijesekara bears the view that the female figures. depict the women of the harem who are deeply. saddened by the death of King Kasyapa. Dr. Daranavitharana is of the view that the pictures depict Giriju latha and Mega Latha based on the Kuvera concept. However, the intellectuals have not yet reached a unanimous judgement relating to the said painting. Anyhow it is a challenging task to express an explicit opinion in this connection as they are a specific type of paintings bearing features of the great traditional art.

Details of the Issue

Date of Issue 30th April 2008
Denominations Rs. 30.00
Designer Sudath Jayawardana
Stamp Size 30mm x 30mm
Format Square
Printing Process Offset Lithography
Sheet Composition 12 stamps per sheet
Perforations 13
Printers Department of Government Printing, Sri Lanka
Colours (used) 4 Process Colours
Paper 102 gsm. Security Stamp Paper
Quantity Printed Rs 30.00 - 500,000

PBB667 First Day Cover