Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ancient Buddhist money (kahapana)

Editors, Wisdom Quarterly edited English translation of German-Wiki "kahapana"
Examples of gold kahapanas minted in Sri Lanka as a revival of ancient Buddhist coins.
Modern minor excavation at Mes Aynak, Afghanistan shows gold and jewellery treasure. This hoard was dated from 500 AD to 700 AD (Kadir Salamviking)

Rectangular punch mark purana (CM)
Kahapana was the name of an ancient Indian coin. It was either gold, silver, or copper. Its shape was round or rectangular. In Sanskrit it was called a purana or "punch marked coin," in England a "crown."
Kahapanas are mentioned in early Buddhist literature, where their role was as a means of payment on the Indian subcontinent of antiquity. It is also in evidence in excavations.
WQ "Save Mes Aynak" demo, UCLA
In the story of the cat (Babbu Jataka) of the Pali canon, a rich mouse (the Bodhisatta) is so revered that the others daily bring him a kahapana with which he buys food. With this same food they then ransom from the claws of cats.
How much is one kahapana worth? In the Mahavamsa (a Pali language chronicle of the kings of Sri Lanka), King Dutugamunu is said to have ruled from 161 to 137 [BCE]. He had 800,000 gold hirannas paid as wages for the construction of a palace, which corresponds to 6,400,000 kahapanas.
The kahapanas found are made of hammered silver. Their weight varies. As an estimation, 3.73 grams is accepted. Kahapanas (presumably modern ones) are on display in the Mint Museum of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. More (German) More details at Sirimunasiha about corresponding Sri Lankan money.

Set of kalandas of corresponding weight -Type I -Chank over Vase or Pot (Sirimunasiha).
The kahavanuva as well as the kalanda of gold may perhaps have been struck first as a deliberate revival of the kahapana of the  Buddhist scriptures (sutras). It is supposed by the commentators of the 5th century and their successors to have been a coin of gold. But the name was also applied to silver and copper coins.

Later punch mark coins or puranas of ancient India (
The greatest Buddhist commentator, Ven. Buddhaghosa, weighed in on this matter. His statement that the kahapana was "either of gold or of silver or the common [copper] one" is amplified in the Khuddasikkha Commentary:
"Kahapana is either of gold or of silver or the kahapana now common." And the copper coins of Parakrama Bahu I were also known by this name (Mhv LXXXVI, 104). The following table of the gold coins can now be given with their denominations and weights. More

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