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The special Swastika symbol of all the early Sinhalese coins, including also the large circular coin just mentioned, which will be described later on, is cut at the beginning or end of three pre-Christian inscriptions in Ceylon, and it was also discovered by me engraved on the outside of pottery taken out of the lowest stratum of the remains at Tissa. Its occurrence there proves that it had been adopted in Ceylon as early as the second or third century B.C. It is cut at the beginning or end of the inscriptions numbered 69, 70, and 75, which belong to the first century B.C. The central bar and four side uprights are found in the symbol which precedes the inscription numbered 62, by Prince Sali, which dates from about the middle of the second century B.C. Although I believe it does not occur at any inscription of post-Christian date, its presence on the oblong coin No. 47 and the large circular coins shows that it continued to be employed as a local symbol until the fourth century A.D., or later. It appears to be unknown in India.
The Indian meaning of the Swastika, the cross with bent arms, is Su + asti, 'it is well,' that is, ' may it be well.' It indicates its luck-bringing power as an auspicious wish, and the words themselves in the form Swasti are cut at the commencement of numerous later inscriptions in Ceylon. But the symbol goes back to a date that is far anterior to any such interpretation. Its earliest occurrence is, I believe, at the first city on the site of Troy, the inhabitants of which are considered by Mr. R. H. Hall to have been 'just on the border between the Age of Stone and the Age of Metal'; and their latest date is stated by this authority to be about 2500 B.C. (op. cit. p. 49). As the Swastika was found by Dr. Schliemann on pottery at the bottom of the stratum belonging to this early race it may belong to the fourth millennium B.C. It also occurs in Egypt as a decorative motive in the ceilings of the Theban tombs of the eighteenth dynasty (1700-1400, B.C.).2 Its
1 The Oldest Civilization of Greece, p. 23.
2 Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. of Art in Ancient Egypt. Vol. ii, p. 359 (from Prisse); Prof. Maspero, Egyptian Archaeology, p. 16; Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, pp. 102, 397, and 479.
highly developed form in that country proves that it was known there long prior to its use in these tombs.
It may have been carved at the inscriptions, and may also be placed on the coins, as a special emblem of Good Luck or Prosperity, which acts as a protection from evil influences.
In describing the inscriptions I have already suggested that the four short basal uprights may typify the Four Great Buddhist Truths, as supporters, or more probably, especially on the coins, the four-fold forces-chariots, elephants, cavalry, and foot-soldiers-of the sovereign protecting the emblem, the prosperity of the country being supposed to depend largely on its ruler. In that case the central pole on which the Swastika is elevated might represent the sovereign as upholder of the prosperity of the country.
In other countries the Cross is sometimes drawn with a short bar across or near the end of each arm, and it is of interest to observe that in the case of the Swastika on coin No. 14 two thin bars are thus shown across the terminal parts of each of the two arms the ends of which are visible, as well as across the ends of the short uprights. A Swastika with one bar of this kind is also represented on coin No. II of Plate X in Cunningham's Coins of Ancient India. As every line in ancient symbolism has its own meaning there must be a special reason for inserting these peculiar cross-bars.
The only explanation with which I am acquainted, of this barred, or as he terms it 'guarded' Swāstika, is that given by Mr. J. M. Campbell, of the Indian Civil Service, in Vol. 24 of the Indian Antiquary (1895)—that such lines are due to a belief that any cross, or, in its usual Indian form, the Swastika, is a favourite house for spirits. He supposed that the crossbars at the ends of the arms were intended to prevent the ready egress of good spirits who might have been induced to reside in it, and thus to ensure its beneficial or protective action. It is evident that, as he also remarked, they might equally be drawn to prevent the entry of evil spirits who might desire to take up an unauthorised abode in it, and this is the more
1 On the Spirit Basis of Belief and Custom, p. 164.
probable explanation of the cross-bars, as I shall endeavour to show in a subsequent chapter.
The guarding power of labyrinthine and spiral and meander designs, or zig-zag or crossed lines is, as Mr. Campbell pointed out (loc. cit. p. 161), the cause of their constant employment in charms against evil spirits at the present day, both in Ceylon and elsewhere.1 Thus the partiality which the people of the East as well as those of the West and America, have exhibited for the Swastika is doubtless largely based on the belief in its defensive properties against these malignant beings.
In addition, therefore, to its symbolic aspect as an emblem of Prosperity, these cross-bars prove that the Swastika was placed on the coins to fulfil another function, that is, to be a protective charm against the malevolent actions of evil spirits. The pointed ends of some of the arms and short basal uprights may be also due to a similar idea-that of closing them against the ingress of hurtful spirits who might neutralise the omen. A fuller elucidation of the probable origin of the Swastika will be found in a later chapter.
If this was the ancient notion regarding the powers of the Swastika, it will be understood that apart from the general belief in the luck-bringing properties of everything that turned to the right and followed the course of the sun, it would be a matter of comparative indifference, as regards its spiritual aspect, whether its arms turned to the right or the left. In either direction they would equally act as a check to spirit progress. Thus, out of the 52 coins described above, in 18 cases the symbol is indistinct; on the remaining 34 coins the arms turn to the right in 22 instances, and to the left in 12.
The line or two lines, which are sometimes waved, below the base line of the Swastika may represent a snake or snakes, which also have guardian powers against evil spirits, especially in the East.
The other designs on the reverse of the Mulleittīvu coins admit of simple explanations. The plant growing out of a
1 I have a Sinhalese MS. book of charms and spells against sickness and evil spirits and planets, in which designs of crossed and complicated lines constantly occur.
vase indicates that the latter is filled with water; and the full vase is well known to be a general emblem of Good-luck which is much employed in the East, the reason being, as may be gathered from the Vidhura-paṇḍita Jātaka,1 that if the vase be full it cannot be imperfect. It is thus an emblem of Perfection, and therefore most auspicious. It is not a special symbol of Buddhism.
The recumbent humped bull is the special emblem of the Sōlian kings of southern India, and its appearance on these coins of Ceylon must point to Sōlian influence in the country. The coins which have this symbol may thus have been issued in the first half of the second century B.C., by the only Sōlian King who reigned in Ceylon for a considerable period at an early date, that is, Elāra, whose rule is alluded to in very favourable terms by the pre-Christian Buddhist annalists, and who occupied the throne from 205 to 161 B.C. There is no probability that an early Sinhalese king would insert this SouthIndian symbol on his coinage, and it is not found on the Tissa nor, with two exceptions, the Anuradhapura money which I have seen, that must have been issued by native rulers.
Even if the coins of this type were issued by the Indian usurpers who ruled the country from 104 to 88 B.C., those found at Mulleittīvu appear to have been buried in the first century B.C.
If it be held, however, that the mark on the Purana (i) is the letter hu its shape must prove that the Mulleittivu coins were buried in post-Christian times; but the good state of many of the symbols on the Purānas does not support this conclusion.
On the Obverse I take first the seated figure on the Anuradhapura coins, which can be explained without difficulty. Among the articles found in removing the débris left round the Yaṭṭhāla dagaba at Tissa, which, it may be repeated, dates from the third century B.C., there was, by extreme good-luck, a little more than the half of an admirably cut and polished
1 The Jātaka. No. 545. Translation, p. 152.
2 If Elara issued this coinage some examples of his coins would occur among later hoards, of course.