Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Emperor Rajaraja Chola I, Gold Kahavanu

Mint Place: Sri Lanka
Culture: Indian Chola Dynasty
Ruler: Raja Raja Chola I
Date: 985 to 1014 AD
Denomination: Gold Kahavanu
Diameter: 20mm
Weight: 4.32 grams
Alloy: Gold
Type: Struck
Axis rotation: 120 degrees
References: Codrington #104; Mitchiner #729; Biddulph #5
Obverse: King standing holding
Jessamine flower
King seated right, holding upraised sankh shell.
Legend: Devanagari script, Sri Raja Raja. (3 lines, right obv.)

Rajaraja Chola I (985-1014) aka Rajajaja the Great, was an emperor of the Chola Empire.  Rajaraja Chola invaded Lanka in 990 AD and conquered the northern half. After ruining Anuradhapura, he made Polonnaruwa his capital on the island. Rajendra Chola  (1014-1044) succeeded in extending Chola occupation over the whole island of Lanka in 1018. Lanka regained independence from the Chola occupation in 1070 under Vijayabahu I (1055-1110).

The coin's design is similar to Lanka type copper massas (Octopus man coins) and was later used on a series of well known anonymous gold kahavanu issued in Sri Lanka. This coin is the official coin of Rajaraja  Chola bearing his name. Anonymous gold coins sometimes called Rajaraja gold do not bear his name.

Obverse (left): Head represented by an oval with a projection for the chin, countersunk inside leaving the eye standing out; Two lines above chin for nose and mouth. Crown (makuta), a thick line behind which a triangle. Left arm extended, bent upwards at elbow and holding a Jessamine flower. Legs short and straight ; dhoti stiff, line between legs ; the whole standing on a double lotus plant Co-joined in the center by a small circle and terminating on the left in a chank and on the right in a Jessamine flower. To the left under arm hanging lamp and further to left a standing lamp, tall with four branches. To write four annulets each with a dot in center surmounted by ball (filled circle). All in bead circle.

Reverse : Head and crown as on obverse. Seated king on left facing right with left arm extended, bent down over leg. Right arm raised upwards with elbow outwards, and holding a chank. Asana short with two cross lines. Legend in Devanagari script to right in three lines Sri - Raja - Raja. All in bead circle.

There are two well-known varieties of RajaRaja gold coins closely resembling the Lanka Kahavanuva of type IIIC(1). The type shown here has four annulets surmounted by ball were struck in or for use in Lanka where they are mostly found. The type found only in mainland has a crescent on top the four annulets on the right of obverse.  These coins are discussed by Biddulph in his 1966 monogram on Coins of the Cholas, which suggests that the Rajaraja Chola coins were the prototype to the "Standing and seated King" series, which Sri Lanka is famous for.

Reference and authentication:

Mainland example, See:
Information from, See

  • Ceylon Coins and Currency: H. W. Codrington, Colombo, 1924.
    Chapter VII Medieval Indian - Chola Page 84 PL 104
  • Coins of the Cholas: C. H. Biddulph, NSI #13, 1966.
  • Oriental Coins: Michael Mitchiner,
    London, Hawkins Publications, 1978.