Panakaduwa Copper Plate Grant | Sri Lanka's Oldest Copper Plate Charter

Panakaduwa Copper Plate Grant
Panakaduwa Copper Plate Grant, also known as Panakaduwa Thamba Sannasa (Sinhala: පනාකඩුව තඹ සන්නස), is a copper-plate charter discovered in the village of Panakaduwa in the Morawak Korale of Matara District, Sri Lanka. This artefact is considered significant as it is the earliest in date of the copper-plate charters so far discovered in the country (Fernando, 1975; Ranawella, 2007). The plates are presently on display in the National Museum of  Colombo

The plates were discovered in or about February 1948 by a farmer of Panakaduwa, Suravirage Carolis Appuhami, while digging in a crown land for some turf for his field at Bogahadeniya (Fernando, 1990; Ranawella, 2007). As the plates are not made of gold or any other valuable metal, Appuhami had put them aside in his house (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985). But later when his family began to fall ill too often, Appuhami thought that it was due to some kind of misfortune of these plates (Fernando, 1990). He handed over them to a Buddhist monk, Molokgamuwe Saranapala Thera at Chetiyakandararama temple in Bengamuwa (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985). The plates were then come to the notice of Pandit Kamburupitiye Vanaratana Thera of Siri Ratanajoti Pirivena at Urapola who was at the time engaged in compiling a work on the history and antiquities of the Matara District (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985). He informed about the plates to an archaeological department officer named Sarath Wattala and about one year later the plates reached the hands of Senarath Paranavitana, the epigraphist who edited and published it for the first time in the Epigraphia Zeylanica Vol. V. published in 1955 (Fernando, 1990; Paranavitana, 1955; Ranawella, 2007).

Considering the value of this artefact and in view of the special circumstances of the case, the Government decided to give a reward of Rs. 500.00 to Carolis Appuhami and this reward was handed over to him by the then Prime Minister on 27 March 1950 at Kamburupitiya in the presence of a large gathering (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985). 

Panakaduwa village is located between two ranges of mountains, one of which is Ranmalakanda, referred to in the Culavamsa as the site of the armed camp set up by Vijayabahu when he was fifteen years of age (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985). At the time, he was under the protection of a chieftain named Buddha-raja (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985).

The copper plates
The charter is inscribed on three copper plates measuring 1 ft. 2.5 inches in length and 3 inches in width (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985; Ranawella, 2007). Each of the plates is provided with two holes on a line like the holes on leaves of Ola books; therefore, a string can be passed through the plates to bind them together. The first and third plates are inscribed on the inner sides, while the second has writing on both sides (Ranawella, 2007). There are seven lines of writing on each side.

The inscription records a special grant pronounced by King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.) in council from the Palace at the Anuradhapura in his 27th regnal year [(1082-1083) Fernando, 1975; Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985; Nicholas, 1963; Ranawella, 2007]. The grant had been made to the chieftain Ruhunu Dandanayaka Sitnaru-bim Budalnavan (Lord Budal of Sitnaru-bim, Dandanayaka of Ruhuna) for the protection afforded to the king, his father and the other members of the royal family when they were in hiding during the Cola invasion (Nicholas, 1963; Paranavitana, 1955; Prematilaka & Hewage, 2018). The document quotes the very words of the king, in which he makes reference to his early days of adversity and privations, in a few briefs through expressive phrases of great human interest, touching their directness and sincerity (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985).

The scholar C.E. Godakumbura suspected this document to be a forgery by the sons or grandsons of Budalnavan and assigned it to a date after Vijayabau I (Ranawella, 2007).

Panakaduwa Copper Plate Grant Panakaduwa Copper Plate Grant 

Period: 11th century A.D.
Reign: Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.)
Language: Medieval Sinhala
Script: Medieval Sinhala
Number of plates: 3 copper plates
Length & width: 38 cm & 7 cm
Discovered: 1948, From a paddy field in Panakaduwa village
Discovered by: A farmer named S. Carolis Appuhami

This is the only ancient document in which a Sri Lankan king gives biographical details, concerning himself and, referring as it does to the tribulation of a great man in his days of adversity (Kadurugamuwa & Thilakaratne, 1985; Ranawella, 2007). Also, this charter disapproves King Nissankamalla's (1187-1196 A.D) claim that he introduced to Sri Lanka the practice of issuing grants inscribe on copper (Ranawella, 2007).

Do you know?

1) Fernando, M., 1990. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)] Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series (Vol. I). History of the Department of Archaeology: Commissioner of Archaeology, pp.87-88.
2) Fernando, P.E., 1975. A Note on the Panakaduva Copper-Plate Charter of Vijayabahu I. The Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities (Vol. 1) no. 1. pp.57-60.
3) Kadurugamuwa, L.; Thilakaratne, K.A., 1985. Panakaduwe Thamba Sannasa. pp.30-42.
4) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.72.
5) Paranavitana, S., 1955. Epigraphia Zeylanica: being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon (Vol. 5, Part I). Government Press, Ceylon, for the Archaeological Department. pp.1-34.
6) Prematilaka, L., Hewage, R., 2018. A guide to the National Museum, Colombo: Department of National Museum. ISBN: 978-955-578-035-3. p.23.
7) Ranawella, S., 2007. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume VI. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 978-955-91-59-61-2. pp.1-5.

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This page was last updated on 29 January 2023

A short note for local school students
පනාකඩුව තඹ සන්නස

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ මාතර දිස්ත්‍රික්කයෙහි පිහිටි පනාකඩුව නම් ග්‍රාමයෙන් හමුවූ තඹ තහඩු කිහිපයක සළකුණු කොට ඇති ලිපිය වර්තමානයේදී පනාකඩුව තඹ සන්නස යනුවෙන් ප්‍රසිද්ධවී ඇත. සන්නස තඹ තහඩු ත්‍රිත්වයක ලියවා තිබෙයි. ශ්‍රී ලාංකික රජෙකු විසින් නිකුත් කර තිබෙන මෙරට පැරණිම සන්නස වීම හේතුවෙන් මෙය ඉතා වැදගත් පුරාවස්තුවක් සේ සැළකෙයි. වර්තමානයේදී මෙම තඹපත් කොළඹ ජාතික කෞතුකාගාරයෙහි ප්‍රදර්ශනයට තබා ඇත.

1948 වර්ෂයේදී මෙම තඹපත් පනාකඩුවෙහි ගොවියෙකු වූ එස්. කරෝලිස් අප්පුහාමි විසින් රජයේ ඉඩමක පිඩලි කපන අවස්ථාවකදී සොයාගනු ලැබ තිබුණි. රන් නොවූ මෙම තඹ තහඩු අප්පුහාමි විසින් සිය නිවසේ පසෙකට දමා තිබුනත් පසුව ඒවා හඳුනන භික්ෂූන් වහන්සේ නමකට ලබා දී තිබුනේ පසුකාලීනව ඔහු නිතරම අසනීප වීමට පටන් ගැනීමත් ඊට හේතුව මෙම තඹපත්‍රයන්හී ගැබ්වූ කිසියම් අවාසනාවක් නිසා යැයි ඔහු විශ්වාස කිරීමත් හේතුවෙනි. ඉන් වසරකට පමණ පසුව මෙම තඹපත් පරණවිතාන මහතාගේ අතට පත්විය.

1වන විජයබාහු රජු (ක්‍රි.ව. 1055-1110) විසින් අනුරාධපුරයේ සිට සිදුකරන ලද විශේෂ ප්‍රධානයක තොරතුරු මෙහි අන්තර්ගතය. චෝල ආක්‍රමණය එල්ලව තිබූ සමයේ තමාට, තමාගේ පියාට සහ පවුලේ සාමාජිකයින්ට රැකවරණය සැළසීම හේතුවෙන් රජු විසින් මෙම ප්‍රධානය රුහුණේ ප්‍රධානියෙකු වූ බුදල් සින්නරුබිමි දණ්ඩනායක වෙත සිදුකර තිබේ.
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