The earliest reference to the usage of coins in Lanka is found in the Buddhist Literature which mentions types of coins issued in the 3rd century BC. These earliest known coins were small pieces of metal, generally of silver, punched with a common Royal mark. The metal were thereafter subjected to further punching with marks of various institutions. These punched marked metal are referred to as `purana' (Sanskrit for old) and Englished as `eldling'.The eldlings were manufactured by subdividing bars of metal or strips cut from a hammered sheet, the weight being adjusted where necessary by clipping the corners of each coin so formed.
|These archaic coins were probably issued by "local authorities - money-changes or merchants" and were submitted by them for the approval of the local king or governor, whose stamp appears on the reverse. The marks on the reverse are usually fewer in number, in the great number of cases one only, are less distinct, and frequently smaller.|
The obverse once blank, is usually covered with punch marks, often overlapping and clearly impressed at different times by successive money-changes whose hands they passed in the course of circulation. No less than 189 different markings have been traced in the eldlings found in various parts of Lanka. See display in Colombo Museum.