Paradise Lost, the Utmost Isle

Milton’s choice, the utmost isle,
A paradise lost to a sinner’s vile
Eve’s tears of shame and guilt
Ample drops for lakes to brim,
Adam’s foot on the mountain top,
A reconcile to his mortal crave

Sumanakuta where pilgrims lay
At first man’s foot, do they pray
Heavenly clouds blur their eyes,
Sorrowful tears brim their brows
What heaven is this that reaches the sky?
Lost to man forever for his sin and vile

Glittering pearls off Mannar Coast
Pandya king could never afford
The Madura princess for a trade
Yakkha queen to be cast aside
For Vijaya to be the king of  the Isle

Kuveni’s wail for her master’s love,
No avail to the prodigal prince
Cast away from her den of love
Meant to die for her treacherous deed
To her brethren of noble creed,

For millennia did the Yakkhas rule
Almost since dawn of time
Sans vice or greed
Joyful in their wild abode
Oh! What a shame now
To be deceived by their queen

Serendib, an Arabian dream
Of Aladdin’s Cave and Sinbad’s tales
A pledge of wealth most abound,
Twinkling pearls and sparkling gems
Nature’s den of assorted hoard
The ocean’s pride, a fantasy isle,

From far ashore, the navy came,
In quest of wealth for their Hebrew king,
Ophir, from the Book of Kings
A land of gems for Solomon’s queens,
Priceless stones for his shrine divine

A draught of arrack with a honey taint
A gentle snooze on the gold coast isle
Beneath the shadow of the palm tree trail,
Ocean waves for a lullaby tale,
And scented breeze of cinnamon wild,

Marco’s haven on the gem stud soil,
While his fame at Kublai’s aisle
With the spoils from Mahavamsa isle
A Persian queen for a romantic stroll
On the shores of the coveted isle,
Oh what a romance in royal style

From far away by sea they came
Spelling dome to the peaceful isle
Eating stone and drinking blood
Aiming guns and cannons, they did
Instil fear into native soil
Alas, an end to Mahavamsa Isle

A poem by Anton Sebastian,



Author of A Complete Illustrated History of Sri Lanka 

Rare and Ancient Coins of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from Anton Sebastian Private Collection for Sale by Antiques International

Rare Books of Ceylon from Anton Sebastian Private Collection for Sale by Antiques International

Rare Coins & Stamps of Ceylon (Sri Lanka)

Lion Coin, King Parakramabahu ca 1100 AD , Anton Sebastian Private Collection

The trade and cultural ties to other countries of the world could be traced through the coins as old as 2000 years found in Sri Lanka.   Among hoards of foreign coins found in the most unlikely places in the island such as Sigiriya,  the site of the citadel of Kassayapa, the sleepy village of Kantharodai in Jaffna. Nearly 3000 Roman coins excavated nearthe Sīgiriya site suggest a Roman connection during early Christian era.  Most of the coins found here belong to the period from Constantine the great (r. 306-337) to (Flavius) Honorius (reigned 393-423), which predate Kassapa (reigned ca 477-495) by nearly a century. The earliest Roman coin found in the region dates to about 317, nearly 150 years before Kassapa founded Sīgiriya. From the above evidence it is likely that Kassapa did not choose Sīgiriya by chance and it was already a hub of culture and trade. Some gold coins issued during the reign of King

Vijayabāhu currently exhibited at the British Museum, as well as in the Colombo Museum follow the types of Raja Raja Cholan when he was in possession of Pollonnaruva.

The relationship between the Tamils and the Sinhalese is also seen through the ancient coins in Sri Lanka.  The The Mullaitivu coins (kahāpaṇas) as old as 200 BC arguably attributed to Eḷāra (Ellalan, bear a tree with branches (probably Sacred Bo Tree) on one face, and the bull (probably the Sacred Bull of the Hindus) suggesting that Eḷāra respected both religions.  Mahāvaṃsa itself (XXI, 26) reveals the earliest date of kahāpaṇa (coins) in Lanka when Eḷāra spent 15,000 kahāpaṇas to repair a  Buddhist stupa.

Known as Ceylon until it became a republic in 1972, the island had the most eye-catching colors of the Victorian Era in stamps.

Sri Lanka Post has a long history of 209 years, dating back to 1798, when the colonial Dutch rulers started five post offices in the Maritime Districts under their control. In 1799, they published the first postal regulations and postage rates. The Dutch East India Company operated the Postal service, which was not meant for the public but for official use.

1861 ceylon
The first postmaster by the British was appointed in 1802 and hand stamps were first supplied in 1813. The British took control of the whole island by conquering the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815 at the time of reign of King George III. Although horse drawn mail delivery commenced in Ceylon around 1832, the postage stamps were issued only on  1 April 1857.

The first Stamp features a portrait of Queen Victoria and is brown in color and of 6 pence value used to send a half ounce letter from Ceylon to England. Eight more stamps were issued in year 1857, all featuring the portrait of Queen Victoria. One of the 5 stamps that were issued on 23 April 1859 is considered to be the most valuable stamp in Sri Lanka: it is a 4 pence with a dark pink color known as the ‘Dull Rose.

A week after the First World War ended in 1918, Ceylon under King George V  adopted war stamps when all postal rates were increased to defray war expenditure. The 2c, 3c, and 5 c were all overprinted “WAR STAMP” in two lines, and the 5 cent was also overprinted with an additional “ONE CENT” with a line struck through the original value. There are a number of varieties in the overprints, such as double and inverted overprints.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Sri Lanka later is the only country to include details in a stamp in three languages viz. Sinhala, Tamil and English. The first stamps marked Sri Lanka were issued on 22 May 1972.


The first ever souvenir sheet of Sri Lanka was issued on 5 February 1966 on the topic ‘Typical Birds of Ceylon’. This sheet was reissued on 15 September 1967 to commemorate the 1st National Stamp Exhibition of Sri Lanka, overprinted ‘FIRST NATIONAL STAMP EXHIBITION 1967’.

History of Ceylon

British Colonial Ceylon