Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858

4. Münzen

1. The coins of India / by C. J. Brown (1922)

1. Kapitel I bis VI

Herausgegeben von: Alois Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Brown, C. J.: The coins of India (1922). -- 1. Kapitel I bis VI. -- (Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858 / Alois Payer ; 4. Münzen, 1.1). -- Fassung vom 2008-03-14. -- http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen0411.htm            

Erstmals publiziert: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-03-14


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung FS 2008

©opyright: Public Domain ("Not in copyright")

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

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Anno Domini A.D.
Copper Ć.
Hijrī Year A.H.
Silver AR.
Gold AV.
Billon Bil.
British Museum Catalogue B.M.C.
Grains1 Grs.
Indian Antiquary I.A.
Indian Museum Catalogue  I.M.C.
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal J.A.S.B.

Journal of Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society J.R.A.S.
Numismatic Chronicle Num.Chron.
Numismatic Supplement to the J.A.S.B. Num. Supp.
Obverse Obv.
Catalogue of Coins in the Panjab Museum, Lahore P.M.C.
Regnal Year R.
Reverse Rev.
Samvat Year S.
Weight Wt.

1 1 grain = 64.79891 Milligramm


[S. 7] THIS little book has been written as an introduction to the study of the subject with which it deals, and is intended primarily for Indian readers. At the same time the writer trusts it may be of some service to students and collectors, in India and elsewhere, as giving a general conspectus of all the more important series of Indian coins. Two objects have been kept prominently in view :

  1. to describe the evolution of the coinage itself,

  2. to show its importance as a source of history, or as a commentary upon economic, social and political movements.

In attempting this, certain limits have naturally imposed themselves. Coins purely foreign in fabric, as those of the Graeco-Bactrian kings, of the Portuguese, and of the various European trading companies, even when struck and current in India, have been rigidly excluded : this exclusion does not, however, extend to money issued by resident foreigners with the permission and in the style of Indian rulers. For a cognate reason the year 1857 has been fixed as the downward limit in this survey. Again, for the sake of simplicity, technical topics, such as weight-standards and metallurgy, have only been touched upon where discussion appeared unavoidable.

The chief desire of the writer has been to arouse in Indians an interest in their country's coinage, in the study of which so many fields of research lie as yet [S. 8] almost untouched. Although India has no coins to show comparable to the supreme artistic conceptions of the Sicilian Greeks, the study of her coinage, in addition to its exceptional importance as a source of history, is attended by peculiar advantages, not the least of which is the fact that materials for study lie, as it were, almost at one's door. In nearly every Indian bazar, even the smallest, in the shops of the Sarrafs or money-changers, gold, silver and copper coins are to be had, sometimes in plenty, and can be bought cheaply, often at little more than the metal value. There is even the chance of obtaining for a few coppers, and a far more important consideration saving from the melting pot, a coin which may add a new fact, or a name, or a date to history.

A detailed description will be found opposite each of the plates, giving transliterations and translations of the coin legends; and these, with the list of selected authorities at the end of the book, should provide the key to a fuller knowledge of the subject. To almost all the works mentioned in the latter the writer is indebted, although it has been impossible to acknowledge all obligations in detail. Mention must also be made of Dr. George Macdonald's fascinating little study, The Evolution of Coinage (The Cambridge Manuals of Science and Literature), as well as of the late Dr. Vincent Smith's Oxford History of India, which has in general been accepted as the authority for the historical facts and dates, somewhat plentifully incorporated throughout the book.

In conclusion, I am under special obligation to Mr. John Allan, of the Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum, for continual assistance, for kindly [S. 9] reading through my manuscript and offering numerous useful suggestions, and particularly for his help in getting casts prepared for the plates, all of which have been taken from coins in the British Museum ; to Mr. H. Nelson Wright, I.C.S., who also kindly read through the manuscript, gave me invaluable assistance in the transliteration of the coin legends, and freely placed at my disposal his exact and extensive knowledge of the Muhammadan coins of India. To Mr. J. H. Waller, Secretary of the Association Press, I am also considerably indebted for the infinite trouble he has taken in supervising the preparation of the blocks for both figures and plates which illustrate this little volume.

Ranikhet, C. J. BROWN.

May, 1921.

NOTE. The Cambridge History of India, Volume I, Ancient India, appeared while this book was in the press. Fortunately, it has been possible to incorporate the conclusions arrived at in that work, which have been accepted for the period which it covers. The view of the Indo-Greek and later coinages taken by Professor Rapson in Chapters XXII and XXIII has also been generally accepted as a working hypothesis.


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- (The heritage of India series.). -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- Pl. I.]

AMONG primitive peoples trade was carried on by barter, that is, exchange in kind. Gradually, with the spread of civilising influences the inconvenience of promiscuous exchange made itself felt, and certain media were agreed upon and accepted by the community at large. Wealth in those early times being computed in cattle, it was only natural that the ox or cow should be employed for this purpose. In Europe, then, and also in India, the cow stood as the higher unit of barter. At the lower end of the scale, for smaller purchases, stood another unit which took various forms among different peoples shells, beads, knives, and where those metals had been discovered, bars of copper or iron. In India the cowrie-shell, brought from the Maldive Islands, was so employed, and is still to be seen in many bazars in the shops of the smaller moneychangers. The discovery of the precious metals carried the evolution of coinage a stage further : for the barter unit was substituted its value in metal, usually gold. The Greek stater and the Persian daric certainly, and possibly the Indian suvarṇa, so frequently mentioned by Sanskrit authors, was the value of a full-grown cow in gold, calculated by weight. However this may be, in ancient India gold dust, washed out of the Indus and other rivers, served the purposes of the higher currency, [S. 14.] and from 518 B.C. to about 350 B.C., when an Indian province or satrapy was included in the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, 360 talents in gold dust was, Herodotus tells us,1 paid annually as tribute from the province into the treasury of the Great King.

1 Herod III, 94. Quoted in Cunningham, Coins of Ancient India, p. 12.

Silver from natural sources was at that time less plentiful in India, but was attracted thither in large quantities in exchange for gold, which was cheaper there than elsewhere in the ancient world. The transition from metal weighed out to the required amount to pieces of metal of recognized weight and fineness regularized by the stamp of authority is not difficult of explanation. The great convenience of the latter would recommend them at once to the merchant, and to the ruler as the receiver of tribute and taxes. Both in Asia and Europe this transition can be illustrated from extant specimens ; but, whereas in Europe and Western Asia, from the inscriptions which appeared early on the coins themselves and from outside evidence, we know the origin of the earliest coins and the names of the cities or districts which issued them, the origin of India's earliest coinage, like so much of her early history, is still shrouded in mystery.

This much can be said, that in its earliest stages the coinage of India developed much on the same lines as it did on the shores of the Aegean. Certain small ingots of silver, whose only mark is three circular dots, represent probably the earliest form : next in order are some heavy bent bars of silver with devices stamped out with a punch on one side.2 These two classes of coins are computed to have been in circulation as coins at least as early as 600 B.C., but they have not been found in any quantity. The time as well as the territory in which they circulated was probably therefore restricted. On the other hand, from almost every ancient site in India, from the Sundarbans in Bengal to [S. 15] Kābul, and as far south as Coimbatore, have been recovered thousands of what are known to numismatists as "Punch-marked coins" and to Sanskrit authors as Purāṇas ("ancient") or Dharaṇas. These are rectangular (Pl. I, 2) and circular (Pl. I, 1) flat pieces of thin silver (much alloyed), or more rarely copper, cut from a hammered sheet of metal and clipped to the proper weight. One side (the obverse) is occupied by a large number of symbols impressed on the metal by means of separate punches. In the oldest coins the other, the reverse side, is left blank, but on the majority there appears usually one, sometimes two or three, minute punch marks ; a few coins have both obverse and reverse covered with devices. These devices appear in wonderful variety more than three hundred have been enumerated ; they comprise human figures, arms, trees, birds, animals, symbols of Buddhist worship, solar and planetary signs. Much further detailed study of these coins will be needed before anything can be definitely stated about the circumstances under which they were minted. It seems probable that in India, as in Lydia, coins were first actually struck by goldsmiths or silversmiths, or perhaps by communal gilds (seṇi) . Coins with devices on one side only are certainly the oldest type, as the rectangular shape, being the natural shape of the coin when cut from the metal sheet, may be assumed to be older than the circular ; on the other hand, both shapes, and also coins with devices on one as well as on both sides, are found in circulation apparently at the same time. It has also been recently shown1 that groups of three, four, and sometimes five, devices on the obverse are constant to large numbers of coins circulating within the same district. It may perhaps therefore be conjectured that the "punch-marked" piece was a natural development of the paper hundī, or note of hand ; that the coins had originally been struck by private merchants and gilds and had subsequently [S. 16] passed under royal control ; that they at first bore the seal of the merchant or gild, or combination of gilds, along with the seals of other gilds or communities who accepted them;1 and that, when they passed under regal control, the royal seal and seals of officials were first added to, and afterwards substituted for, the private or communal marks. Be that as it may, we see here in the very earliest coinage the commencement of that fascination which the square coin seems to have exercised upon Indian moneyers of all periods ; for it continually reappears, in the coins of the Muhammadan kingdoms of Mālwā and Kashmīr for example, in some beautiful gold and silver issues of the Mughals, Akbar and Jahangir, and even in the nineteenth century in copper pieces struck by the Bahawalpur State in the Panjāb. Most writers agree, as indeed their shape, form, and weight suggest, that the "punch-marked" coins are indigenous in origin, and owe nothing to any foreign influence. In what part of India they originated we do not know : present evidence and the little knowledge we possess of the state of India in those times indicate some territory in the north. As to the period during which they were in active circulation we are not left so completely at the mercy of conjecture. Finds and excavations tell us something : contemporary writers, Indian and foreign, drop us hints. Sir John Marshall records, during the recent excavations round Taxila, the find of 160 "punch-marked" coins of debased silver, with a coin in fine condition of Diodotos of Bactria (circ. 245 B.C.).2 Then there is the interesting statement of the usually trustworthy Latin writer, Quintus Curtius, that Omphis (Āmbhi) presented "Signati argenti LXXX talenta" "80 talents of stamped silver" to Alexander at Taxila. These and similar pieces of evidence show us that "punch-marked" coins were well established in Northern India during [S. 17] the fourth and third centuries B.C., when the great Maurya Empire was at the height of its power. The large quantities continually being unearthed suggest a long period of circulation, so that in their earliest forms "punch-marked" coins may go back to the sixth century, and may have remained current in some districts of the north as late as the second century B.C. t some period, perhaps during the campaigns of the great Chandragupta and the settlement of the Empire under his grandson Aśoka, these coins became the established currency of the whole Indian peninsula, and in the southern districts, at least, they must have remained in circulation for three, perhaps four, centuries longer than in the north, for in Coimbatore district "punch-marked" coins have been found along with a denarius of the Roman Emperor Augustus ; and some of the earliest individualistic coinages of the south, which apparently emerge at a much later period, the so-called "padmaṭaṅkas," for instance, seem to be the immediate successors of these "punch-marked" coins.

2 Cf. I.M.C., p. 136, Nos. 1, 2, 3 (ingots), Nos. 4, 5, 6 (bars).

1 By Dr. Spooner, Dr. Bhandarkar, and E. H. Walsh. Cf. Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society. 1919, pp. 16-72, 463-94,

1 Even in Mughal times bankers were in the habit of placing their mark on the rim or even on the face of coins which passed through their hands.

2 Guide to Taxila, p. 117.

Now the distinction between north and south which has just been drawn in tracing the history of this primitive coinage is very important ; for this same distinction enables us to divide the remaining ancient and mediaeval Indian coins down to the fourteenth century into two classes, northern and southern. The reason for this is that Northern India, during that period, was subjected to a series of foreign invasions ; the indigenous coinages of the north were therefore continually being modified by foreign influences, which, with a few exceptions to be noted, left the coinages of the south untouched, to develop by slow stages on strictly Indian lines. The coins of the south will be described in a separate chapter.

To return to Northern India : at the time of Alexander's invasion the whole of North-Western India and the Panjāb was split up into a number of small states, some, like the important state of Taxila, ruled by a king, others governed by "aristocratic oligarchies." Almost [S. 18] all the coins about to be dealt with are either of copper or brass, and the earliest of them were struck, doubtless, by the ruling authorities in these states. Even after their subjection to the great Maurya Emperors some of these states may have retained their coining rights, for it is a salient fact in the history of coins that coinage in the base metals in India and elsewhere has not, until quite recent times, been recognized, like coinage in gold and silver, as the exclusive privilege of the ruler. A striking example is afforded in the copper token money issued by private tradesmen in England during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. On the break up of the Maurya Empire, at the close of the third century, a number of small independent kingdoms sprang into existence, and these proceeded to issue coins, some bearing evident traces of foreign influence, but on the whole following Indian models closely enough to be included here.

No attempt can be made to deal with this class of coins exhaustively : a few typical examples only can be selected for description and illustration. The reader who wishes to pursue the subject further is referred for guidance to the Bibliography at the end of this book ; and, since at present little attempt has been made to classify or examine these coins in any detail, fewer fields of research are likely to yield a richer reward to the patient student.

The earliest of these copper coins, some of which may be as early as the fifth century B.C., were cast. The casting of coins by pouring molten metal into a cavity formed by joining two moulds together must have been a very ancient practice in India. Sometimes the moulds of several coins were joined together for the casting process, and the joins thus left are not infrequently found still adhering to the coins (Pl. I, 3).1 These coins are for the most part anonymous. [S. 19] Even after striking from dies had superseded this clumsy method in the North-West, we find cast coins being issued at the close of the third century by the kingdoms of Kauśāmbī, Ayodhyā and Mathurā, some of which bear the names of local kings in the Brāhmī1 script.

Fig. 1. (S. 13.)

1 This process was in operation in Morocco until the middle of the nineteenth century. Nearchus, the companion of Alexander, says that the Indians used only cast bronze but not hammered. Strabo XV, C. 716.

1 Brāhmī (Fig. 1), Phoenician in origin, was the native script of Northern India, and was written from left to right. Kharoshṭhī (Fig. 2) was a derivation from the Aramaic script, and was written from right to left ; it is believed to have been introduced during the Persian domination of Western India, and continued in use on the North-West frontier until about the fourth century A.D.

The earliest die-struck coins, with a device on one side of the coin only, have been assigned to the end of the fourth century B.C. Some of these, with a lion device, were certainly struck at Taxila, where they are chiefly found. Others present various Buddhist symbols, such as the bodhi-tree, svastika, or the plan of a monastery, and may therefore belong to the time of Aśoka, when Buddhism first reached the North-West, or Gandhāra, as the territory was then called. The method of striking these early coins was peculiar, in that the die was impressed on the metal when hot, so that a deep square incuse, which contains the device, appears on the coin. A similar incuse appears on the later double-die coins of Pańchāla (Pl. I, 4), Kauśāmbī, and on some of Mathurā. This method of striking may have been introduced from Persia, and was perhaps a derivative from the art of seal-engraving.

In the final stage of die-striking, devices were impressed on both sides of the coin, and the best of these "double-die" coins show not only greater symmetry of shape, either round or square, but an advance in the art of die-cutting. Some of the earliest of this type have been classed as gild tokens. The finest were struck in Gandhāra : among these one of the commonest, bearing a lion on the obverse, and an elephant on the reverse (Pl. I, 5), is of special importance, since an approximate date can be assigned to it, for it was imitated by the Greek princes, Pantaleon (Pl. II, 2) [S. 20] and Agathokles, who reigned on the North-West frontier about the middle of the second century B.C. In the execution and design of some die-struck coins from the North-West there are undoubted traces of foreign influences : but such devices as the humped bull, the elephant and the religious symbols are purely Indian. There is, on the other hand, little foreign influence traceable in the die-struck coins, all closely connected in point of style, which issued during the first and second centuries B.C. from Pańchāla, Ayodhyā, Kauśāmbī and Mathurā. A number of these bear Brāhmī inscriptions, and the names of ten kings, which some would identify with the old Śuṅga dynasty, have been recovered from the copper and brass coins of Pańchāla, found in abundance at Rāmnagar in Rohilkhand, the site of the ancient city Ahichhatra. Similarly twelve names of kings appear on the Mathurā coins, but we have little knowledge of these kingdoms beyond what the coins supply. Certain devices are peculiar to each series : thus most of the Ayodhyā coins have a humped bull on the obverse, the coins of Kauśāmbī a tree within a railing.

In the coins of Eraṇ1 we have an illustration, as Rapson says, "of the development of the punch-marked system into the die system." These coins are rectangular copper pieces (Pl. I, 6), and the device on each consists of a collection of symbols like those which appear on the "punch-marked" coins, but struck from a single die. They are specially interesting in that they represent the highest point of perfection reached by purely Indian money. Some of these, in common with a class of round coins found at Ujjain (Avanti), display a special symbol, the "cross and balls," known from its almost universal occurrence on the coins of ancient Mālwā as the Mālwā or Ujjain symbol.

1 Eraṇ, or Erakina, the capital of the ancient East Mālwā kingdom, in the Saugor district, Central Provinces.

Though its territory lay partially in Southern India, it will be convenient to include here the coinage of the [S. 21] great Andhra dynasty, since several of its issues are closely connected with the currency of the north. The Andhras probably became independent about the year 230 B.C., and their rule lasted for four and a half centuries. Their coins of various types have been found in Mālwā, on the banks of the Krishna and Godavari rivers, the original home of the race, as far south as Madras, in north Konkan, and elsewhere in the Deccan and the Central Provinces. The earliest to which a date can be assigned are those bearing the name of a king Śrī Sāta, about 150 B.C. Most Andhra coins are either of billon1 or lead, with Brāhmī legends on both obverse and reverse, and characteristic devices are the elephant, chaitya (Buddhist chapel), and bow (Pl. I, 7). Sometimes the "Ujjain symbol" appears on the reverse. One issue, in lead, of Vasishṭhīputra Śrī Pulumāvi (about A.D. 130) is interesting, in that it has on the obverse a ship with two masts, and was evidently intended for circulation on the Coromandel coast. Coins have been assigned to seven Andhra kings, the latest of which, Śrī Yajńa Sātakarṇi (about A.D. 184), struck not only the usual lead and billon coins, but restruck and imitated the silver hemidrachms of the satrap Nahapāna (Pl. III, 1). The Andhra lead coinage was copied by one or two feudatory chiefs in Mysore and North Kanara.

1 Billon, or potin, is a mixture of silver and copper in varying proportions."


[S. 22.]

[S. 22] WE have seen in the last chapter how foreign influences gradually began to make themselves felt in the fabric and design of the purely native coins of the North-West. These influences gradually widened until the whole of Northern, Western and parts of Central India were affected. Through eight centuries these foreign types were reproduced on the coins of those territories; and we can observe the gradual debasement of the original models as they become less and less intelligible to successive strikers, until they disappear in the general cataclasm that succeeded the terrible inroads of the Huns in the sixth century. In the secluded kingdom of Kashmīr one type did indeed survive as late as the fifteenth century, a mere shadow of a shade, from which all form and feature had vanished. The coins included in this chapter and the next are those of the invaders who brought about this important change.

But a further and a greater importance attaches to them. Since the important discovery, in 1824, by Colonel Tod, that Greek coins had once been struck in India, the names of thirty-three Greek and twenty-six1 [S. 23] Indo- Scythian or Śaka and Indo-Parthian or Pahlava princes, ruling territories round the Indian frontier, have gradually been recovered from coin legends, and not more than half-a-dozen of these are known from other sources. Even the names of the later Kushāṇa kings were first deciphered from their coins. Thus coins alone have been responsible for the recovery of a whole period of Indian history.

1 Three fresh names have been added as recently as 1913.

Probably no class of Indian coins has attracted more attention or been subjected to more patient examination than these, which mark the first intermingling of Eastern and Western culture in India ; yet, as the relationship of the different kings and dynasties who minted them, their dates, and the territories over which they ruled are still largely matters of conjecture, it will be well to sketch in outline the probable course which events took in Northern India and the adjacent countries from the time of Alexander to the first century of our era.

In October, 326 B.C., Alexander began his retreat from the Panjāb. To commemorate his victories he struck a medal;2 about the same time an Indian prince, Sophytes (Saubhūti), struck a silver coin (Pl. II, 1) in the Greek style; with these two exceptions scarcely a mark or lasting trace of his invasion remained. Eleven years after Alexander's death his general, Seleucos, founded the Seleucid kingdom of Syria. Between the years 250-248 B.C. two of the chief Syrian provinces revolted and became independent kingdoms, Bactria under Diodotos and Parthia under Arsakes, both events fraught with important consequences for India and her coinage. The fourth Bactrian king, Demetrios (c. 190-150 B.C.), son of Euthydemos, as the Mauryan Empire fell into decay, was able to extend his kingdom as far as the Panjāb, and assumed the title of "King of the Indians." But about the same time he was confronted with a rival, Eukratides (c. 175-155 B.C.), whodeprived him of his Bactrian dominions, and even of a [S. 24] portion of Gandhāra (the present districts of Peshāwar and Rawalpindi). Henceforward there were two rival Greek dynasties, the house of Eukratides, including the princes Heliokles, Antialkidas and Hermaios, ruling in Kābul, Kandahār and Gandhāra, and the house of  Euthydemos, of whom the principal rulers were Apollodotos, Menander, Strato I, Zoilos and Hippostratos, in East Gandhāra and the Panjāb. Pantaleon, Agathokles and Antimachos, of the latter family, appear to have been petty princes ruling north of Kābul (c. 155-140 B.C.), and there must have been similar small principalities elsewhere, whose rulers were contemporary. About the year 135 B.C. Heliokles, the last king of Bactria, was driven out of that country by a Scythian tribe, the Śakas, and fixed the headquarters of his rule at Kābul, and here his descendants continued to reign till some time after 40 B.C., when the last of them, Hermaios, was driven out by the Pahlavas. Meanwhile, in about the year 126 B.C., the Śakas, pressed in their turn by another nomadic tribe from Central Asia, the Yueh-chi, were driven out of Bactria, and invaded India by way of Ariāna (Herāt) and Drangiāna (Seistān), fixing their headquarters in Sind (Śakadvīpa). Moving thence up the Indus valley, about the year 75 B.C., their chief, Maues, captured Pushkalāvatī (Peshāwar) , and thus drove a wedge in between the dominions of the two Greek houses. His successor, Azes I, the possible founder of the Vikrama era in 58 B.C., finally crushed the house of Euthydemos, in the person of Hippostratos, in the Eastern Panjāb, some time after 40 B.C. Closely related to the Śakas were the Pahlavas. The earlier Pahlava princes, Vonones, Spalahores, and Spalirises ruled in Drangiāna and Arachosia (Kandahār), whence, as already related, they overran Kābul. Later on, in the first century A.D., probably through a family alliance, they succeeded the Śakas in northern India and we find the great king Gondopharnes (A.D. 19-45) ruling in Taxila. Associated with the Śaka and Pahlava kings were a number of military governors, such as Aspavarma and Sasas, whose names appear on coins with [S. 25] those of their suzerains. Other rulers like Miaos are more difficult to place.

2 The sole example known is in the British Museum : it is figured in Vincent Smith's Oxford History of India, 1920, p. 63.


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- Pl. II.]

[S. 25] The splendid series of portrait coins of the Greek kings of Bactria does not come within the scope of this work : their gold and silver pieces, struck on the Attic standard,1 were never current in India proper, where they are rarely found, and they really belong to the history of Greek coinage. Nevertheless they are of the utmost importance for our subject, for in following these models the Indo-Greek kings introduced Greek types, and among them the portrait head, into the Indian coinage, and their example was followed for eight centuries. This word "type" needs some definition. Originally it meant the particular mark of authority on a coin as distinct from other marks, but it has come to imply a distinguishing device more or less artistic in character. Such devices appear on all Greek and Roman coins. In this sense the coins of the Muhammadans cannot properly be said to display "types," for both obverse and reverse are usually occupied entirely by the inscription.

1 On the Attic standard, adopted by Alexander, the Seleucid and Bactrian kings, the drachm weighed 67.5 grains ; on the Persian standard, adopted by the Indo-Greeks (and hence in some works called the Indian standard), it weighed 88 grains, but their coins rarely reach the full weight. Mr. Whitehead, in a recent monograph, "The Pre-Muhammadan Coinage of North-Western India" (Numismatic Notes and Monographs, No. 13, The American Numismatic Society, New York, 1922), calls the two silver denominations of the Indo-Greeks drachms and tetradrachms, thus supposing a separate Indian standard. I have retained the hitherto accepted nomenclature, hemidrachms and didrachms for convenience of reference to standard works.

Demetrios was the first Bactrian king to strike square copper coins of the Indian type, with a legend in Greek on the obverse, and in Kharoshṭhī on the reverse. His rival, Eukratides, struck these bilingual square copper pieces in greater abundance, as well as a very rare silver coin with inscriptions in both languages. The [S. 26] Gandhāra copper coinage of Agathokles and Pantaleon (Pl. II, 2) has already been alluded to. After the removal of the seat of government to territory south of the Hindu Kush, we find the coinage undergoing a radical change. The rare gold staters and the splendid tetradrachms of Bactria disappear. The silver coins of the Indo-Greeks, as these later princes may conveniently be called, are the didrachm (Pl. II, 5) and the hemidrachm. With the exception of certain square hemidrachms of Apollodotos and Philoxenos (Pl. II, 7), they are all round, are struck to the Persian (or Indian) standard, and all have inscriptions in both Greek and Kharoshṭhī characters. Copper coins, square for the most part, are very numerous (Pl. II, 6). The devices are almost entirely Greek, and must have been engraved by Greeks, or Indians trained in the Greek traditions, yet "the engravers. . . were no slavish copyists of Western models, but were giving free and spontaneous expression to their own ideas."3 On the reverse is ordinarily to be found some god or goddess Herakles, Zeus, Pallas, or some symbol of their worship; the "two piloi" (caps) of the Dioskouroi are of frequent occurrence. A notable square copper coin of Eukratides has the figure of a seated Zeus, accompanied by the legend in Kharoshṭhī, "The city deity of Kāpiśī" suggesting that others of these deities may stand as the patrons of cities.2 Other reverse devices are the tripod, a king on horseback, and various animals, including the specially Indian elephant and humped bull. The portraits on the obverse, especially on the fine didrachms, are realistic and boldly drawn, and show us clearly what manner of men these early European rulers in India were. On most of these coins and those of the Śaka rulers are found a great variety of monograms (Fig. 3) formed of Greek letters, but the significance of these has never been satisfactorily explained. From a study of monograms and types, [S. 27] and particularly from observing the gradual debasement in style which takes place, experts have been able to arrange these kings in chronological order. Such tests are sometimes, however, delusive ; the king, Zoilos, for example, minted two types of hemidrachm, one in comparatively fine style, the other very debased.

[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- S. 33.]

Note. The monograms in Fig. 3 occur on coins of the following : (1) Eukratides, (2) Apollodotos, (3) Apollodotos, Maues, (4) Azes I, (5) Soter Megas, (6) Gondopharnes and Aspavarma.

1 Marshall, Guide to Taxila, p. 27.

2 For other city types see Camb. History of India, Vol. I, p. 557 sq.

The extreme rarity of the money of a few kings, like Apollophanes, Polyxenos and Theophilos, leads us to suppose that they were pretenders. The most important kings, judging from the large number of their coin-types, were Antialkidas, king of Taxila, circ. 155-130 B.C., Apollodotos, Menander and Strato I. Antialkidas appears on one of his numerous silver types wearing the striking flat cap, called "kausia" (Pl. II, 8). Apollodotos' coinage is remarkable for the large variety of its copper types. Particularly noticeable are the large round pieces which he introduced (Pl. II, 3). Menander's coins (Pl. II, 4) are found all over Northern India in great quantities, and his didrachms, with three distinct styles of portrait, are the finest of the series. The heads of two queens, Agathokleia and Kalliope, are found conjoined, the former with that of her son, Strato I, the latter with that of her husband, Hermaios (Pl. II, 9), on a few rare coins. The debasement which set in in Strato's reign (Pl. II, 10) in the Eastern Kingdom, and is evidenced not only in the poorness of design but even in the striking of coins in lead, reached even a lower point in the coinage of Hermaios. On one type of copper, with the head of Hermaios on the obverse, the name of Kujūla Kadphises, the Kushāṇa, appears on the reverse (Pl. IV, I).1

1 It is suggested (Camb. History of India, p. 561) that the coins of Hermaios extended over a long period, and that it was these degenerate posthumous coins which Kujūla Kadphises copied.


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- Pl. III.]

[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- S. 32.]

After the conquest of Bactria by the Śakas in 135 B.C. there must have been considerable intercourse, [S. 28] sometimes of a friendly, sometimes of a hostile character, between them and the Parthians, who occupied the neighbouring territory. This may account for the Parthian influence which appears in certain features on the coins of the Śakas, particularly in the title Basileōs Basileōn, "King of Kings," which all these kings, following the example of the Arsacid dynasty, inscribed on the obverse of their coins.

Maues, whose coins are found only in the Panjāb, was the first king of what may be called the Azes group of princes. His silver is not plentiful ; the finest type is that with a "biga" (two-horsed chariot) on the obverse, and to this type belongs a square hemidrachm, the only square aka silver coin known. His commonest copper coins, with an elephant's head on the obverse and a "caduceus" (staff of the god Hermes) on the reverse (Pl. III, 4), are imitated from a round copper coin of Demetrios. On another copper square coin of Maues the king is represented on horseback. This striking device is characteristic both of the Śaka and Pahlava coinage (Pl. III, 7); it first appears in a slightly different form on coins of the Indo-Greek Hippostratos (Pl. II, 5) ; the Gupta kings adopted it for their "horseman" type, and it reappears in Mediaeval India on the coins of numerous Hindu kingdoms, and was even employed by Muhammadan invaders until the fourteenth century.

Silver coins of Azes I and Azilises, especially of the former, are abundant. As on Maues' coinage, Greek gods and goddesses, Zeus, Herakles, Pallas and Poseidon, appear on both silver and copper of these two kings, but now for the first time an Indian goddess, Lakshmī, is introduced. A favourite device on the silver of Azilises is the Dioskouroi (Pl. III, 9).1 His copper coins are all square, whereas Azes' commonest type is a large round coin with a bull on the observe and a lion on the reverse (Pl. III, 5), unquestionably copied from [S. 29]  the large round coins of Apollodotos ; for some of Azes I 's coins are restruck on those of Apollodotos and Hippostratos. Another copper coin shows the king Azes sitting cross-legged in the Indian fashion. On the reverse of another copper coin, of the common "king on horseback" type, appears the name of the Indian general, Aspavarma, which is also found on some coins of the Pahlava Gondopharnes : this is a most important piece of evidence, as it shows a connection between the two dynasties. The earlier Pahlava kings, which we may call the Vonones group, were evidently far less powerful than the Śaka rulers ; their coins are scarcer, didrachms particularly so, and are found only west of the Indus valley. On no coins has the name of Vonones been found alone, but always associated either with Spalahores, his brother, or his nephew, Spalagadames ; the names of the two latter are conjoined on another coin (Pl. III, 10). A fourth prince, Spalirises, strikes coins of his own and also in conjunction with Azes II.1 All the silver coins of this group are of the usual "king on horseback" type ; their copper coins are with one exception square.

1 They are also represented on horseback as on Eukratides' coins.

1 This coin seems to provide the family link between the Śakas and Pahlavas.

Like the Indo-Greeks, the Śakas use Greek for the obverse and Kharoshṭhī for the reverse legend.

The most important of the later Pahlava kings was Gondophares, or Gondopharnes, famous as the King of India mentioned in the traditional stories connected with the Apostle St. Thomas. In the British Museum there is a silver coin of his struck in the pure Parthian style, but the rest of his didrachms no smaller coins are known are of billon (Pl. III, 8). Several types of these are known, but all have the usual "king on horseback" obverse. On the reverse of one type the god Śiva appears. His copper coins, all of them round, have a bust of the king in the Parthian style, with either a figure of Nike or Pallas on the reverse. The coins of his successors or contemporaries, Abdagases, Orthagnes and Pakores, closely follow in type those of Gondopharnes.

[S. 30] Connected with these later Pahlavas are a few princes who call themselves "Satrap" among these the most prominent is Zeionises, who minted some rather striking didrachms in pure silver. His not uncommon copper coins imitate the bull and lion type of Azes. Lastly, there are a number of miscellaneous rulers, such as Miaos and Hyrcordes, whose coins present features so heterogeneous that it has been impossible hitherto to assign them ancestry, nationality or even an approximate date. The most important of these is the "nameless king," whose superscription consists of the titles, "'King of Kings, the great Saviour" written in Greek only. His coins, all of copper, are well struck, especially the commonest type, which shows a diademed head of the king on the obverse and a horseman on the reverse (Pl. III, 6). On all appears his special symbol, a three-pronged fork (Fig. 3, v).1

1 It has been suggested with great probability that the title Soter Megas (Great Saviour) was that of the military governor (strategos) of Taxila under the Kushāṇas, and that these coins were the anonymous issues of successive strategoi. Cf. Camb. History of India, Vol. I, p. 581.


The coinage of the Indo-Greek kings made a deep impression upon their successors and neighbours, just as the coinage of Bactria had impressed the conquering Śakas, who copied it extensively in that country. The crude coins of Miaos (or Heraos) and of Sapeleizes, two very obscure rulers, are evidently modelled on the issues of Heliokles and Eukratides. Śaka princes, like Maues, as we have seen, while adopting many Greek features, employed a characteristic coinage of their own. On the other hand, we find Rājuvula, one of the Śaka satraps who replaced the Hindu kings of Mathurā in the first century A.D., slavishly copying the billon hemidrachms of Strato II (Pl. I, 8). Nahapāna, a great Śaka conqueror who founded a kingdom in the [S. 31] Western Ghats at about the same period, also reproduced the Greek hemidrachm (Pl. II, 11), as did the Andhra king, Śrī Yajńa Gotamīputra (Pl. III, 1). Another Śaka chieftain, Chashṭana, about A.D. 115, founded a kingdom in Mālwā, striking hemidrachms like those of Nahapāna on the Greek model, and resembling most nearly the coins of Apollodotos. The coins of both these princes preserve the remains of Greek characters on the obverse, and on the reverse are inscriptions in both Nāgarī1 and Kharoshṭhī, but after the death of Chashṭana the Kharoshṭhī inscription disappears. His successors, known as the Western Satraps, extended his dominions by conquests from the Andhras until they embraced all the flourishing ports on the west coast with their valuable sea-borne trade. Their hemidrachms are found in great abundance throughout Western India: on the reverse of all appears the Buddhist chaitya copied from the Andhra coinage ; the portraits on the obverse are distinctly Scythian in appearance. These coins are of special historical importance ; for in the reign of the fifth satrap, Jīvadāman, dates in the so-called Śaka era,2 recording the year of issue, were added to the inscription (Pl. III, 2); and these are of the greatest service in helping to date events here and elsewhere in India down to the year A.D. 395, when the Guptas conquered the country, and the long and monotonous series of Western Satrap coins came to an end. The Guptas in their turn struck silver of the same type ; and these degenerate descendants of the Greek hemidrachm had a further lease of life, when, imported by the Guptas from their western (Pl. VI, 1) to their central dominions (Pl. VI, 2), they were adopted by several minor dynasties, including the Maukharīs, and were even struck by the invading Huns (Pl. VI, 7).

1 Nāgarī is a later form of Brāhmī script.

2 The Śaka era started in A.D. 78 ; this date is now considered to mark the first year of Kanishka's reign.

Imitation of both Greek and Śaka models is noticeable in the coins of the Hindu state of Odumbara (Pl. III, 3), the modern Pathānkot; both these and the [S. 32] earlier silver coins of the Kuṇindas, who occupied hilly districts near the river Satlej, have legends in Brāhmī and Kharoshṭhī ; both may be assigned to the first century B.C.


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- Pl. IV.]

[S. 33]  THE Yueh-chi,  who drove the Śakas out of Bactria about the year 126 B.C., were destined to create  "one of the greatest empires of ancient India. "At  some date after A.D. 25, one of the five tribes of which they were composed, the Kushāṇas, became supreme, and under the leadership of the head of that tribe, Kujūla Kadphises, they passed south of the Hindu Kush, and overwhelmed the Pahlavas, then ruling in the Kābul valley. The  deposition of Pacores, successor of Gondopharnes to the Pahlava kingdom of Taxila, must have taken place between the years A.D. 45 and A.D. 64, and was effected by  Vima Kadphises, the second Kushāṇa king. Henceforward there is less confusion of dynasties. We  know the names and the chronological order of these powerful Kushāṇa princes Kujūla Kadphises, Vima  Kadphises, Kanishka, Huvishka, Vāsudeva; the names of the three last are even recorded in several inscriptions. It seems to be  now generally accepted that Kanishka was the founder of the so-called Śaka era, and that consequently his reign started in A.D. 78.1 The  chief remaining difficulty is the attribution of certain copper coins bearing the title Kujūla [S. 34] Kadaphes (Kharoshṭhī Kuyula Kaphasa) ; this must remain for the present unsettled.

1 Camb. History of India, Vol. I, p. 583.

The commoner type of these Kadaphes coins deserves special attention (Pl. IV, 2); for the head on the obverse is directly copied from the coins of one of the earlier Roman Emperors, probably Augustus, and bears evidence to that  Roman influence which is so marked in the gold coinage of the Kushāṇas, and which is partly traceable to the intercourse between the Yueh-chi and the Roman Empire before their invasion of India, an intercourse which resulted in Kushāṇa ambassadors being actually sent to the court of Augustus. But the plentiful issues in gold of Vima Kadphises and his two successors, all struck on the same standard as the Roman aureus, are due also to other causes. Exports from India to different provinces of the Roman  Empire, carried by sea from the south, and by the overland routes in the north, were paid for in Roman  gold ; and the aureus had, like the English sovereign in more recent times, at this period acquired that status as a current coin in India, which it already possessed in those parts of Asia more directly under the influence of the imperial power. It was only natural that these Kushāṇa invaders should seek to win acceptance for their new gold currency by placing it on an equality with the popular  Roman gold. There was, moreover, at this time a world shortage of silver: not only do we  find the Pahlava kings striking didrachms in debased silver, but the silver denarius itself was, during the early empire, being reduced in weight and fineness. This accounts for the disappearance of silver and the important place of gold in the Kushāṇa coinage, and is probably also partly the reason  why the Western Satraps struck only small hemidrachms, and these often in inferior silver.

The coins of Kujūla Kadphises are all of copper. Those which he struck in the style of Hermaios have the head of the Greek king on the obverse (Pl. IV, 1), and he used the same type after the  name of Hermaios had disappeared from the inscriptions ; both these types [S. 35] were current in the Kābul province. Another type, akin to the Śaka coins, has a bull on the obverse and a Bactrian camel on the reverse. In one of his inscriptions, for which like his successor he uses both Greek and Kharoshṭhī, he is styled "The Great King, King of Kings, the Son of Heaven."

The gold of  Vima  Kadphises (c. A.D. 45-78) was struck in three denominations, the double stater (Pl. IV,3), the stater or dinara,1 as the Kushāṇas called it (the Roman aureus of 124 grains weight), and the quarter stater. On  the obverse of these appears either the king's head or bust, or the king seated cross-legged on a couch, or, as on a rare stater in the British  Museum, sitting in a two-horsed chariot.  On the copper coins, which are of three sizes, the king is almost invariably standing, with his right hand placing an offering upon a small altar at his side.  The portrait of the king is most realistic, though hardly flattering a corpulent figure with a long heavy face and a large nose, he appears wearing the long Kushāṇa cloak and tall "Gilgit" boots, on his head a conical hat with streamers. Vima Kadphises must have been a zealous convert to the worship of the Hindu god Śiva, for the god or his emblem, the trident battle-axe, is the invariable device on the reverse of all his coins.  The title "Sotēr Megas" on this king's copper coins indicates a relationship between him and the so-called "nameless king" mentioned in the previous chapter, whose coins bear the same legend.

1 Dināra is derived from the Roman denarius. It affords an interesting example of the vicissitudes which so many coin names have experienced. The first letter of the same word d (enarius) now signifies copper in English money.

Kanishka, the real founder of the great Kushāṇa empire, which stretched from Kābul2 to the banks of the Ganges, may  have belonged to another branch of the [S. 36] Yueh-chi he was not, at any rate, nearly related to Vima Kadphises, whose coins are distinct in  many respects from those of Kanishka and his successors.  One marked distinction is the use of Greek legends only by these later kings. The Greek is often very debased, and the reason suggested for its employment is that Khotanese, the native tongue of the Kushāṇas, was first reduced to writing in the Greek character. Kanishka also introduced the Iranian title, Shāonānoshāo "King of Kings" in place of the Greek form Basileōs Basileōn. On the reverse side of the extensive gold (full and quarter staters only) and copper coinage of Kanishka and Huvishka is portrayed a whole pantheon of gods and goddesses ; among them are, the Greek gods, Helios, Herakles (Pl. IV, 8), Selene; the Hindu god, Śiva (Oesho on the coins); the Iranian deities, Athro, "Fire," Oado, the wind god, Ardokhsho and Nāna, and even the great Buddha himself (Pl. IV, 4),  who had previously appeared on a copper coin of Kadaphes. The representation of this "mixed multitude" was probably intended to conciliate the religious scruples of the numerous peoples included within the vast territory of the Kushāṇa Empire. A  standing figure of the king appears on the obverse of Kanishka's gold staters, on the small quarter staters is a half (Pl. IV, 5) or quarter length portrait. On  Huvishka's gold the standing figure never appears ; the portrait is either half length or merely the king's head ; on one coin the king is seated cross-legged ; on another (exceedingly rare) he is riding an elephant (Pl. VI, 7). Vāsudeva closely imitates Kanishka's standing figure type on his gold.

2 The province of Kābul must be reckoned Indian territory from the time of Chandragupta Maurya till the eleventh century. It was reunited to India by the Mughal Emperor Bābur in the sixteenth century and lost again in the middle of the eighteenth.

Kanishka's copper coinage is of two types : one has the usual "standing king" obverse (Pl. IV, 6); and on the rarer second type the king is sitting on a throne. Huvishka's copper is more varied ; on the reverse, as on Kanishka's copper, there is always one of the numerous deities ; on the obverse the king is portrayed (1) riding on an elephant, or (2) reclining on a couch, or (3) seated cross-legged, or (4) seated with arms raised.

[S. 37] Kanishka had been a great patron of Buddhism. Vāsudeva was evidently a convert to Hinduism and an ardent devotee of Śiva. On the reverses of his coins the deity is almost invariably Śiva accompanied by his bull (Pl. IV, 9), but there is a rare copper piece on which the word "Vāsu" in Brāhmī occupies the obverse, and the special symbol of Vāsudeva the reverse. About half a dozen other symbols, which take the place of the monograms  of the Indo-Greeks, appear on the coins of the Kushāṇas.

After the death of Vāsudeva, in A.D. 220, the Kushāṇa power declined, though the descendants of Kanishka held the Kābul valley till A.D. 425.  The coins of these kings, principally of two classes, are degenerate copies of the gold coins of Kanishka and Vāsudeva.  One continues the standing-king type with the Śiva and bull reverse ; the second has the standing-king obverse, with the deity Ardokhsho,  who was by this time identified with the Indian Lakshmī, represented as sitting on a throne and holding a cornucopia on the reverse (Pl. IV, 10). Certain Brāhmī letters,  now unintelligible, seem to have distinguished the coins of successive rulers. It was this latter type, current throughout the Panjāb, that the Gupta kings took as the model for their earliest coinage. In A.D. 425 a tribe of the Little Yueh-chi, under a chief  named Kidāra, replaced the great Kushāṇa dynasty at Kābul ; but they were driven out fifty years later by an inroad of the Ephthalites, or White Huns, and settled in the Chitral district and in Kashmīr. There they struck coins in much alloyed gold and also in copper of this same standing-king and seated-goddess type, and there it survived in a hardly recognizable form in the later coins, until the Muhammadans put an end to the Hindu kingdom in the fourteenth century. Certain kingdoms in the Panjāb also copied the large copper coins of the Kushāṇas : the most striking of these minor coinages is that of the Yaudheyas, whose territory included the modern state of Bahāwalpūr.  One type of their coins shows a female standing figure on the obverse, and a [S. 38] soldier with a Brāhmī inscription on the reverse (Pl. IV, 11). The  earliest coins of Nepāl current from the fifth to the seventh century also show traces of Kushāṇa influence. These large copper pieces give the names of at least four kings, Mānāṅka, Gunāṅka,1 Aṃśuvarman and Jishṇugupta. Various devices are used,  among them the goddess seated cross-legged.  The coins of Aṃśuvarman, of the seventh century, have a cow standing to the left on the obverse and a winged horse with the king's name  on the reverse (Pl. V, 1).

1 It has been suggested with great probability that these are really compound words signifying "the mark or device of Māna, of Guna."

The reigns of Kanishka and Huvishka coincide with the most flourishing period of the great Gandhāra school of sculpture, which had arisen during the rule of the Śaka princes. Hellenistic influence is very strongly marked in that art, and it  may be interesting to consider here briefly what contribution the coins make to the vexed question of the respective parts played by Greek and Indian ideals in moulding its character. A careful inspection of the successive coinages of the Indo-Greeks, the Śakas and the Kushāṇas will show that the strongest influences of pure Greek art had passed away before the reign of Kanishka. With the establishment of Greek rule south of the Hindu Kush, traces of the Indian craftsman's hand begin to appear. As  time goes on these become more apparent, until, in the Kushāṇa period, the whole fabric of the coins, if not entirely Indian, is far more Oriental than Greek. That purely Indian influences were strongly at work is very evident in the cult of Śiva as expressed on the coins of Vima  Kadphises and Vāsudeva for instance ; in the Buddha coins of Kadaphes and Kanishka, and in the typical Indian cross-legged attitude in which Kadphises II and Huvishka are depicted ; and, after all is said, the art was produced in India and must have been largely if not entirely the work of Indian craftsmen. Originality in art does not so much consist in evolving something [S. 39] which has never existed before, but rather in the ability to absorb fresh ideas and transmute them into a  new form. And  thus it was in the time of Kanishka : Indian mysticism allowed itself to be clad in Greek beauty of form. Eastern feeling ran, as it were, into Western moulds to create this wonderful aftermath of Hellenic art, which left an indelible  mark upon  every country of the Orient where the cult of the Buddha penetrated.


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- Pl. V.]

[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- S. 40.]

[40] THE Gupta period, computing it roughly as lasting from A.D. 320 to 480, synchronises with a great revival of Hinduism, and along with it of literature, the arts and sciences. The Gupta monarchs, as is evident from their coins, although orthodox devotees of Vishṇu, were liberal patrons. Kālidāsa and other writers raised literary Sanskrit to a point of perfection never equalled before or since ; the cave frescoes of Ajanta bear witness to the genius of the Gupta painters ; the architecture and sculpture of the period show an equally high level of attainment ; all the greatest Hindu mathematicians and astronomers flourished in the fifth and sixth centuries. It is, in fact, evident that when the Hindu of to-day harks back to the Golden Age of Hinduism, the picture he draws in his mind is coloured by traditions, which have come to him from books or hearsay, of the age of the Guptas, rather than by the fainter glimmerings of more heroic times from the Vedas or the great Epics. So, too, the splendid gold coinage of the Guptas, with its many types and infinite varieties and its inscriptions in classical Sanskrit, now [S. 41] appearing on Indian coins for the first time, are the finest examples of purely Indian art of this kind we possess.

The origin of the Gupta family is obscure. This much seems certain, that the family was not of high caste, perhaps of the lowest. The territory which the Guptas are first found ruling lay near Pāṭaliputra, the modern Patna ; it was much enlarged by one Gupta, on the decline of the Kushāṇa power in its eastern territories ; he was succeeded by a son, Ghaṭotkacha, who assumed the title of Mahārāja, which brings us out into the light of history ; for with the year of his son Chandragupta I's accession, A.D. 320, the Gupta era starts. It may appear strange that this monarch should have issued no coins of his own, but there seems little reason now to doubt that, to his son and successor, Samudragupta, the real founder of the Gupta Empire, should be assigned those coins (Pl. V, 4) which bear the portraits of Chandragupta and his wife Kumāradevī,1 a member of the illustrious Lichchavi family reigning at Vaiśālī2 as early as the seventh century B.C. Samudragupta's conquests, as we learn from his Allahabad pillar inscription, carved out for him an empire which extended north to the base of the Himalayas, east to the Brahmaputra river, south to the banks of the Narbada, and west to the Jumna and the Chambal, with a number of protected states on his frontier between those rivers and the Chināb. On the completion of his conquests he revived an ancient Hindu rite in celebrating the Aśvamedha, or Horse-sacrifice. Now the states under Samudragupta's protection in the Panjāb were the districts of the old Kushāṇa Empire in which the gold coinage current at this time was, as we saw in the last chapter, a degraded form of the Kushāṇa "standing king" and "seated goddess," Ardokhsho-Lakshmī type : it was from these coins (Pl. IV, 10) that the earliest and commonest form of Samudragupta's issues, the Standard type (Pl. V, 2) [S. 42] was imitated. The earliest specimens, though much superior in workmanship, follow their model very closely : the "standing king" still wears Kushāṇa dress ; a Kushāṇa symbol still appears on the reverse ; only, on the obverse, in place of Śiva's trident, appears a Garuḍa-headed standard (Garuḍadhvaja) , emblem of the cult of Vishṇu. This coinage appears to have been introduced about the middle of the reign : such legends as "The invincible one, the lord of the earth" suggest, as indeed is obvious, that only rich plunder made such a varied and plentiful gold currency possible. Samudragupta struck only gold. In such abundance did the Kushāṇa kings mint copper money that it may be said without exaggeration to have remained in circulation in the Panjāb down to the nineteenth century ; in the time of the Guptas the bazars must have been full of it. But for gold there is always an insatiable demand in India, and seven other distinct varieties appeared during this reign. Of these the Archer type, the commonest and most characteristic Gupta coin (Pl. V, 6), struck by at least eight succeeding kings, is a natural development of the Standard type, of which also further modifications are to be found in the Battle-axe and Kācha types. On the obverse of the former a second attendant figure is introduced, and a battle-axe instead of a standard is in the king's  left hand. In the Kācha coins the change takes place on the reverse, where a standing figure of Lakshmī facing left takes the place of the seated goddess : the reverses of the Tiger-slayer and Aśvamedha coins present variations of this motif. The Tiger-slayer type, of which four specimens only are at present known, is the prototype of the Lion-slayer issues of later kings, and represents the king, dressed for the first time in an Indian waistcoat and turban, trampling on a tiger as he shoots it. There remain the Chandragupta I, Aśvamedha (Pl. V, 5) and Lyrist types, all three obviously in the nature of commemorative medals, and perhaps intended as pious gifts (dakshiṇā) to Brahmans. The Lyrist coins (Pl. V, 3), the rarest of the three, [S. 43] merit special attention. Evidently intended as a graceful tribute to the king's accomplishments, he is portrayed in Indian dress, sitting cross-legged on a high-backed rather ornate couch, playing on a vīṇā, or Indian lute. On the reverse appears the goddess Lakshmī seated to left on a mora (wicker stool). The excellent modelling of the king's figure, the skilful delineation of the features, the careful attention to details, and the general ornateness of design in the best specimens constitute this type as the highest expression of Gupta numismatic art.

1 Cf. B.M.C., "Coins of the Gupta Dynasties," Introduction, pp. Ixiv-lxviii.

2 Situated in Tirhut, Bengal.

Chandragupta II Vikramāditya (= Sun of Power), who succeeded to the throne in A.D. 375, extended still further the boundaries of the empire, and at some time during his long reign, which lasted till A.D. 413, removed the capital from Pāṭaliputra to Ayodhyā. His gold coinage is even more abundant than his father's, two of whose types, the Archer and Lion-slayer (Tiger-slayer), he continued ; but on his later Archer coins (Pl. V, 6) the goddess Lakshmī sits upon a lotus instead of a throne ; and in the second type, besides the substitution of a lion for a tiger, there is a change on the reverse, Lakshmī being seated on a lion in various attitudes. The figure of the Lion-slayer on the obverse is sometimes turned to the right and sometimes to the left ; and a unique coin in the Lucknow Museum shows him attacking the lion with a sword. The very rare Couch design of Chandragupta is a derivative of Samudragupta's Lyrist type. In the new Chattra type coins (Pl. V, 7) we have yet a further variant of the Standard type : on the obverse of these, behind the "standing king," appears a boy or dwarf, holding an umbrella (chattra) over his head ; the reverse shows the goddess Lakshmī standing on a lotus. An entirely new design is furnished by this king's Horseman coins (Pl. V, 8). A king on horseback was, as we have seen, employed by the Indo-Greeks, and was characteristic of the issues of the Śakas. The Gupta rendering of the motif is new and spirited. The horse is fully caparisoned, facing in some coins to the right, on others to the left, and the [S. 44] king, either fully clad or sometimes only in a waistcoat, carries either a sword or a bow ; the reverse resembles that of the Lyrist type.

Kumāragupta I (413-455J struck a few very rare Aśvamedha coins, closely resembling those of Samudragupta, except that they are far inferior in execution, and the sacrificial horse on the obverse is standing to the right instead of to the left.

He also continued to issue the Archer, Horseman and Lion-slayer (Pl. V, 9) types of his predecessors. Kumāragupta's Tiger-slayer coins closely resemble their prototype struck by Samudragupta, except that on the reverse the goddess Lakshmī is depicted feeding a peacock. Four new designs appear on the gold of this reign. The Swordsman coins present still another modification of the Standard type, their distinguishing mark being that the king's left hand rests on his swordhilt instead of grasping a standard ; on the reverse is the usual goddess seated on a lotus. Kumāragupta held the god Kārttikeya, one of whose names was Kumāra, in special veneration. The Peacock type (Pl. V, 10) bears evidence to this, for on the reverse the god himself appears riding on his peacock, Paravāṇi, and on the obverse the king is shown standing and feeding a peacock from a bunch of grapes. The rare Elephant-rider type shows the king on the obverse riding on an elephant trampling on a tiger ; and the obverse of the still rarer Pratāpa type, so called from the legend on the reverse, is evidently an adaption from some foreign, probably Roman, model.

Skandagupta, the last of the great Gupta kings, who succeeded his father in A.D. 455, was occupied during the earlier part of his reign in defending his empire against the inroads of the Huns, over whom he appears to have gained a decisive victory. This probably accounts for the comparative scarcity of his gold, of which only two types are known. He continued the favourite device of the Archer with the "seated goddess" reverse, and introduced a new type, on the obverse of which the king appears standing on [S. 45] the left, facing the goddess Lakshmī on the right, with the Garuḍa standard between them. But in this reign the gold coinage underwent an important change of a different character. Hitherto all the Gupta gold pieces had been dināras and followed the weight standard adopted by the Kushāṇa kings from the Romans. All Skandagupta's coins are, on an average, heavier than those of his predecessors ; and certain of his Archer coins evidently represent a new standard of about 142 grains, based, perhaps, on the ancient Hindu suvarṇa ; but along with the increase in weight there is a corresponding depreciation in the purity of the gold.

The successors of Skandagupta Puragupta, Narasiṃhagupta, Kumāragupta II, Chandragupta III and Vishṇugupta, whose relationship and dates are somewhat doubtful, struck gold coins only of the Archer type, showing a gradual deterioration in design and execution. On a few coins of the same type are found portions of names, such as Ghaṭo and Jaya, even more difficult to identify. A certain Prakāśāditya, perhaps identical with Puragupta, struck coins on which the king appears on horseback slaying a lion, a combination of the Horseman and Lion-slayer types (Pl. V, 11).

The inscriptions on Gupta coins are scarcely inferior to the designs in interest : they vary with each successive type and frequently bear a close relation to them. Thus on Samudragupta's Battle-axe issue the king is described as "Wielding the axe of Kṛitānta" (= Yāma, the god of Death), while on his Tiger-slayer coins he is given the title Vyāghraparākramaḥ, "He who has the prowess of a tiger." Sometimes varieties of the same type are marked by a difference in the inscription : no less than seven different legends are found on Kumāragupta I's Archer coins alone. The obverse legend, which encircles the design, usually takes the form of a verse in Upagīti or some other Sanskrit metre, celebrating in highly ornate language the king's glory on the earth and his future bliss in heaven, attained through his merit acquired by sacrifice. On the gold of Samudragupta six such metrical legends appear; [S. 46] Chandragupta II has only three ; while at least twelve are employed by Kumāragupta I. As an example the obverse inscription on one class of Chandragupta II's Chattra coins (Fig. 4) may be taken: "Vikramāditya, having conquered the earth, wins heaven by good works "; or the more ornate legend on a variety of Kumāragupta I's Horseman type: "The unconquered Mahendra, invincible, the moon in the sky of the Gupta line, is victorious." When a verse appears on the obverse, the reverse legend is distinct, consisting of a title, sometimes the repetition of one which appears already in the metrical obverse inscription, such as Apratirathaḥ, "The invincible one," on the Archer coins of Samudragupta. Sometimes the king's name and titles only appear, and then the legend on both obverse and reverse is often, though not always, continuous, but here again the reverse inscription, which appears to the right of the device, consists of a single title. Thus on Chandragupta II's Archer type appears the following : obverse, Deva-Śrī-Mahārājādhirāja-Śrī-Chandraguptaḥ ; reverse, Śrī Vikramaḥ. Entirely distinct in point of their inscriptions from all other Gupta coins are those struck by Samudragupta in memory of his father and mother, known as the Chandragupta I type ; on the obverse appear the two names Chandragupta and Kumāradevī, and on the reverse his mother's family name, Lichchavayaḥ. This relationship was evidently a matter of pride to the striker. Finally, on the obverse of all coins of the Archer and most of the allied types appears vertically, under or near the king's left arm, part of the king's name, as Samudra, Chandra or Kumāra. This vertical method of inscription can be traced back through the later Kushāṇa coins to a Chinese source.1

1 Coins have been found in Khotan with a Chinese legend on the obverse and a Kharoshṭhī inscription on the reverse. Cf. P.M.C., Vol. I, p. 167, Nos. 134, 135.

Whether the symbols which occur regularly on all Gupta gold are anything more than ornaments is doubtful. The silver coinage of the Guptas starts, as has been already noticed, with the overthrow of the Western [S. 47] Satraps by Chandragupta II. His issues follow those of the conquered nation very closely, except that on the obverse appears a figure of Vishṇu's sacred bird, Garuḍa, in place of the chaitya, and the dates are computed in the Gupta instead of in the Śaka era. Obviously these were intended for circulation in the recently annexed provinces. Kumāragupta, while striking large quantities of the Garuḍa-type coins in the west (Pl. VI, 1), extended the silver coinage to the Central Provinces of his Empire. This latter class of money is entirely distinct in character : the head on the obverse is drawn in a crude but quite original manner, and is probably intended as a portrait of the king ; on the reverse the king's devotion to Kārttikeya is once more displayed in the representation of a peacock with outstretched wings. A third class of silver-plated coins, with a rude figure of Garuḍa on the reverse, seems to have been intended for the tributary state of Valabhī.1 Skandagupta continued the Garuḍa and Peacock types (Pl. VI, 2) of his father, and introduced two new ones. The coins, of very base silver, with Siva's sacred bull Nandi on the reverse, were probably current in Kathiawar ; but commoner than any of the preceding are certain ill-shaped pieces with an altar on the reverse. None of the direct descendants of Skandagupta appears to have struck silver, but a few coins of the Peacock type were issued by Budhagupta, a king of Eastern Mālwā, about A.D. 480. The dates which appear on these coins to the left of the obverse head in the Western, and to the right in the Central, issues are frequently defective or illegible. Inscriptions are confined to the reverse, on the Peacock type always a metrical legend, on all other types the king's name accompanied by high-sounding titles.

1 In the Kathiawar peninsula, forming part of what was then known as Surāshṭra.

The copper coinage, which is practically confined to the reign of Chandragupta II, is far more original in design. Eight out of the nine types known to have [S. 48] been struck by him have a figure of Garuḍa on the reverse, usually accompanied by the name of the king, while the obverse is occupied by the bust or head of the king, or by a three-quarter length portrait. In one class this is varied by the reproduction of the gold Chattra type obverse (Pl. V, 13). The tiny coins which constitute the ninth type have the word Chandra in the obverse and a flower vase (kalaśa) on the reverse. Only four copper pieces are at present known of Kumāragupta.

After the death of Skandagnpta, in A.D. 480,1 the Gupta Empire rapidly broke up. The inferiority and comparative scarcity of his own gold coins, the still more debased issues of his brother Puragupta and subsequent kings, and the disappearance of silver money, bear ample evidence to their curtailed territory.

1 Or according to Mr. Parma Lai, " Dates of Skandagupta and His Successors," Hindustān Review, January, 1918, in A.D. 467.

The impression produced by the magnificent coinage of the Guptas upon the peoples of Northern India was undoubtedly as great as that created by the currency of their Kushāṇa predecessors ; but, after the general devastation caused by the inroads of the Huns, few princes could have retained sufficient wealth in their treasuries to imitate it. It is significant then that the most notable imitations were the product of a mint, secured by its remoteness from the ruthless hand of the invader, in Central Bengal. These remarkable and not uncommon coins, with Śiva reclining on his bull Nandi on the obverse, and the goddess Lakshmī seated on a lotus on the reverse (Pl. V, 12), were struck by Śaśāṅka, king of Gauḍa (circ. 600-625), notorious as the assassinator of Harshavardhana's elder brother, and a great "persecutor of Buddhism." In Bengal, too, for many years after the passing of the Gupta Empire, were current flat gold pieces with crude reproductions of Gupta designs, and, with the exception of the word Śrī on the obverse, completely illegible inscriptions. Another rather striking coin connected with the Gupta series, with a standing bull on the obverse, bears the name Śrī Vīrasena, but who Vīrasena was is at present unknown. A modification of the seated goddess motif was preserved on the gold coinage of certain mediaeval Rājpūt kingdoms.

The western silver coinage of the Guptas may have been imitated by some of the powerful Maitraka rulers of Valabhī, who asserted their independence at the end of the fifth century: coins bearing the name Krishṇarāja, at present unidentified, are copied from Skandagupta's bull type. Far more important are the coins struck by Īśānavarman, the Maukhari, and his successors, whose kingdom was in Bihār. These follow the Central Peacock-type, but the head on the obverse, excepting the issue of one king, is turned to the left instead of to the right. These otherwise insignificant coins have a twofold interest: they were copied by the Hun Toramāṇa; and, more important still, the name appearing on the last and most abundant coins of the series is Śilāditya (Pl. VI, 3), who is almost certainly to be identified with the great Harshavardhana of Thāṇeśar and Kanauj, himself a relation of the Maukhari princes. What further strengthens this conjecture is the fact that the dates on the Śilāditya coins are reckoned in a new era, doubtless that which commenced with Harshavardhana's coronation in A.D. 606, whereas the Maukhari kings use the Gupta era. It is striking testimony to the havoc wrought by the Hun invasions that these tiny silver pieces are the only coins1 known to have been issued by this great king, who built up on the ruins of Northern India an empire scarcely less extensive than that of the Guptas.

1 Certain thin silver coins of Sassanian type have been doubtfully ascribed to him. Cf. Rapson, Indian Coins, p. 34, 122.

The copper money of the Guptas was copied by the Hun princes, Toramāṇa and Mihiragula, but left no legacy behind, unless the small coins which record the names of six Nāga princes of Narwar in Northern Rājputāna may have been derived from it.


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- Pl. VI.]

[S. 50] THE centuries which elapsed between that great turning point in Indian history, the Hun invasions, and the coming of the Muhammadans in the twelfth century, suggest several points of comparison with the so-called Dark Ages of European history. It was an age of transition, pregnant with important developments for the future, but individualistic expression, both in art and literature, remained largely in abeyance. This want of originality is particularly marked in the limited coinage of the numerous petty kingdoms which flourished and declined during the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries. The most important movement of the time was the rise of the Rājpūt clans, which were now emerging as the dominant powers in Hindustān. The Bull and Horseman type in the Rājpūt coinage symbolises this new force. In addition to the issues of the Huns and the Rājpūt dynasties will be described the money of Kashmīr, which, protected by its mountainous frontiers, ordinarily remained shut off from the influence of political events which agitated the kingdoms of the plains.


The military occupation of India by the Huns, or Hūṇas, lasted but thirty years. By A.D. 500 Toramāṇa, [S. 51] leader of the tribe known as the White Huns or Ephthalites, had established himself in Mālwā. On his death, two years later, his successor, Mihiragula, completed the conquest of Northern India, fixing his capital at Śākala (Siālkōt) in the Panjāb, but was driven out by a confederacy of Hindu princes under the leadership of Yaśodharman of Mālwā in A.D. 528. He thereupon seized the kingdom of Kashmīr, where he ruled till his death in 542. Probably there were other Hūṇa chiefs who struck coins in India, but the legends on their coins are so fragmentary that their names have not as yet been satisfactorily deciphered. On some of the earliest Hūṇa imitations of Sassanian silver coins, for example, the legend Shāhī Javūvlaḥ appears, but whether this is the name of a king or merely a title is uncertain. No Hūṇa coins show any originality of design. The majority are either imitated from or restruck upon Sassanian silver pieces. The heads of both Toramāṇa and Mihiragula (Pl. VI, 4) on the obverse are coarse and brutal to the last degree ; on the reverse appear the usual Sassanian fire-altar and attendants ; the inscriptions are generally in Nāgarī script. Toramāṇa also copied the silver coinage of the Maukharis (Pl. VI, 7). The copper of both princes show traces of Sassanian and Gupta influence ; the reverses especially recall the fabric of Chandragupta II's copper issues. Kushāṇa copper was imitated by Mihiragula, probably during his reign in Kashmīr.

Although the Huns were mainly instrumental in introducing Sassanian types into India, it seems certain that shortly after their invasion a Sassanian dynasty, or a dynasty acknowledging the suzerainty of Persia, was established in Western India ; for coins with bilingual inscriptions in Pahlavī and Nāgarī have been found, directly imitated from Sassanian issues. One of these bears the name Shāhī Tigin, and the Nāgarī legend reads, "King of India and Persia" Another class with the name Vāsudeva is directly copied from a type of the coinage of the Sassanian Khusrū Parvīz struck in 627 ; but the best known and the most finely [S. 52] executed are the flat copper and silver pieces (Pl. VI, 5) which bear the name Napkī Malik ; but whether this prince was a Persian or a Hun is doubtful.

These Sassanian coins were the prototypes of degenerate base silver pieces which are found in large quantities throughout Rājputāna, and must have served as currency for the early Rājpūt states there for centuries. At first they preserve the thin flat fabric of their models (Pl. VI, 6), but as the head on the obverse and the fire-altar on the reverse become more debased they grow thicker and more dumpy. The curious coins known as Gadhiya Paisa (Pl. VI, 8), which circulated in the same districts and also in Gujarāt, probably down to a later period, also show traces of a Sassanian origin. The silver coins with the legend Śrīmad Ādivarāha on the reverse, and Vishṇu in his boar avatār (Varāha) as the type of the obverse, retain traces of a fire-altar below the inscription. These have been attributed to the powerful Bhoja-deva of Kanauj (840-890), whose family, Gurjara in origin, had formerly ruled in south Rājputāna. Very similar in fabric are those inscribed Śrī Vigraha, assigned to Vigrahapāla I, circ. A.D. 910, of the Bengal Pāla dynasty.

All these debased coins follow the weight standard of their Sassanian originals, which represented the Attic drachma of 67.5 grains, and in inscriptions they are actually called "drammas"


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- S. 50.]

[S. 52] The coins of the various Rājpūt princes ruling in Hindustān and Central India are usually gold, copper or billon, very rarely silver. The gold coins are all "drammas" in weight ; the usual type, which appears to have been struck first by Gāṅgeya-deva Vikramāditya (1015-1040) of the Kalachuri dynasty of Ḍahāla (Jabalpūr), bears the familiar goddess (Lakshmī) on the obverse (Pl. VI, 10), with a slight deviation from the Gupta device, in that the goddess has four instead of two arms ; on the reverse is an inscription giving the king's name in old Nāgarī (Fig. 5). Of the same type [S. 53] are the gold coins of six Chandel kings of Mahoba (Pl. VI, 9) in Bundelkhand (circ. 1055-1280), of the Tomara dynasty of Ajmer and Dehlī (978-1128), and of the Rāṭhor kings of Kanauj (1080-1193). On the conquest of Kanauj, Muhammad of Ghor actually struck a few gold pieces in this style. On the gold of the last three princes of the Kalachuri dynasty of Mahākośala, in the Central Provinces (circ. 1060-1140), a rampant lion is substituted for the seated goddess on the obverse.

The seated bull and horseman, the almost invariable devices on Rājpūt copper and billon coins, were introduced by the Brahman kings of Gandhāra, or Ohind (circ. 860-950), who first used them on silver ; the commonest of these are the issues of Spalapati-deva (Pl. VI, 12) and Samanta-deva. The later coins of the dynasty, however, degenerate into billon. The name of the king in Nāgarī appears along with the bull on the reverse, and on the obverse of the Ohind coins is an inscription hitherto undeciphered, but probably in some Turanian script. Bull and Horseman coins, either copper or billon, were also struck by the Tomara and Chauhan dynasties of Dehlī (Pl. VI, 11), the Rāṭhors of Kanauj, Amṛitapāla Rāja of Budāyūn (Budāon), and the Rājpūt kings of Narwar (1220-1260; Pl. VI, 13). Some of these last, in imitation of the Muhammadan invaders, placed dates in the Vikrama era1 on their coins. The Narwar horseman on later coins is particularly crude in design. The Mahārājas of Kāṅgra continued to strike degenerate Bull and Horseman coins, from 1315 down to 1625. Deviations from this conventional type are rare. There is a unique coin of Śrī Kamara, king of Ohind, with a lion on the obverse and a peacock on the reverse, while three kings of the same dynasty issued copper with an elephant obverse and a lion reverse.

1 The Vikrama era starts in 58 B.C. (See page 24 ante.)

A few copper coins of the Mahākośala kings and of Jayavarma of Mahoba have a figure of Hanuman on the obverse and a Nāgarī legend on the reverse ; and a [S. 54]  similar legend takes the place of the bull on some copper pieces of Asalla-deva and Gaṇapati-deva of Narwar.


The early history of Kashmīr as an independent kingdom is obscure ; trustworthy annals do not begin till its conquest by Mihiragula in the sixth century. From that time down till about 1334, when it was conquered by the Muhammadans, the country was ruled by four successive dynasties. The earliest coins are considered to be those with the head of a king on the obverse and a vase on the reverse, attributed from the inscription Khiṅgi to a certain Khiṅgila of the fifth century. A number of coins of the eighth century, struck by princes of the Nāga dynasty, are known: these are for the most part of very base gold, and were imitated from the standing king and seated goddess issues of the Little Yueh-chi, who, as we have seen, conquered Kashmīr about the year 475, and the name of the original leader of that tribe, Kidāra, still appears written vertically under the king's arm. The workmanship of these degenerate pieces (Pl. VI, 16) is of the rudest, and the devices would be quite unintelligible without a knowledge of their antecedents. Some copper coins give the name Toramāṇa, but the identification of this prince with the famous Hūṇa chief presents many difficulties.

With the accession of Śaṅkara Varma, the first of the Varma dynasty, in A.D. 833, gold practically disappears. From the middle of the ninth century nearly all the kings whose names are recorded in Kalhaṇa's great chronicle history of Kashmīr, the Rājataraṅginī, of the twelfth century, are represented by copper coins, but the uniform degradation of the fabric deprives them of all interest. Among these are the coins of two queens, Sugandhā and Diddā (980-1003) (Pl. VI, 15), the latter chiefly remarkable for an adventurous career. The flourishing state of sculpture and architecture during the eighth and ninth centuries, and the natural artistic skill of the Kashmīri people, [S. 55] suggest that this extreme debasement of the coinage may at least be due as much to a conservative dislike and suspicion of innovation as to a lack of cunning in the engravers. Many parallels could be cited, the classical example being the Attic tetradrachm, the archaic style of which continued unchanged at Athens even during the brilliant age of Pheidias.

The one break in this monotonous Kashmīri series occurs in the reign of the tyrant Harsha-deva (1089-1111), who struck both gold and silver in imitation of the ornate gold of Koṅgudeśa (Pl. VII, 5) in Southern India, with an elephant's head on the obverse. The same king also issued a gold coin with a Horseman obverse and the usual seated goddess on the reverse (Pl. VI, 14).

The sparseness and inferiority of the coinage during the period under discussion in this chapter must be attributed chiefly to the general insecurity, caused by the continual quarrels between the numerous petty states. This state of unrest, together with the previous impoverishment of the country at the hands of the Huns, doubtless accounts for the small output of gold. It must be remembered that mercantile contracts in India have always been carried on largely by notes of hand (hundīs), and in times of disturbance these could be conveyed more safely from city to city than coined money.

The scarcity of silver was due to other causes. At this period the world supply of this metal seems to have been drawn chiefly from Central Asia. The rise of the Arab power and the consequent disturbances in Central Asia interrupted trade between India and the west by land and sea, and must have curtailed, if they did not cut off completely, the import of silver from abroad. So we find the Rājpūt states reduced to employing an alloy, billon, which was almost certainly used by them as a substitute for the more precious metal.

It is a most illuminating fact that gold, formerly exported from India, disappears from the coinage of Europe at about this very period, while silver is reduced to the meagre Carolingian penny standard.


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- Pl. VII.]

[S. 56] THE difficulties of the historian in tracing the fortunes of the numerous clans and dynasties which contended for sovereignty in the south from the third to the fourteenth century have been enumerated by Vincent Smith in his Oxford History of India. Even fewer guide-posts mark the path of the numismatist. Legends on South Indian coins are rare, and, when they occur are short, giving simply the ruler's name or title : dates are rarer still. As in the early coinage of the Greeks, the heraldic symbol or cognizance serves as the stamp of authority; the fish, for example, is so used by the rulers of the Pāṇḍya dynasty. But in India we receive little help from contemporary records; and the habit, which conquerors indulged, of incorporating on their issues the cognizance of vanquished peoples, and the extensive imitation of popular and well-established types, worse confounds the confusion. In assigning coins to dynasties reliance has often to be placed upon the evidence of find-spots, a dubious method at all times, but least unsatisfactory for copper, which seldom circulates freely beyond the country of its origin. Again, the isolation of the southern peninsula is as marked in the development of the coinage as in political history. With the sole exception of the elephant pagodas of the Gajapati dynasty, imitated by Harsha-deva of Kashmīr, there is no certain point of contact between the south and the north after the third century A.D. Finally, the [S. 57] currency of the south has not received that attention from sChoḷars which has been bestowed upon the more attractive money of the north. A careful systematic study, in conjunction with the historical material now available, would doubtless throw considerable light upon it and its strikers.

Certain marked characteristics belong to the coinage of the south, which, in spite of foreign irruptions and their consequent innovations, have persisted until recent times. Gold and copper were the metals used almost exclusively ; of the former there were two denominations, the hūn, varāha or pagoda1 (50 to 60 grains) and the fanam (five to six grains), based respectively on the weights of two seeds, the kaḷanju or molucca bean (Caesalpina bonduc) and the mańjādi (Adenathera pavonina). Copper coins were called kāsu, of which the English corruption is "cash," while the rare silver coins appear to have followed the gold standard. The Travancore silver chakram was equal in weight to the fanam. The gold coin had an independent development in the south, the various stages of which can be marked. The earliest specimens the age of these is doubtful are spherules of plain gold with a minute punch-mark on one side (Pl. VII, 1); these developed into the cup-shaped "padma-ṭaṅkas," stamped with punches, first on one side only, later on both obverse and reverse. Finally came die-struck pieces, of which the small thick Vijayanagar pagodas are the typical southern form. Another characteristic is the preference for tiny coins: this is particularly evident from about the sixteenth century, when copper coins tend to decrease in size, and [S. 58] the fanam acquired a wide popularity ; the silver tārēs of Kalikat (Calicut), which weigh only one or two grains, must be the smallest known currency.1 A great variety of devices and symbols, usually Hindu gods and emblems, also characterizes the copper currency, especially after the fifteenth century, and this feature adds considerably to the difficulty of correct attribution.

1 Hūn is a Hindustāni corruption of honnu, Kanarese for "a half pagoda" ; Varāha is probably derived from the boar (varāha) cognizance on Eastern Chālukya coins; the origin of Pagoda, as introduced by the Portugese and applied to this coin, is obscure, cf. Yule and Burnell, Hobson-Jobson under "Pagoda." The considerable variation in the weight of the pagodas issued by different dynasties may be due simply to different local standards; but if the Chālukyas were, as is supposed, of Gurjara origin, the heavier weights of their coins may reflect the influence of the "dramma."

1 The silver hemitetartemoria of Athens weighed 1.4 grs. each.

The dynasties of the south may be divided into two territorial groups

  1. the kingdoms of the Deccan all the country between the river Narbadā on the north and the Kṛishṇa and Tuṅgabhadrā on the south and the Mysore country ; Telugu was the language of the former, Kanarese of the latter.

  2. The remainder of the peninsula, where Tamil and its cognate dialects were spoken, the country of the Pāṇḍyas, Cheras, Choḷas, Pallavas and their successors.

During the first two centuries of the Christian era, and even after the disappearance of the silver punch-marked coins, perhaps about A.D. 200, the currency of the south consisted chiefly of imported Roman gold2 along with the spherules already mentioned. A certain quantity of Roman silver must also have been in circulation, while the small copper pieces bearing Roman devices and legends one of them seems to give the name of the Emperor Theodosius (A.D. 393) were probably local productions.

2 In 1850 a large number of Roman aurei, amounting, it is said, to five coolie loads, were unearthed near Kannanur : most emperors between Augustus, 29 B C., and Antoninus Pius, A.D. 161, were represented. Cf. "Remarks on Some Lately Discovered Roman Coins," J.A.S.B., 1851, p. 371.

Conjecture has assigned the earliest coins connected with a local dynasty to the Kurumbas, a pastoral tribe inhabiting the present Arcot district. One type of these copper pieces with a two-masted ship on the obverse is evidently derived from the similar Andhra issues struck for the Coromandel coast, and so may belong to the third century A.D. 


[Bildquelle: Brown, C. J.: The coins of India. -- Calcutta : Association Press ; London [etc.] : Oxford University Press, 1922. -- 120 S. XII Pl. ; 19 cm. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/coinsofindia00browuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-11. -- "Not in copyright"  -- S. 56.]

[S. 59] The first great dynasty to dominate Southern India was that of the Chālukyas (a foreign tribe probably of Hūṇa-Gurjara origin), founded by Pulakeśin I in the middle of the sixth century, whose capital was at Bādāmī in the Bījāpūr district. His grandson, Pulakeśin II (A.D. 608-642), became paramount in the Deccan, but the kingdom was overthrown by the Rāshṭrakūṭas in 753. In 973, however, a Chālukya prince, Tailapa, retrieved the fortunes of his family and founded the Western Chālukya kingdom with its capital at Kalyāṇi, and this lasted till 1190, after which the Chālukyas of the west, overthrown by the Hoysaḷas, became petty chiefs. Meanwhile, in the middle of the seventh century another dynasty, known as the Eastern Chālukyas, had been established by Vishṇuvardhana, brother of the great Pulakeśin II, in Kaliṅga with its capital at Veṅgī, which lasted till the eleventh century, when it was overthrown by the Choḷas.

The earliest coin assignable to a Chālukya prince is a base silver piece of Vishṇuvardhana (615-633), with a lion device and the king's title in Telugu, Vishamasiddhi, "Successful in scaling the inaccessible places," on the obverse, and a trident flanked by two lamps on the reverse. Certain pagodas, fanams and copper coins, perhaps of an earlier date, from the appearance on them of the boar, the cognizance of the Chālukyas, have been conjectured to belong to that dynasty. To the Eastern Chālukya princes, Śaktivarman (1000-1012) and Rājarāja (1012-1062), belong large flat gold pieces, also depicting the boar symbol, but with blank reverses (Pl. VII, 4).

The curious cup-shaped "padma-taṅkas" (lotus taṅkas) were possibly first struck by the Kādambas (Pl. VII, 2), inhabiting Mysore and Kanara. Similar coins, but with a lion or a temple in place of the lotus and legends in old Kanarese, were struck by the Western Chālukya kings, Jayasiṃha, Jagadekamalla and Trailokyamalla, of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

In 1913, 16,586 of these cup-shaped coins were unearthed [S. 60] at Kodur in the Nellore district, and this find shows that the type was subsequently adopted by the Telugu-Choḷa chiefs of the Nellore district in the thirteenth century.

The Hoysaḷa chiefs, who rose to paramount power under Ballāḷa II on the ruins of the Western Chālukya kingdom, had for their cognizance a maned lion. Some heavy gold coins with old Kanarese legends, which bear that emblem, have, therefore, with probability been assigned to them. On one of these appears the interesting inscription, Śrī Taḷakāḍa gonda, "He who took the glorious Taḷkād," the capital of the old Koṅgu-Chera kingdom.

There are numerous South Indian coins belonging to the twelfth century which afford no certain clue to their strikers. Among these the following have been tentatively assigned to petty dynasties who succeeded to the territories of the Chālukyas : to the Kākatīya or Gaṇapati dynasty of Waraṅgal (1110-1323), pagodas, fanams and copper coins with a couchant bull on the obverse and incomplete Nāgarī legends on the reverse; to Someśvara, one of the Kalachuri chiefs of Kalyāṇa (1162-1175), pagodas and fanams with the king's titles in old Kanarese on the reverse, and on the obverse a figure advancing to the right; to the Yādavas of Devagiri (1187-1311), a pagoda and a silver coin, bearing a kneeling figure of Garuḍa on the obverse.

There remain to be noticed the coins of three dynasties. The original home of the Gajapatis, "Elephant-Lords," was Koṅgudesa Western Mysore with the modern districts of Coimbatore and Salem. About the ninth century these Chera kings fled before the invading Choḷas to Orissa, and there were coined the famous "Elephant pagodas" (Pl. VII, 5) and fanams, which Harsha-deva of Kashmīr ( A.D. 1089) copied. The scroll device on the reverse also appears on some of the anonymous boar pagodas attributed to the Chālukyas. To Anantavarman Chodaganga, a member of that branch of the Ganga dynasty of Mysore who settled in Kaliṅga [S. 61] (Orissa), and ruled there from the sixth to the eleventh century, are assigned fanams with a recumbent bull, conch and crescent on the obverse, and Telugu regnal dates on the reverse. The gold coins of two of the later Kādamba chiefs of Goa, Vishnu Chittadeva (circ. 1147) and Jayakeśin III (circ. 1187), are also known; these bear the special Kādamba symbol, the lion passant on the obverse, and a Nāgarī legend on the reverse. One interesting inscription of the latter runs as follows : "The brave Jayakeśideva, the destroyer of the Mālavas who obtained boons from the holy Saptakoṭīsa (i.e. Śiva).


[S. 61] The Tamil states of the far south first became wealthy owing to their foreign sea-borne trade. Tradition has defined with some exactness the territories held by the three principal races in ancient times; the Pāṇḍyas inhabited the modern Madura and Tinnevelly districts, the Choḷas the Coromandel Coast (Choḷamaṇḍalam), and the Chera or Keraḷa country comprised the district of Malabar together with the states of Cochin and Travancore. Although their frontiers varied considerably at different periods, this distribution is sufficiently accurate for a study of their coin types.

Nevertheless history affords but few glimpses in early times of these peoples : the Pallavas, as is evident from inscriptions, a native pastoral tribe akin to the Kurumbas, were the first dominant power in the extreme south. At first Buddhists, but later converted to Brahmanical Hinduism, during the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries they extended their territories from their capital, Kāńchī, the modern Conjeeveram, until these included even Ceylon ; but they suffered considerably from wars with the Chālukyas, and were overwhelmed in the ninth century by the Choḷas and Pāṇḍyas. It was under the patronage of the Pallavas that South Indian architecture and sculpture began in the sixth century. The earlier Pallava coins, a [S. 62] legacy from the Andhras, are indistinguishable from those of the Kurumbas ; later pagodas and fanams bear the Pallava emblem, the maned lion, either on obverse or reverse (Pl. VII, 8),1 but the legends remain undeciphered.

1 This attribution is somewhat doubtful.

The Pāṇḍyas had a chequered career : at first independent, then subject to the Pallavas, they emerge in the ninth century to fall once more during the eleventh and twelfth centuries under the domination of the Choḷas. In the thirteenth century they were the leading Tamil state, but gradually sank into local chieftains. The earliest Pāṇḍya coins retain the ancient square form, but are die-struck, with an elephant on the obverse and a blank reverse ; later coins have a peculiar angular device on the reverse ; others of a still later period display a diversity of emblems, such as wheels, scrolls and crosses. The Pāṇḍya coins, assigned to a period from the seventh to the tenth century, are gold and copper, and all bear the fish emblem adopted by the later chiefs (Pl. VII, 3): the innovation is supposed to nark a change in religion from Buddhism to Brahmanism. The fish appears sometimes singly, sometimes in pairs, and sometimes, especially on the later copper coins, in conjunction with other symbols, particularly the Choḷa standing figure and the Chālukyan boar. The inscriptions on these, such as Soṇāḍu koṇḍān, "He who conquered the Choḷa country," and Ellān-talaiy-āṇāṇ,"He who is chief of the world," are in Tamil, but the intermingling of the symbols, evident marks of conquest, makes any certain attribution difficult.

Madura, the later capital of the Pāṇḍyas, was captured by 'Alāu-d-dīn in 1311, and an independent Muhammadan dynasty ruled there from 1334 to 1377, after which it was added to the Vijayanagar kingdom.

The Choḷas were supreme in Southern India from the accession of Rājarāja the Great in 985 down to 1035, during which period they extended their conquests to the Deccan and subdued Ceylon. After some years [S. 63] of eclipse they rose again under Rājendra Kulottuṅga I (acc. 1074), who was related to the Eastern Chālukyas of Veṅgī. The Choḷa power declined in the thirteenth century. The earlier coins of the dynasty, before 985, are gold and silver pieces, portraying a tiger seated under a canopy along with the Pāṇḍya fish (Pl. VII, 6); the names inscribed on them have not been satisfactorily explained. The later class of Choḷa coins, all copper, have a standing figure on the obverse and a seated figure on the reverse, with the name Rāja Rāja in Nāgarī. This type spread with the Choḷa power, and was slavishly copied by the kings of Ceylon (1153-1296; cf. Pl. VII, 7), and its influence is also noticeable on the earlier issues of the Nāyaka princes of Madura and Tinnevelly.

Only one coin has been attributed to a Chera dynasty. A silver piece in the British Museum, with Nāgarī legends on both sides (Pl. VII, 9), belongs to the Keraḷa country, the extreme southern portion of the western coast, and has been assigned to the eleventh or twelfth century.


[S. 63] The great mediaeval kingdom of Vijayanagar was founded in 1336 by five brothers as a bulwark against Muhammadan conquest, and continued to flourish under three successive dynasties until the battle of Tālikota, 1565 ; the members of a fourth dynasty ruled as minor chiefs at Chandragiri until the end of the seventeenth century.

The small, dumpy pagodas of Vijayanagar, with their half and quarter divisions, set a fashion which has lasted to the present age. Coins, gold or copper, of more than twelve rulers are known : on these appear a number of devices, the commonest being the bull, the elephant, various Hindu deities, and the fabulous "gaṇḍabheruṇḍa," a double eagle holding an elephant in each beak and claw. A pagoda on which a god and goddess appear sitting side by side (Pl. VII, 12) was struck both by [S. 64] Harihara I (acc. 1336) and Devarāya.1 The great Kṛishṇaraya, during whose reign (1509-1529) the Empire was at its height, was evidently a devotee of Vishṇu. He struck the popular "Durgi pagoda,"2 on which that god is portrayed holding the discus and conch (Pl. VII, 11). Other coins of the dynasty which acquired fame were the "Gandikata pagoda" of Ramarāya (d. 1565), which had a figure of Vishṇu standing under a canopy on the obverse; and the "Veṅkaṭapati pagoda," struck by one of the rajas, named Veṅkaṭa, of the fourth dynasty. On the obverse of this coin Vishṇu is standing under an arch, and on the reverse is the Nāgarī legend, Śrī Veṅkaṭeśvarāya namaḥ "Adoration to the blessed Veṅkateśvara," Veṅkateśvara being the deity of Veṅkaṭādri, a sacred hill near Chandragiri. The so-called "three swami pagoda," introduced by Tirumalarāya (circ. 1570), displays three figures, the central one standing, the other two seated. These are said to be either Lakshmaṇa with Rāma and Sīta, or Veṅkaṭeśvara with his two wives. The legends on Vijayanagar coins are either in Kanarese or Nāgarī ; the latter is most commonly used, by the later kings exclusively.

1 The attributes of the two seated figures are sometimes those of Śiva, sometimes those of Vishṇu ; there is some difficulty in distinguishing between the coins of Devarāya I (1406-1410) and Devarāya II (1421-1445).

2 Durgi belonging to durga, a hill fort. The coins are said to have been struck at Chitaldrūg.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Nāyaka princes of Tanjore, Madura and Tinnevelly and the Setupatis of Rāmnaḍ, originally in subjection to Vijayanagar, gradually assumed independence. The earlier coinage of the Madura Nāyakas bears the names of the chiefs on the reverse in Tamil, but their later coins were struck in the name of Veṅkaṭa, the "pageant" sovereign of Vijayanagar. Somewhat later, probably, begin series of copper coins both of Madura and Tinnevelly, with the Telugu legend Śrī Vīra on the reverse and a multitude of varying devices on the obverse; these include the gods Hanuman and Ganesh, human [S. 65] figures, the elephant, bull, lion, a star, the sun and moon, etc. A similar copper series, with double or single crossed lines on the reverse, are found in large quantities in Mysore. Yet another series with the same reverse, also found in Mysore, bears on the obverse the Kanarese numerals from 1 to 31.

With the extinction of the Vijayanagar kingdom the number of petty states minting their own money rapidly increased. For example, the "Durgi pagoda" continued to be struck by the Nāyakas of Chitaldrūg from 1689 to 1779 ; the god and goddess type was continued by the Nāyakas of Ikkeri (1559-1640), and later on at Bednūr (1640-1763). On the conquest of the latter city in 1763 by Ḥaidar 'Alī, the type was for a short time struck by him with addition of the initial letter of his name "hē" on the reverse ; but this initial soon became the obverse and the year and date in Persian occupied the reverse. So also the East India Company issued, from Madras, pagodas of the "three swami" type, and both British and Dutch Companies struck "Veṅkaṭapati pagodas," but with a granulated reverse. These latter Company coins acquired the name "Porto Novo pagodas," from one of their places of issue. The famous "Star pagoda" was of this type, with the addition of a star on the reverse. Likewise the Nizāms of Haidarābād and the Nawābs of the Karnatic struck pagodas of various types, those of the Nawāb Safdar 'Alī are of the "Porto Novo" type with an "Ain" on the granulated reverse.

At Bālāpūr, Qolār (Kolār), Gūtī and Ooscotta were struck fanams, and at Imtiyāzgarh pagodas, with Persian inscriptions in the name of the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shāh, and a small copper coinage in the name of 'Ālamgīr II was in general circulation in parts of the peninsula ; small silver coins of a similar type are also known. An exceedingly interesting fanam, as well as some copper pieces, bear the Nāgarī legend, Śrī Rāja Śiva on the obverse, and Chhatrapati, "Lord of the umbrella," on the reverse, and have with great probability been assigned to the great Marāṭhā chief, Śivajī.

[S. 66] The coinage of the old Keraḷa country, the Malabar coast, was, in 1657, the Portugese Viaggio di Vincenzo Maria informs us, in the hands of the rulers of four states, Kannanur, Kalikat, Cochin and Travancore. It is distinguished from that of the rest of the peninsula by its large employment of silver, the most remarkable among these silver coins being the tārēs, said to have been struck in Kalikat, which have a śaṅkha shell on the obverse and a deity on the reverse, and weigh only from one to two grains each. The same device, a śaṅkha shell, appears on the silver puttans of Cochin, struck both by the Dutch and the native rulers, and also on the old and modern silver vellis of Travancore. Various gold fanams were current in Travancore before the nineteenth century, the oldest, known as the rasi, also has a śaṅkha on the obverse, and is closely allied to the "Vīra rāya" fanams of Kalikat. During the eighteenth century the copper coinage of Travancore was known as the "Anantan kāsu "; on the obverse was a five-headed cobra, and on the reverse the value of the coin, one, two, four or eight "cash" written in Tamil. In the years 1764 and 1774 the Moplah chief of Kannanur, 'Alī Rāja, struck double silver and gold fanams with Persian inscriptions, recording his name and the date (Pl. VII, 13). The Muhammadan coinage of Mysore is reserved for a later chapter.

Zu: 2. Kapitel VII bis X