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ACADEMIC YEAR: 2008 – 2009


PROJECT GUIDE: Mr. Sunil AlmeIda























History is a study of our past and coins
contributed a great deal to it. It may be pertinent to point
out that our ancient Indian script Brahmi was deciphered
by James Prinsep in 1837 AD on the basis of study of Indo-
Greek bilingual coins, the same way the Egyptian
hieroglyphic script was analysed by French scholars after
studying the multilingual inscription found on Rosetta

The study of ancient and medieval Indian coins brought
to light the names of many kings about whose existence
there was no literary or inscriptional evidence. For
example the recent discovery of Kotalingala coins in the
Karimnagar district of Andhra brought out the coins of
unknown Kings namely Gobada, Narana, Kamvayasa ,
Sirivayasa and Samagopa. These kings ruled part of
Andhra after the fall of Mauryan empire and they
preceded Satavahanas. It is also true of medieval period
when kings like Yildis and Qubacha ruled parts of
Northwestern India during the rule of some Delhi sultans.
These kings were known to the historians as governors of
those provinces but their coins prove that they were
independent rulers. Same is true of many such kings in
different parts of India who came to be known through
their coin finds.

The coins also helped in corroborating the information
provided in puranas. Vayu, Vishnu, Brahmanda,
Baghavata and Matsya puranas mention about
Satavahana kings and coins of some of those kings found
in different parts of Deccan support the puranas. But facts
provided by coins seem to be more accurate than puranas.
For example name of the first king of this dynasty is
mentioned variously as Chismaka, Sindhuka, Balyhita,
Simuka etc in different Puranas but coins name him as
Chimuka which must be correct since they were issued
during his rule while puranas were written centuries later
and hence many inaccuracies crept into them. Coins of
some rulers of the family were found which were missed
out in the Puranas namely Kumba and Karna. Hence coins
help in reconstructing our ancient history much more
accurately than what is possible from other sources.

The coins also help historians in ascertaining the
religious leanings of those kings. Though Kushan kings
helped Buddhism, their leanings were towards Hinduism,
much more so with Shaivism. Their coins depict Siva, Bull
and Trisula. The symbols on coins such as tree in railing,
arched hill and elephant suggest the ruler was a Buddhist.
Such symbols on some of the Satavahana kings clearly
demonstrate their faith. Though majority of later rulers of
Vijayanagara dynasty favoured Vaishnavite faith and
some kings even used 'namam'symbol on their coins, the
early rulers leaned toward shaivism. The first dynasty
kings of Vijayanagar namely Sangama were shaivites and
their coins depicted Bull, Umamaheshwara and Durga.
Vaishnavite symbols found on coins of Vijayanagara rulers
were: Hanuman, Garuda, Venkateshwara , Balakrishna,
Srirama etc. It was no surprise that Tirupathi became very
popular during the rule of later Vijayanagar kings and
continues to be so.

The coins also point out the economic conditions of those
times. Delhi sultans namely Alauddin and Qutbuddin of
Kalji dynasty issued a wide variety of gold and silver coins
in large numbers due to their treasury being full with the
loot and plunder of southern kingdoms. Whereas scanty
coins of base metals issued by their successors suggest
chaotic economic conditions of that period. Coins found in
hoards and excavations reveal the trade of those times.
For instance punch marked coins discovered in hoards in
Andhra revealed that a significant proportion of those
coins belonged to the north suggesting that there was a
brisk trade between north and south in the country more
than two thousand years ago. Similarly Roman coins were
found in Andhra and other areas mixed with coins of local
kings implying that there was maritime trade during those
years with Rome.

Coins also help in finding out the personal traits of
individual kings who issued them. For instance
Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, who was ahead of his times,
issued coins in the name of his dead father whom he killed
in remorse in his early years of rule. His successor Firoz
brought out coins in the name of his dead son. Some Delhi
sultans were megalomaniacs, for example Alauddin called
himself the second Alexander and Qutbuddin declared his
faith in Islam in grandiose terms and called himself ' the
supreme head of the religion of Islam, Khalifa of the lord
of heaven and earth'.

Some kings issued coins of his predecessor by putting a
counter mark on it which helps in finding out who followed
whom. For example Gautamiputra Satakarni issued coins
of Nahapana with his counter mark corroborating the
historical evidence which suggested that he defeated him.

All of us now use only token currency but in India such
token currency was issued by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq 700
years ago. It was of course a failure since people would
not accept it. This was a token coin made of brass and he
wanted people to accept it as equivalent to silver which
was 50 times costlier than brass. The idea of token
currency then was brilliant but being way ahead of times
ended in a fiasco.

The chemical analysis of the coins reveal the metals
which were available then. Billion coins were issued by
many medieval kings and this is an alloy of silver and
copper. Lead coins were issued by Andhra Kings more
than 2000 years ago and they look well even today
proving that our ancestor’s metallurgical knowledge of
lead alloys was commendable.

To conclude the study of coins is very useful for the
reconstruction of our ancient Indian history. The coins
reveal many interesting facts about the kings, their
dynasties, religious beliefs, personal traits and economic
conditions etc of those times.

The following are the principles of Punch Marked Coin’s:

a) The earliest coin of the India have only figures,
devices or symbols. They were in various forms like
hills, trees, birds, animals, reptiles, human figures,
floral and geometrical patterns, religious symbols
etc. they did not contain and inscription.
b) The coins of ancient period have the shapes of the

conceivable liner, geometrical forms, round, oval and
elliptical. They bear the stamps from the one to five
c) The coins enable us to isolate the coins of one area
from those of another one.
d) The early silver punch marked coins have been found
in large numbers, scattered all over the country.
e) These coins are found only in a particular area or

locality. Some or probably all of the Mahajanpadas
might have been using metal as currency and money
during the later vedic period.

The states which issued the Punch Marked Coin’s were:-

2) Surasena
3) Uttar Panchala
4) Vatsa
5) Kasi
6) Magadha
7) Gandhara

8) Vanga
9) Malla
10) Kalinga.

It is very difficult to know today where the concept of
coinage first evolved, but based on available evidences, it
appears that the concept of money (as coins, which by
definition here would be a piece of metal of defined
weight stamped with symbol of authority for financial
transaction), was conceived by three different civilizations
independently and almost simultaneously. Coins were
introduced as a means to trade things of daily usage in
Asia minor, India and China in 6th century BC. Most
historians agree that the first coins of world were issued
by Greeks living in Lydia and Ionia (located on the western
coast of modern Turkey). These first coins were globules
of Electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.
These were crude coins of definite weight stamped with
incuse punches issued by the local authorities in 650 BC.

Most likely the first coins of India were minted just before
5th century BC in northern and central India. Although,
few historian have suggested (based on vedic records)
that India minted perhaps the first coins of the world
which were introduced even earlier than Lydian/Ionian
coins, in 8th century BC; most scholars do not agree with
this theory. Both, literary and archaeological evidence
confirm that the Indians invented coinage somewhere
between 5th to 6th century BC. A hoard of coins
discovered at Chaman Huzuri in 1933 contained 43 silver
punch-marked coins (the earliest coins of India) with
Athenian (coins minted by Athens city of Greece) and
Achaemenian (Persian) coins. Bhir (Taxila) hoard
discovered in 1924 contained 1055 punch-marked coins in
very worn out condition and two coins of Alexander in
mint condition. These archaelogical evidences clearly
indicate that the coins were minted in India long before
4th century BC i.e. before Greeks advanced towards India
(Alexander's invasion of Persia and India). Panini wrote
Ashtadhyayi in 4h-5th century BC in which he has
mentioned Satamana, Nishkas, Sana, Vimastika,
Karshapana and it's various sub-divisions to be used in
financila transactions. Thus coins are known in ancient
Indian literature from 500 BC. There is also a strong belief
that silver as a metal which was not available in Vedic
India (pre 600 BC), became abundantly available by 500-
600 BC. Most of the silver came from Afganistan and
Persia as a result of international trade.

The earliest coins of India are commonly known as punch-
marked coins. As the name suggests, these coins bear the
symbols of various types, punched on pieces of silver of
specific weight. Interestingly earliest Indian coins have no
defined shapes and they were mostly uniface. Secondly,
these coins lack any inscriptions written in contemporary
languages and almost always struck in silver. These
unique characters makes early Indian coins very different
than their contemporaries in Greece. Many early
historians believed that concept of coinage was
introduced in India by Greeks. But unlike Indian punch-
marked coins, Greek coins had inscriptions, they were
round in shape, were stamped on both the sides and
minted using silver, electrum and gold too. Today we are
certain that the concept of coinage was invented in India
independent of foreign influence which imparted the
unique characteristics to these punch-marked coins, not
seen in any other coins of the ancient world.

Punch-marked coins are marked with 1-5 (and sometimes
more) marks representing various symbols. Two well
known numismatists, D. B. Spooner and D.R. Bhandarkar
after careful study independently concluded that the
punching of various symbols representing animals, hills,
tree and human figures followed a definite pattern and
these coins were issued by royal authority.

upper Ganga (Ganges).
most of these were the
small states under
hereditary monarchs and
First coin of India (?) few republics. These small
Before 5th Century BC and large states called
Minted in Madhyadesha?, Janapadas and
found near Mathura Mahajanpadas. About 6th
Silver unit Seven punch century BC, sixteen
marks Mahajanapadas or
Weight: 7.14 gm kingdoms rose to pre-
imminence in India.
In Rig-Vedic period (Rig According to ancient text
Veda is the first out of the Anguttara Nikayas they
four Vedas which contains were as follows: Anga,
scriptures and hymns in Magadha, Kashi, Koshala,
Sanskrit, probably Vajji, Malla, Vatsa, Chedi,
composed in 8th-10th Kuru, Panchala, Matsya,
century BC), the small Surasena, Ashvaka,
kingdoms came into Avanti, Gandhar and
existance all over the Kamboja. One of the
suncontinent from Kabul earliest coins of india were
(Kubha in Sanskrit) to
minted by following

1) Ganga River valley : Gandhara
Kashi (Pushkalavati)
Brij (?)
4) Southern India
2) Upper Ganga river (Godavari and
valley : Narmada river valley):
Kuru-Panchala. Ashmaka or Ashvaka
and Avanti

3) Indus river valley :
Takshashila (Taxila) &

Each of the kingdom have issued distinct type of silver
coins to facilitate the trade. Shown above is possibly the
earliest coin of Indian subcontinent which was found near
Mathura. This rectagular coin, made of almost pure silver,
was issued in central India or Madhyadesha. It has seven
distinct punch marks including central `pentagon
enclosing a sphere' punch mark. None of those marks
show much resemblance to punch marks routinely seen on
coins of other Janapadas. Three other punch-marked coins
of India minted by Taxila, Koshala and Ashmaka Janapadas
are shown below. These are some of the earliest coins of
the India.

grams of silver). A `Ratti'
is equivalent to 0.11 gms
which is the average
weight of a Gunja seed (a
Koshala Janapada
bright scarlet colored
600-470 BC
seed). Subsidiary
Silver, One and Half
denominations of
Karshapana ?
Karshapana like half
Weight: 4.68 gm ( 48 ratti)
Karshapana (16 ratti),
Reference: Series III,
quarter Karshapana (8
Group A of Hardaker, Rare
ratti) and 1/8 of
Ancient Indian coinage Karshapana (4 ratti) were
was based on also minted. Shown below
`Karshapana' unit that is a fine example of 1/8th
consists of 32 rattis (3.3 of Karshapana which is as
usual uniface. On obverse seen on two ends of
is septa-radiate single Satamana bar).
punch (identical to what is

(modern Gujrath). Shown
below is a beautiful
example of one of the
earliest coins of India
Taxila Janapada
minted by Ashmaka
5th Century BC
kingdom in southern India
silver, 1/8th Karshapana
or Deccan. This coin which
Septa-radiate single punch
is considered as double
Mark, Uniface
Karshapana, is from a
Weight: 1.4 gm (4 ratti)
hoard that surfaced in
The Pradyota kings of
village of Ashmaka in
Avanti had a large
Maharashtra in 90s.
kingdom covering central
Although this type was
and western India. It was
first published by Elliot in
prosperous nation due to
the 1870s, very few
the commerce with
specimens have been
Mesopotamia through a
around until the recent
sea port at Bharoch
BC. He annexed kingdom
of Anga (east Bihar) and
married princesses of
Koshala and Vaishali
thereby expanding his
Ashmaka Janapada
kingdom to the borders of
600-350 BC
Nepal. He was a very
Silver, Double Karshapana
efficient administrator and
Pulley Type, Uniface,
built the city of RajGriha
Weight: 6.7 gm.
(Rajgir in Bihar). Both,
Most of these Janapadas
Goutam Buddha and
were subsequently
Mahavir Jain preached
absorbed into Magadha
their doctrines during his
empire (ruled by
reign. His son Ajatshatru
Saisunaga dynasty)
(494-462 BC) defeated
between 600-321 BC.
many of his adversaries
Pradyotas of Avanti were
including humbling his
defeated by Saisunaga in
uncle Presanjit of Koshala.
400 BC. The most
He founded the city
remarkable king of
Pataliputra (modern
Magadha was Bimbisara
Patna) which was
(also called Shrenika) who
metropolis of ancient India
ascended on throne in 545
for next 4 centuries.

In ancient India during 600-321 BC, many Janapadas
issued coins with only one symbol like Lion (Shursena of
Braj), humped bull (Saurashtra) or Swastika (Dakshin
Panchala). Four symbol coins were issued by Kashi, Chedi
(Bundelkhand), Vanga (Bengal) and Prachya (Tripura)
Janapadas. Five symbol punch marked coins were first
issued by Magadha which were continued during Mauryan
expansion. Shown below is a very rare coin of Kalinga
Janapada which is in mint condition. This is from a recent
hoard which supposedly surfaced from river delta; about
half square and rest circular in shape.

huge army of 200,000
infantry and 3000
elephants (supported by
Greek evidence), Nandas

Kalinga Janapada had to resort to heavy

500-350 BC taxation which was

Silver, half Karshapana detested by people. They

Uniface found a new leader in

Weight: 1.6 gm Chandragupta Maurya

Very Rare (321-297 BC) who
eventually with the help of
Ajatshatru was followed
Taxilian Bramhin Kautilya
by many kings who
or Chankya overthrew the
eventually lost this
Nanda ruler and laid the
kingdom to the family of
Nandas. To maintain the
foundation of illustrious
dynasty of Maurya.


subcontinent. Soon after
the death of Alexander,
his empire was divided
among his generals. One
Mauryan Empire (Asoka of his general Seleucus
the great?) assumed the title of King
310-181 BC in 312 BC. He invaded
Silver Karshapana India but was repelled by
Obverse: 3 deities and Chandragupta Maurya.
peacock Seleucus surrendered a
Reverse: Peacock on hill large part of Gandhara
Weight: 3.35 gm (32 (modern Afganistan and
rattis) Pakistan). Seleucus sent
Reference: GH, Series VII an ambassador named
Scarce. Magasthenes to
Most likely, emperors of Chandragupta's court, who
Maurya dynasty ruled the has written detailed
largest empire that ever account of might and
existed in the Indian pomp of Mauryan empire.
Chandragupta (according emperor. Asoka is the
to Jain scripture converted greatest emperor of
to Jainism and spent his Muaryan dynasty and
last days at Shravan most certainly the
Belgola in southern India) greatest figure in the
was followed by his son Indian history. He was an
Bindusara who increased ambitious ruler who
his empire by annexing annexed a large part of
Deccan. His son Asoka southern and eastern
seized Pataliputra after India, including the
his father's death and kingdom of Kalinga
enthroned himself as (modern Orissa)

Shown above is a an interesting silver Karshapana
(mentioned in ancient Sanskrit treatise Manu smruti being
32 rattis in weight) minted by Mauryan authorities. The
most striking feature of this punch-marked coins is
presence of 3 deities, struck from single punch. It is very
rare to see any human figure or deities on punch-marked
coins. Shown below is another coin minted by Mauryan
emperor which shows sun, the symbol of Mauryan.

Mauryan Empire
310-181 BC
Silver, Punch-marked coin
Weight: 2.3 gm
During Asoka's reign, the empire. Although, Kalinga
Mauryan empire reached war proved to be turning
zenith covering an area point and produced far
from modern Afganistan in reaching consequence in
west to Assam in east and the history of India and
in north from Himalayas to whole eastern world.
modern Andhra Pradesh in Asoka came under
southern India. These influence of Buddhist
imperial punch marked philosophy and later sent
coins have been his son (or brother?)
discovered in all the Mahendra to Sri Lanka
regions which cover who converted king
modern India, Pakistan Devanampiya Tissa and
and Afganistan, truly eventually the entire
representing the glory of island country to
the mighty Mauryan Buddhism.

Emperor Asoka drew up a code of laws noted for their
humanity and erected hundreds of stone pillars and
magnificent Buddhist Stupas (dome shaped monuments).
It is believed that Asoka erected almost 85,000 stupas
and pillars all carved in stone with teachings of Buddhism
engraved on them. After two thousand years, we can still
see ruins of them in most states of india including Gujrat,
Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Tamilnadu. Some of Asoka's
edicts , carved on pillars and rocks, form the earliest
known epigraphs in the subcontinent. These pillars are
made out of shafts of sandstone and display Buddhist
symbols such as the wheel and the lion. These pillars are
some of India's earliest major stone sculptures.

The great Stupa at Sanchi is perhaps the finest surviving
relic of the Mauryan empire. This great stupa is 54 feet in
height and surrounded by exquisitely carved stone
railings and four gateways. These elaboratley carved
gateways depicts events in life of Buddha and also
lifestyle of people of that era. A famous Lion-Capital (four-
lion pillar which is shown above) gleams in polished white
sandstone realistically represents the artistic
achievements of Indian artists and patronage of their
masters. This Lion-Capital that Asoka erected at Sarnath
(in modern madhya Pradesh) has become the national
emblem of modern republic of India. All the coins and
currency notes of modern India have this four-lion symbol
on it. The Mauryan Empire is famous for its great
achievements in art, culture architecture and literature.
The classics of Indian literature, such as the Arthashastra
of Kautilya (a treatise for kings about ruling a state) and
the famous Kama Sutra by Vatsayan (unfortunately, today
it is considered as just the book for art of Love-Making)
were written during Mauryan reign.
Asoka was the last emperor of Mauryan empire which
started it's decline soon after his death. Many kingdom
arose out of ruins of this great empire. Northern India was
divided into many republics (?) which were controlled by
various ganas (tribes) like Achuyta, Ahicchatra,
Arjunayana, Ayodhya, Eran, Kaushambi, Kuninda etc.. The
coins issued by these republics/Kingdoms are very
interesting both historically and numismatically.

Kuninda, which referred as
Kulinda in ancient
literature, issued very
attractive silver coinage in

Amoghbhuti late 2nd century BC. These

Late 2nd Century BC coins were issued by king

Silver Drachm, Bilingual Amoghbhuti who ruled in

Obverse: Deer and Deity, the fertile valley of

Brahmi Legends Jamuna, Beas and Sutlaj

Reverse: 6 symbols, rivers (modern Punjab in

Kharoshti legends, northern India). The

Weight: 2.4 gm. obverse of the coins shows
a deer and Laxmi (goddess
of wealth) is holding lotus Sanskrit), written in
in her uplifted hand. Brahmi script while on
Between horns of deer, a reverse were in Kharoshti.
cobra symbol is depicted. The legends on obverse
The reverse shows 6 reads Rajnah Kunindasya
symbols. Hill and river Amoghabhutisya
below, Nandipada (hoof of maharajasya. The reverse
bull), tree in railing, bears Maharajasa in
Swastik and Y shaped Kharoshti script at the
symbol. Interestingly, the same place where Indo-
coins were bilingual. On Greek and Saka coins
obverse, legends were in depicted their ruler's
Prakrit (closely related to names.

These coins represent the first ever effort of an Indian
ruler to issue silver coinage which could compete in
market with that of Indo-Greek coinage. Indo-Greek kings
who ruled in neighboring areas (Bactria and Punjab)
issued breathtaking examples of silver coins which, were
highly sought after. This made Amoghbhuti to issue coins
of purely Indian design but of exceptional beauty to
ensure economic superiority over his neighbors. Shown
above is this very attractive silver coin of ancient India.

Kuninda kingdom was eventually invaded by Kushan and
Shakas in middle of first century BC. Both, Indo-Greek and
Kuninda kingdoms were annexed to make next great
empire of India, Kushan empire .


The heritage of ancient coins is a subject that intrigues
and delights collectors and scholars the world over. The
oldest coin available today was discovered in Efesos, an
ancient Hellenic city and prosperous trading center on the
coast of Asia Minor. The 1/6 stater, pictured below, is
more than 2,700 years old, making it one of the very
earliest coins. Made from electrum, a natural occuring
alloy of gold and silver, the coin originated in the area of
Lydia. It had a design on one side only, a result of the
primitive method of manufacture. This ancient stater was
hand struck. A die with a design (in this case a lion's
head) for the obverse (front) of the coin was placed on an
anvil. A blank piece of metal was placed on top of the die,
and a punch hammered onto the reverse. The result was a
coin with an image on one side and a punch mark on the
objects. The earliest
issues, thought to date
from the reign of Alyattes
(about 610 - 560 BC) or
perhaps his predecessor
Sadyattes - both of the
Mermnad dynasty -
The stater is a key exhibit
feature the Lydian kings'
in the Department of Coins
emblem of a roaring lion,
and Medals of the British
almost always with a
Museum, which houses
curious knob, often called
one of the world's finest
a "nose wart," on its
numismatic collections,
comprising about 1 million


The Pactolus River beside the slopes of Mount Tmolus in
the kingdom of Lydia was one of the most important
sources of electrum in the ancient world. According to
Greek mythology, the river acquired its electrum when
King Midas of nearby Phrygia bathed in it to wash away
his golden touch, which had turned even his food into
gold, a telling parable about the destructiveness of
wealth. In actuality, The Paktolos River acquired its
electrum from electrum-laden quartz deposits near Mount
Tmolos (called Mount Bozdag today).
The alluvial deposits of gold were mixed with as much as
40% silver and some copper; such a gold-silver mix is
called electrum. The earliest coins were made of electrum
with a standardized 55% gold, 45 silver and 1-2% copper
concentration and had either no design or a some
apparently random surface striations on one side and a
punch impression on the other.

Just as the rulers of the Middle East today have become
wealthy from oil, so the ancient Lydian kings became rich
by accumulating and minting coins from electrum. The
capital city of ancient Lydia was Sardis, and it was a major
commercial center linking the Asian kingdoms of the east
with the coastal Greek cities of Ionia, including Miletus. It
is not an accident that the first coins appeared in the
important commercial centers of Lydia and adjacent Ionia,
nor that the first system of bimetallic currency - the first
system of interrelated gold and silver issues - was also
developed there. As the 19th century German historian
Ernst R. Curtius wrote, "The Lydians became on land what
the Phoenicians were by sea, the mediators between
Hellas and Asia."


The most famous coin type of ancient Miletus, and one of
the earliest of all coins that can be attributed to a
particular city, is the electrum stater that features a
crouching lion regardant on the obverse, and three incuse
punches on the reverse. Although they are not excessively
rare, these electrum staters (weighing just over fourteen
grams) are understandably very expensive. The fourteen-
gram staters, however, represent only one denomination
in a complete denominational series that also included
thirds, sixths, twelfths, and twenty-fourths of a stater,
and perhaps smaller denominations as well.

to facilitate trade by
certifying that the intrinsic
value and weight of the
metal was guaranteed by
the issuing authority. Of
these first coins, those of
Miletos like the current
Several Greek cities, example (600-550 BC), are
including Miletos, as well probably the finest from
as the Lydian kings began an artistic perspective.
minting these first coins The lion, cleverly
by stamping the badge of configured with its head
their city into one side of a reverted and tail curled
standard weight lump of over its haunch to neatly
electrum and various fit within the rectangular
punches into the other. frame, is a masterpiece of
These devices were used Archaic Greek art. Mean
Diameter: 21 x 17.5 mm.
(0.827 x 0.689"). Weight:
13.91 gm. (0.435 Troy oz.)

Five symbols:

1. Sun.

2. Sadaracakra (dynasty wheel) or Dharmacakra (Wheel of
Dharma) (type uncertain).

3. Caduceus (Ashoka's royal symbol).

4. Three-arched hill.

5. Triskeles and unknown symbol.
Ashoka's mudra (Caduceus) :

the desired weight was
melted and either poured
on a flat board to take its
own shape or made into
pellets, which were then
Chandragupta Maurya's
Prime Minister Kautilya
(also known as Chanakya)
describes in his book
Arthashastra how the
coins of this period were
made. The metal was
melted, purified with
alkalies, beaten into
sheets, and cut into
pieces. Subsequently, the
symbols were punched on
these pieces. Since the
pieces had to be cut and
clipped to make them
conform to a particular
weight, coins were made
in all kinds of shapes and
sizes. Sometimes, metal of

Initially, the coins carried only one symbol. Gradually, the
number of symbols increased to two, and then five. If the
coin bore a single symbol, it was placed at the center of
the flan. If there were two symbols, they were placed side
by side. Four symbols were usually placed in pairs (one
pair opposite the other).

The flan of the coin was often much smaller than the size
of the punches. Therefore, in coins with four or five
symbols (such as the one I have posted), you would find
parts of the symbols off the flan or overlapping one
another. These factors (coupled with the astounding
varity of the symbols) often make the correct
identification of the symbols very challenging (especially
for a newbie like me).

Originally, the symbols were punched only on one side of
the coin (which may be called the obverse). When the coin
became worn, a fresh symbol (or group of symbols) was
pressed on the reverse. For coins bearing four or five
symbols, the reverse was either blank or bore minute
symbols (mostly one or two in number), which are
believed to be those of shroffs or money testers. Coins of
later period (bearing five obverse symbols) carried a
conpicuous symbol on the center of the reverse, which
became quite bold during the Mauryan period.

Coins of Magadha (the seat of the powerful Maurya
dynasty) can be divided into two periods.

1. Earlier issues of the time when Magadha was merely a
janapada (small state):
These can again be divided into two sub-periods.
(a) The period during which Rajagriha was the capital:
Coins of this period are of an irregular, roughly
rectangular shape. The number of symbols on them varies
from one to six.
(b) Coins issued after the capital was shifted to Patliputra
(Patna): These coins bear four symbols, of which two are
the sun and the six-armed symbol (Sadaracakra). The
earlier coins of this period are irregular, and the later
ones circular.

2. Coins issued during the period of Magadha's imperial
expansion: Thin, broad coins are thought to be earliest in
chronology and the thick, smaller ones latest. These coins
are found in a variety of shapes, all of which have five
different symbols on the obverse, placed in a definite
order. More than 450 varieties of these symbols can be
identified on these coins! Based on the symbol groups,
the coins can be classifed into about 600 varieties, which
can be sub-divided into various classes and, in turn, into
six or seven series.

Coins of the first four series bear bear minute symbols on
the reverse. Coins of series five bear a distinct mark on
the reverse, in addition to these minute marks. Coins of
series six and seven have a reverse mark as bold as the
obverse symbols.

The coins contributed a great deal to the Indian
history. The main sources of ancient Indian coins are
treasure troves, excavations, riverbeds and rarely temple
collections from devotees. All countries do have treasure
trove laws and according to them, any coin, bullion, gold
or silver article found hidden in the earth for which no
owner can be found belongs to the crown or government.
Even in ancient India claims of the king to the treasure
troves were supported by the theory that he is the owner
of the earth and its protector. The finder of the treasure
was entitled to some compensation and Manu declared
that the king obtains one half of the hoard. The owner of
the land had no rights to the find since the land is the
property of the king. During the Muslim rule finder of the
treasure was its owner unless its value exceeded one lakh
rupees. If the value exceeded one lakh rupees finder was
advised to give part of it to charity. Finder of non-Islamic
treasure like coins would get the intrinsic value plus 20%.
The Indian treasure trove act was passed on 13th
February 1978, which authorized the government to claim
possession of any treasure unearthed that exceeded ten
rupees in value. This act is still in force in various states
as modified in September 1949. In its application to the
Andhra Pradesh it is known as Indian treasure trove
(Andhra Pradesh Amendment) act 1949.

Hoard is a collection of coins left behind as savings, loot
or treasure usually buried in receptacles like copper or
clay pots. The coins found in such hoards end up in
archaeological museums. Bayana hoard of 1821 Gupta
gold coins were discovered in Baratpur district of
Rajasthan, which yielded types of this dynasty's coins not
seen before. The coins belonged to Chandra Gupta II (376-
414 AD), Kumara Gupta I (415-450 AD) and Skanda Gupta
(455-467 AD). Hence these coins were hoarded during the
rule of Skanda Gupta and were discovered in 1946 AD.
Another large hoard of Satavahana coins was found in
Tarhala of Akola district of Maharashtra. This hoard had
coins of all the later Satavahana rulers from Gautamiputra
Satakarni onwards besides the coins of some rulers of this
dynasty, which were missed out in the Puranas.
Jogalthembi in Nasik district of Maharastra was another
site of major hoard of 13250 silver coins. The coins solely
belonged to Nahapana and Nahapana conis restuck by
Gautamiputra Satakarni. Majority of coins housed in
different museums of our country are these coins from
hoards and they are available for academic research
which enriches our history. Each museum keeps an
inventory of the coin hoards prepared on the basis of
treature trove files. Some museums do by some important
coins from the market and some coins may come from
voluntary donations. Andhra Pradesh Government
museum has over 350000 coins in its cabinets and
majority of these were procured from treasure troves and
a few were donations from the Durbars of erstwhile
princely states and some were given by other museums.

Excavations are planned diggings and many sites may
yield coins such as at Nagarjunakonda, Amaravati,
Veerpuram, Kondapur etc. Bulk of coins found at these
four sites were Ikshvaku, punch marked, Maharathi and
Satavahana coins respectively. Besides the coins many
other artifacts may be found in excavations. Coins found
in stratified levels are of great importance in dating the
stratum along with it all associated objects resting in the
same stratum. Kondapur excavations were carried out in
1940s, which provided a wealth of information of
significant historical importance. Coins of Satavahanas
namely Gautamiputra and Pulumavi were found along with
a datable Roman coin. There were also restruck
Satavahana coins at this site. Coin moulds of various
materials were found suggesting that this site could have
been an ancient Satavahana mint town. Beads of various
materials, decorated pottery, seals both inscribed and
uninscribed, toys and metal implements were also
recovered at this site.
Dropping of coins into the rivers and fountains has been
an age-old tradition all over the world especially into the
rivers considered holy. Great many ancient coins have
been found in the river beds and people search for them
in summer months when water levels of rivers recede.
Paithan, ancient Prathistan, on the banks of river
Godavari yielded large number of Satavahana and other
coins. In recent years Karur on the banks of Amaravathi in
Tamil Nadu has been source of large number of Sangam
age Tamil coins besides the coins of various. Middle East
and European countries. Sometimes the coins may be
found way down the riverbed from the site of offering.
Majority of such coins ends up with coin collectors and
large number of these coins are reported in our
numismatic journals.

Last and unusual source of ancient coins is from the
temple offerings by the devotees. Tirupati being the most
popular deity received large numbers of gold coins
besides the coins of silver and copper. Usually the
authorities sell away the coins of lower denominations
and gold coins have been made into chains, which adorn
the deities. Late Dr. Ramesan photographed these coin
chains and before he could analyze them and report the
findings he passed away. There is staggering variety of
these gold coins, which were offered by the devotees over
the years. These coins belonged to Mughal rulers such as
Akbar (1556-1605 AD), Aurangzib (1658-1707 AD), Shah
Alam (1707-1712 AD), and East India Company, British
India and very many foreign coins from Vatican, UK,
Spain, South Africa etc. The oldest of these coins belong
to Akbar and it may be worth noting that this temple
became popular during the rule of later Vijayanagar kings.
The early Kings of Vijayanagar leaned towards Shaivism
while later kings were strong Vaishnavites. One king
Venkatapati Raju II even issued coins with 'namam'
symbol. There is epigraphic evidence that Krishnadeva
Raya (1509-1529 AD) visisted the temple twice and
presented offerings to the deity. A detailed study of all
the gold coins in the temple may yield many interesting
points of historical importance. In many old temples one
may find silver and gold coins struck around the doors
and floor of the site for decoration. Some tribal women
folk like Lambadas use coin pendants and coin chains as
ornaments. Coin collection is a hobby with many and the
usual sources of coins are the jewelers, saraffs and
moneychangers. Rodgers describes beautifully how he
was able to collect large variety of rare ancient coins from
these sources in Amritsar in the last century where he
spent three decades. In recent years there are coin
societies to serve the purpose of numismatics.


Cholas is an ancient dynasty of southern India having
roots in Indian mythology. It was in 850 AD, Vijayalaya
Chola, a feudatory of Pallava captured Tanjore (or
Tanjavur) and brought Chola dynasty to prominence once
again. His son Aditya Chola (871-907 AD) squarly defeated
Pandyas and Pallawas, two other major power brokers of
South India to become sovereign ruler of south India. Raja
Raja Chola (985-1014 AD) was the greatest ruler of this
dynasty. He first destroyed Chera (the rulers of Kerala,
south India) navy at Trivendrum, then captured Madura
and subsequently defeated Sinhalese (Shri Lankan) king
Mahendra V thus occupying northern Cylon (modern Shri
lanka). He further went ahead and conquered Maldive
islands. His son Rajendra Chola (1012-1044 AD) was very
worthy successor. He expanded his inherited empire by
occupying whole of Shri Lanka (1018 AD) and later
crowning the glory by inflicting a crushing defeat on
Shrivijaya, the King of Indonesia, in 1025 AD. His empire
consisted of whole of southern India, Sri Lanka, and parts
of the Malay peninsula (modern Malysia) and the
Sumatran-based Srivijaya Kindgom (modern Indonesia).
His successors managed to retain control over Sri Lanka
for another 50 years but eventually lost it. Chola kings
ruled for another century without losing any of their
mainland territory. Eventually Chola empire disintegrated
and former feudatories Banas, Kadavas and Pandyas
assumed independence. Rajaraja Chola III (1216-1246 AD)
was reduced to the rank of minor king. Later his capital
was captured by Pandya King Jatavarman Sundara and
Chola dynasty came to an end.


Cholas were great patrons
of literature, philosophy,
art and architecture. Raja
Anonymous coin of Sri Raja I was responsible for
lanka construction of
Prototype Used by Raja magnificent temple at
Raja Chola Tanjore. This temple,
990-1017 AD which is dedicated to Lord
Gold Kahavanu Shiva (also called
Minted in Shri Lanka in Bruhadishwara) is a
933 AD masterpiece of
Weight: 4.7 gm architecture. It is built out
of the red sandstones with weigh probably 100
large number of tons!!! It is believed that
sculptures carved outside to install this dome on the
and inside involving temple (which is of 190
immense labour and feet height), a ramp of 5
infinite pain. Chola art is miles was constructed. A
characterised by a famous historian
massive grandeur truly Fergusson has written
reflected in this massive `Chola artists conceived
temple which consists of like giants and finished
great `Shikhara' of like jewellers'. The picture
fourteen stories, crowned of this magnificent temple
by massive dome carved is shown above.
out of a single stone which

Shown above is the gold coin of Sri lanka which was used
as prototype by Raja Raja Chola when he conquored Shri
Lanka. King (most likely) is shown sitting and holding
conch in one hand. He took the title of `Lankavibhu', the
Lord of (Sri) Lanka. This title, which was written in
Devnagri script, is seen on the obverse of coin. Chola
empire was eventually disintegrated and Nayakas (Chola
governor) took control of Tanjavur. In 16th century,
brother of Shivaji the great, defeated Nayakas and firmly
established the Maratha dynasty of Tanjavur which ruled
for next 200 years from Tanjavur.
Foundation of Vijaynagar empire is certainly the most
significant event in the history of medieval India. It lasted
for 3 centuries and successfully prevented the extension
of Muslim sultanetes in south. History of Vijaynagar
empire is truly an unbroken era of bloody wars with
Bahamani and other Muslim rulers. Two brothers Harihara
and Bukka laid the foundation of the Vijaynagar city on
the southern bank of Tungabhadra river near Anegundi
fortress. A sage Madhav Vidyaranya and his brother
Sayana (his commentry on Vedas is famous) were the
inspirational source for the foundation of this Hindu
empire. Bukka sent an embassy to China in 1374 and after
his death was succeded by Harihara II. Harihara II
extended this newly founded kingdom by conquoering
almost whole of southern India, including Mysore, Kanara,
Chingalpet, Trichinopally and Kanchivaram. Harihara II
was devotee of Virupaksha (Shiva) but was tolerant to all
other religions. He was the first King of Vijaynagar empire
who assumed the title of Maharajadhiraj

In 1486, Vir Narasimha of Chandragiri, who had rose into
promienance, took control of the Vijaynagar empire. This
led to the direct rule of the Tuluva dynasty over
Vijaynagar empire. His younger son Krishanadev Raya is
certainly the greatest ruler of Vijaynagar and one of the
most famous kings in the history of India (In my opinion,
other 3 would be Asoka, Vikramaditya and Shivaji). He
was gallant warrior and like Vikramaditya, he was always
successful in the wars which he waged throughout his
reign. He was a fine statesman and treated the defeated
enemy with honour. First, in 1511-1512 AD, he captured
southern Mysore, Shivasamudram fortress and Raichur. In
1513 AD, he humbled the king of Orissa Gajapati and in
1514 AD he captured Udaigiri. Eventually he captured
Vishakapatnam and completely abolished the authority of
King of Orissa. His greatest and most celebrated military
achievement was crushing defeat of Ismail Adil Shah on
19th March 1520. This ended the muslim dominance in
south and made him master of whole of south India.

Balakrishna (baby Krishna)

Reverse: Legends in
Devnagri script
Weight: 1.7 gm
Krishanadev Raya
1509-1530 AD
Half Gold Pagoda
Obverse: Seated
Shown above is a fine to Vijaynagar coins till the
example of his coin. It begining of the eighteenth
shows Balakrishna seated century. Shown below is
on obverse of coins while another fine example of
on reverse his name is Krishnadev Raya's coin
written in Nagri script. The which is unusually large (2
coins of Vijaynagar empire cm in diameter as
were very popular and compared to 1.3 cm of
were used as prototype regular kind) showing four
even after its decline. armed garuda on reverse.
Most dynasties in south On obverse is his name
(which include British and `Pratapa Krishna Raya' in
other European colonies) Devnagari script.
issued coins very similar


During his last days,
Krishanadev Raya devoted
all his attention in

Krishanadev Raya organization of his empire

1509-1530 AD and improving the

Copper, five jitals administration. He

Obverse: Garuda maintained friendly

Reverse: Legend in relationship with

Devnagri Script Portugese and granted

Weight: 16.48 gm some concessions to
governer Albuquerque. development in art and
Reign of Krishanadev Raya architecture. The famous
reached to its zenith not Hazara temple built during
only in terms of expanse his reign is one of the
of the empire, but also in most perfect example of
terms of growth and Hindu Temple
development of literature, architecture. Vithalswami
music, art and culture. temple is another fine
Raya himself was an example of the Vijaynagar
accomplished poet, style of architecture.
musician, scholar and was Krishandev Raya and all
fluent in Sanskrit, Telugu other rulers of this empire
and Kannada (and perhaps were pious Hidus and were
Tamil too!). He wrote a devoted to Dharma, but
immensely important they had very liberal
(both historically and outlook for other religions.
religiously) book According to Barbosa, a
Amuktamalyada in Telugu. historian and many
He patronized many poets contemporary travellers,
which includes `the Kings allows such
Ashtadigajas (eight freedom that every man
elephants, the great poets would live without
of Telugu) and scholars suffering and annoyance,
like Tenalirama. His reign whether he is a Christian,
also saw the remarkable Jew, Moor or Hindu'.
Shown above is another
coin of Krishnadevraya,
the reverse of it shows a
dagger with chakra on left
and Shankh (conch) on
Krishnadev Raya
right. On obverse is
Copper Jital
Vrishabha (bull). It is well
Obverse: Dagger and
executed coin with finer
details clearly visible.
Reverse: Legends in
Devnagri script
Weight: 1.3 gm
Achyut Raya succeeded as the ruler of empire but soon
lost control to his brother-in-law Tirumala. Eventually, the
power was trasferred to prime minister Ram Raya who
seized the throne for himself. Finally, three muslim
sultanetes of Deccan, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and Golkonda
formed a coalition and met the massive Vijaynagar Army
(half a million!) near village Tagdi on 23rd January 1565
AD. In spite of the vast numerical superiority over allied
forces, Vijaynagar lost the war. A small group of muslim
soldiers separated the elephant of Ram Raya from his
army in a swift move. He was at once beheaded by Husain
Nizam Shah. The whole army in confusion left the battle
ground and 250 years old empire was lost in few hours .
What followed was one of the greatest plunder and
destruction in the history of India. According to historian,
Sewell `After victory, muslims reached capital and for
next five month they destroyed and plundered
relentlessly. Nothing seemed to escape them. They
burned magnificent buildings, pavillions and finally the
beautiful Vithalswami temple near the river. With swords,
crowbars and axes they smashed exquisite stone
sculptures. Never perhaps in history of the world such
havoc has been wrought on so splendid city, teeming with
a wealthy and industrious population. City was seized,
pillages and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage
massacre and horrors beggaring description'.
The ruins of Vijaynagar city can be seen today near Hampi
in Karnataka which realisticly reflects the splendour and
opulance during the reigns of Rayas of Vijaynagar.This so
called battle of Talikota was one of the decisive battles in
the history of India. It destroyed the Hindu supremacy in
southern India till rise of Marathas in seventeen century.
In spite of the tremendous damage, Vijaynagar did survive
but the old grandeur was lost. Coalition muslim forces did
not gain much in spite of all out victory. Alliance was soon
dissolved and brother of Rama Raya took this opportunity
and tried to bring back the old glory to the kingdom. After
death of Venkata II in 1614, the kingdom disintegrated
and went into total obscurity.