10:47 am - Saturday July 30, 2016

Coins of India (Ancient)

Nov 20, 2011 3409 Viewed 4 responds
 Indus Valley (2500-1750 BC)

These are coins from  the Indus Valley Civilization,  from Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. Whether they are seals or coins, scholars are divided on that.

Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
The two coins are made of copper and they show an unicorn and a horned deity.
Mahajanapadas (700-300 BC)
 Then came the punch marked coins as you see in the one below.  They were manufactured by punch mark technology and so suggests the name. The punch marked coins first appeared during the Mahajanapadas that is around sixth century BC and certainly they existed before the invasion of Alexander. The explanation of symbols made on the coins remain largely unexplained and is open for further studies. Such variety in symbols may suggest that these coins were not manufactured by the State and mainly used in private trade. 
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
This coin is made of silver and as you may see has artistic design, it may be said here the earliest of the coins made in India were of silver and not gold. You may not that couple of punches were used to create multiple design on the coin. The number of symbols on a coin varied and there would be five or even seven as in the coin below. The symbols on the reverse side of the coin were significantly lesser than the obverse. D.D Kosambi showed that with the gradual lightening of coins the number of symbols or punches on the reverse side increased.
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
The symbols were of varied kind and they included almost everything, designs, motifs, animals, fishes, sun, moon and so on. The one below is five symbol coin.
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Mauryan (321-185 BC)

The punch marked coins of the Mauryan period,  with symbols shown separately. According to D.D Kosambi one of the distinction between the Mauryan and pre-Mauryan coin is that in the case of the former it is much thicker containing more copper and that the latter is comparatively thinner having more silver.
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Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Kushans  (30375 A.D)

The Kushans (30-375 A.D) ruled a great portion surrounding what is now Pakistan, Uzbegistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Northern India.The Kushan coin were mainly made of gold suggesting the thriving market economy of the empire, apart from gold coins were also of copper,  of lesser denomination. The Kushans coins had the title of the king on the obverse, deities on the reverse, the deities were of Brahminical, Greek, Roman even Buddhists mythology though the legends were mostly in Greek.

There is this coin showing king Kanishka along with Buddha.
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Godesses Ardoscsho
Four faced Oisho
Satavahana  (230 BC- 220 AD)

The Satavahana dynasty ruled the region between, Godavari and Krishna, around 230 BC-220 AD. They ere the first rulers who portrayed the kings in the coins, with curly hair, broad lips and long ears. Apart from these various other subjects like sun, horses were made. The coins were predominantly of copper and lead.

Coins of Satakarni the third of the Satavahana kings, he ruled around 180 AD. 

 Satavahana coin of 1st century AD inscribed in Brahmi.

Silver coin of king Vashishtiputra Sātakarni (c. 160 CE). Obverse: Bust of king. Prakrit legend in the Brahmi script: “Siri Satakanisa Rano … Vasithiputasa”: “King Vasishtiputra Sri Satakarni”.Reverse: Ujjain/Sātavāhana symbol left. Crescented six-arch chaitya hill right. River below. Dravidian legend in the Brahmi script: “Arahanaku Vahitti makanaku Tiru Hatakaniko” – which means “The ruler, Vasitti’s son, Highness Satakani” – -ko being the royal name suffix.

Another set of Satavahana coins with horse and swastika.
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Western Satraps  (35-405 AD)

 The Western Satraps were the successors of Indo Scythian rulers and the contemporaries of Satavahanas and Kushanas who ruled around 35-405 AD. They ruled the Western region of India, part of Gujarat, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan. Their coins also depict their kings and are predominantly of silver.

Silver coin of Rudradaman I. Obverse: Bust of Rudradaman, with corrupted Greek legend “OVONIΛOOCVΛCHΛNO”. Reverse: Three-arched hill or Chaitya with river, crescent and sun. Brahmi legend: “Rajno Ksatrapasa Jayadamasaputrasa Rajno Mahaksatrapasa Rudradamasa”: “King and Great Satrap Rudradaman, son of King and Satrap Jayadaman”
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Coin of the Western Kshatrapa ruler Rudrasimha I (178 to 197). Obverse: Bust of Rudrasimha, with corrupted Greek legend “..OHIIOIH..” (Indo-Greek style). Reverse: Three-arched hill or Chaitya, with river, crescent and sun, within Prakrit legend in Brahmi script:Rajno Mahaksatrapasa Rudradamnaputrasa Rajna Mahaksatrapasa Rudrasihasa “King and Great Satrap Rudrasimha, son of King and Great Satrap Rudradaman”.


In interregnum between the fall of the Mauryas and the rise of Guptas various tribal confederations ruled around the Indo Gangetic plain one of them was Yaudheyas. They modeled their coins after the Kushanas.

A Yaudheya coin depicting Kartikeya.

Six headed Kartikeya.
Gupta  (320-600 AD)
The study of Gupta coins began in the year 1783 when a hoard of Gupta coin was found in Kalighat, Calcutta, those coins were of later Gupta Emperors. The Gupta coins found are mainly of copper and gold. The coins depict the glory of the Gupta kings and their marvellous feats, depicting the super hero status of the divine king.

Gold coin of the mighty Samudragupta showing the Aswamedha ritual and the queen carrying the ritual necessities. 

Kumaragupta (415-455 AD) the lion slayer. He was an able ruler who ruled Bengal to Kathiawar and from the Himalayas to the Narmada.

King and Queen type coin, depicting Chandragupta I and his queen Kumaradevi.

Chandragupta II riding horse.

Coin of Samudragupta with Garuda pillar. Garuda was prominent in the Gupta era coins.

 Gold coins of Chandragupta II.

Chola (300s BC–1279 AD)

The Cholas formed the Tamil dynasty governing varying territories and perhaps the longest spanning dynasty from 3rd century BC to 13th century.  They were known for  marvelous architecture and outstanding metal works which stand a testimony to this day of their legacy.

Chola Influence
Below a coin from the Chola era from Srilanka inscribed in Tamil. The coin reads Uttama Chola and the tiger on the obverse side depicts the royal symbol of the Cholas. The Chola coins were of gold and silver although during the later stages coins were made of copper. 
Chola coins of 9th – 13th century.

Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Chera  (5th century BC–1102 AD)

 Contemporary to the Cholas and the Pandyas was another important dynasty in South India, the Cheras, they ruled from 5th century BC to 12th century AD. Coins of Chera dynasty from the 11th and 13th centuries are shown below. The Chera royal emblem was the bow. Overall very few specimens of Chera coins are found, two of them are shown below.

Coin 1: Obverse
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Coin 1: Reverse
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Coin 2: Obverse
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Coin 2: Reverse
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection
Roman Coins

Ancient India had considerable trade links with the outer world, especially with the Romans, Greeks, China. This trade was carried partly by land and partly by sea, trade route through sea was established  with South India. The land trade route came to be known as The Silk Road. The Roman trade flourished in India during  200 BC-200 AD, and by that time the Romans had developed a good trading relation with the southern part of India. The coins of Emperor Augustus are found in large numbers in India.  The silver coins of Rome are called “denarii” and the gold ones as “aurei”.

 Silver denarius of Tiberius (14-37 CE) found in India. Indian copy of the same, 1st century CE. Coin of Kushan king Kujula Kadphises copying a coin of Augustus.

Roman coins found in South India.
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection

Gold coin of Claudius (50-51 CE) excavated in South India.
Reserve Bank Ancient Indian Coinage Collection


 Gold coin of Justinian I (527-565 CE) excavated in India probably in the south.

Justinian I
Coin of the Roman emperor Augustus found at the Pudukottai hoard. British Museum.


Roman gold coins excavated in Pudukottai, India. One coin of Caligula (31-41 CE), and two coins of Nero (54-68). British Museum.

In the next article I will try to arrange coins from the Medieval period of Indian History.


DD Kosambi, Indian Numismatics.

and of course Wikipedia (free to share images or copyright expired images).


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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13015772899137472192 Jagannath

    Great Bhai .. chaliye jaa

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16455733737965799396 sumit soren

    Thanx Jagada 🙂

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03597343430539955352 Subhajit Dasgupta

    Important to note that lot of Gupta coins were found in and around Kalighat. Which, was a trading point on a main tributary of Bhagirathi.
    (no more). The tales of Chand sadagar/Lakkinder/Behula (believed to be contemporary legends of Guptas) all pointing towards the vivrant trade capital in Bengal. Unto ruins because of Changing of River courses and greedy britishers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06215526304268075200 Rohit

    This is Rohit, very good and informative blog keep it up 
    I too share the same interest like you and I am developing my blog, kindly visit and give your valuable feedback. It will be helpful for me to share the information.
    Thank you
    Rohit B

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