Thursday, March 8, 2012

Story of Indian Money – VIII - The rise of Deccan and Tamil Nadu (300 B.C. - 225 A.D.)

Ancient South India was divided into two culturally and politically distinct regions of Dakshinapatha (Dakshina Sanskrit ~ Dakhina Prakrit ~ Dakhan Persian ~ Deccan English) and Tamil Desha (modern Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala).

The Satavahanas (Andhras) began their rule as vassals of Mauryans and after the Mauryan decline in 180 B.C. as vassals to their successors, the Shungas (185 B.C.-75 B.C.) and the Kanvas (75 B.C. - 25 B.C.) The Satavahanas saw series of upheavals under around 30 kings listed in the Puranas such as gain of Ujjain after death of the last Kanva king, Susharman probably assassinated by his Satavahana vassal and the loss of Ujjain to Shakas later; the loss of Western India to Shakas and gain of newer territories in Andhra Pradesh and Western Maharashtra under Gautamiputra Satakarni.

Their history as per numismatics is divided into an early and late phase with different type of regional coinages. The early phase coinage is marked by use of base metals to mint coins which had the legend ‘Satavahana’ or ‘Satakarni’ inscribed in Prakrit language using Brahmi script as ‘Satakanisa’ or ‘Sata’ with an animal or stupa image on the obverse with a typical symbol called ‘Ujjaini symbol’ (consisting of a cross joining four circles) on the reverse.

The late phase had a brilliant coinage in silver beginning under Gautamiputra Satakarni
(107 A.D. – 130 A.D.) who expanded the Satavahana realm further south and came in conflict with the Western Kshtrapa ruler, Nahapana defeating him and usurping his kingdom in 125 A.D. Gautamiputra’s silver coins were inspired by the Western Kshatrapa coinage and have the king’s portrait on the obverse with Prakrit legend written in Brahmi and the Ujjain symbol with the three-arched hill with crescent on the reverse with early Telugu legends in Brahmi. The legends have matrilinear names of the king like Gautamiputra, Madhariputra, Vasisthiputra, etc. indicating a matriarchal society.
This trend of silver portrait coins were continued by his successors, viz. Vasisthputra Pulumavi (131 A.D. – 159 A.D.), Vasisthiputra Shiva Satakarni (159 A.D. – 166 A.D.) till the last effective Satavahana emperor, Yajna Sri Satakarni (r. 167A.D. – 196 A.D.)
Vasisthiputra Pulumavi also introduced a unique lead coin with the portrait of a
double-masted ship indicating the importance of maritime trade for generation of revenue for Satavahanas as well as the technological advances made by Indian seafarers.

Another feature of Satavahana coinage arising from archaeological excavations has been the discovery of different types of local coinage in base metals issued by Satavahana rulers for various cities like their western capital Pratisthana (Paithan), Newasa (Ahmednagar district), Junnar, etc. These findings indicate that Satavahanas issued a baser coinage for local use to supplement either the Mauryan Karshapanas that continued to be used long after their issue or Roman gold coins that have been found in large quantities in South India as the primary currency. Other areas beyond Satavahanas’ western empire (parts of modern Maharashtra (Kolhapur region), Karnataka, coastal Andhra Pradesh) were ruled by local administrators appointed by Ashoka known as Mahaarathis (Maharashtriyas), Mahaatalavaras and Mahaasenapatis who set up their own kingdoms and began issuing their own coinage around second century B.C. These feudatories were subdued by Gautamiputra Satkarni in the middle of 2nd century A.D. and brought under the Satavahana rule.
Thus, a Maharathi family called Sadakana issued their coins from Banavasi (Mysore-Kanara region), another family called Anandas also issued a typical lead coinage with images of a six-arched hill with Brahmi legends with King’s name on the obverse and a tree-in-railing and Nandipada (a symbolic representation of Shiva’s vehicle Nandi) from Karwar.

The Tamil Desa was divided into three regions ruled by separate dynasties, the Pandyas (Central Tamil Nadu), Cholas (eastern Tamil Nadu) and Cheras (Kerala and parts of Coimbatore and Salem districts) in the last three centuries before Christ. The coins used in this region were Mauryan Punch-marked coins which were supported later by Pandyan Punch-marked coins as evident by finding of a hoard that has worn-out Mauryan coins along with newer Pandyan coins in Bodinayakanur in Tamil Nadu in nineteenth century.
The Pandyan punch-marked coins had a reverse stamp of stylised fish that became a heraldic symbol for the Pandyans and weigh only 1.5 gms (about half of Mauryan Karshapana) with five distinct symbols on the obverse.
The earliest Chera coins are in copper with a heraldic symbol of ‘bow and arrow’ and other side has an elephant carrying a standard.
Cholas issued square copper coins with images of a standing tiger with upraised tail and without inscriptions.
However, after the beginning of the Christian era, Tamil Desha saw a huge influx of Roman silver and gold coins due to the Indo-Roman spice trade. Pliny the Elder, famously lamented about this vicious trade that drained Roman gold into India. These coins were converted into local coinage by deeply incising the Roman Emperor’s portrait and counter-striking them with local symbols.
Thus, South India had its own trajectory in terms of the growth of monetary medium. It retained its characteristic individual nature when it came to the medieval and early colonial period as we shall see later.
Images: Top Incised Gold Aureus of Roman Emperor Caligula (Image courtesy British Museum)

Two images of coins of Vasisthiputra Pulumavi silver portrait coin and lead two masted ship coin Image courtesy:

Image of Pandyan Punch-marked coin with image of stylized fish on reverse Image: National Museum, New Delhi

(To be contd.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Story of Indian Money VII Coinage of Western Kshatrapas

During the period of Kushan domination of the North-Western region, the Central, Western and Southern parts of India came under the sway of the descendants of the Shakas called Western Kshatrapas (by modern historians) in the Central and West India and the Satavahana dynasty in the West and South India.

The Western Kshatrapas (35-405 A.D.) ruled parts of Saurashtra, Kutch, Malwa, Sindh beginning in the year 35 A.D. The first two rulers, Aghudaka and Bhumaka continued the Indo-Greek style of coinage with bilingual scripts of corrupted Greek and Brahmi along with Greek symbols like Arrow and Thunderbolt and Greek deities on their coins.
Later rulers beginning with Nahapana (r.119-124 A.D.) issued a distinct silver coinage with his portrait. Nahapana had an epic struggle with the Satavahana ruler, Gautamiputra Satakarni who defeated Nahapana in 124 A.D. and counterstruck his coins with Satavahana imagery.
Nahapana’s territories were recovered in 130 A.D by another Kshatrapa ruler, Chastana who began his reign with a new coinage that was emulated by all his successors till the end of the dynasty in 4th century A.D. after its conquest by Chandra Gupta II, the Gupta emperor who conquered Western India.
The coinage has a typical portrait of the king facing right with corrupt Greek legends on the obverse and the reverse has a three-arched hill surmounted by a crescent and a wavy line below and a sun on its right. The Brahmi inscription is in Sanskrit language replacing Prakrit which was used on all earlier coins. Thus, the Western Kshatrapas despite their foreign origin, signalled their total integration with Indian culture by using Sanskrit on their coinage!
The Western Kshatrapas progressed to using dates in Shaka era beginning in 78 A.D. for the first time under the Kshatrapa ruler Rudrasimha I making it the first Indian coinage to do so and hence its exact dating is possible.
The Western Kshatrapa coins also use two types of titles viz. Kshatrapa and Mahakshatrapa depending on the King’s stature/achievements and detail the patrilineage of the king.
For e.g. Chastana’s illustrious grandson, Rudradaman I (r. 130-150 A.D.) issued a coin with the title read as “Rajno Kshatrapasa Jayadamaputrasa Mahakshatrapasa Rudradamasa’ in Brahmi script translated as Kshatrapa Jayadaman’s son Mahakshatrapa Rudradaman. The titles, Mahakshatrapa and Kshatrapa are also used to denote the king and the crown prince as many kings have coins with both titles issued by them. These features have thus helped numismatists trace the exact lineage of the Western Kshatrapas with exact dates.

However, the most interesting aspect of Western Kshatrapa coinage is the ‘counter-marking war’ between Western Kshatrapa Nahapana and Satavahana ruler Gautamiputra Satakarni in the 2nd century (c. A.D. 118-124) when Gautamiputra Satakarni seized Nashik region in Maharashtra from Nahapana and counter-marked his coinage in the area with the symbol of the Satavahanas, the Ujjaini symbol (a set of four circles joined by a cross at the centre) to mark his conquest over the Shakas! These coins were found in a very large hoard found in Jogalthembi in Nashik district making it clear that the area was under Satavahana domination

Featured: Top 2 Images: Nahapana's copper coin
Middle 2 Images: Mahakshatrapa Rudrasena II Silver coin
Bottom 2 Images: Coin of Nahapana counterstruck by Satavahana Gautamiputra Satakarni
Images courtesy: American Numismatic Society, New York

(To be continued)

The coinage of foreign invading tribes (135 B.C. – 250 A.D.) Part VI

The Indo-Greeks declined first in Bactria because of hordes of foreigners like Shakas (Indo-Scythians), Pahlavas (Indo-Parthians) and Kushans who took over their territories. The Shakas snatched Bactria from its last Bactro-Greek ruler, Heliocles around 135 B.C. and later spread to the Indian territories of the Indo-Greeks. Two lines of Shaka invaders are known from their coins in India, one called Vonones ruling Baluchistan (Gadrosia) and Kandahar (Arachosia) and the other dynasty under Maues (Moga?) around Indus region in Punjab.
Maues issued coins in silver and copper with Indian and Greek images like a copper coin with elephant’s head on obverse and a Greek symbol, Caduceus on the reverse. He introduced elements of his nomadic past by introducing a silver coin with the image of the king on a horse with spear that became the prototype of all nomadic coinage issued later.

The Kushans rose from a Central Asian tribe called Yuezhi by the Chinese sources and lorded over a huge kingdom stretching from Bactria to as far as Mathura in North India. The Kushans began their tryst with India under Kujula Kadphises (r. 30-80 A.D.) around 45-60 A.D.
Kujula issued a coinage in copper on the lines of last Indo-Greek ruler of India, Hermaeus with the title ‘Koshano’. He introduced a distinct coin with images of an Indian bull and a Bactrian double-humped camel with Kharosthi and Bactrian legends. He was briefly succeeded by his son/successor, Vima Takto (80-90 A.D.) who issued a nameless coinage with the title ‘Soter Megas’ (Great saviour).
However, his successor, Vima Kadphises (90-100 A.D.) changed the paradigm of Indian coinage by introducing gold coinage for the first time. His coinage, probably fashioned after Roman gold coinage pouring into India through Indo-Roman trade, was issued as double dinara, dinara, half dinara and so on. The coins portray the king as an elderly stocky bearded man dressed in a long coat with huge boots in various poses like seated on a low couch or cross-legged on a lump of clouds/rocks or standing at a sacrificial altar or riding a horse carriage. Vima Kadphises’ coins feature the first images of Shiva with his bull, Nandi on the reverse with Kharosthi inscriptions.
He was succeeded by the most famous Kushana ruler, Kanishka I (100-127 A.D.?) who was content with being portrayed in the ‘standing-sacrificer’ pose but used images of Indo-Aryan, Greek, Iranian and even Sumero-Elamite deities, demonstrating wide syncretism in his religious beliefs. Kanishka's coins began his reign by issuing coins with Greek deities with Greek inscriptions.
His later coins use the Bactrian language with a corrupted Greek script (using the letter Ϸ to represent sh as in the word 'Kushan' and 'Kanishka') and the Greek deities were replaced by Persian deities. Later he included Indian deities like Lakshmi (called Ardoksho, a Bactrian name) Shiva (Oesho ~ Eeshwar) , Parvati, Karthikeya (Mahaseno) and Buddha (Boddho) on his coins and issued them from his twin capital cities Purushpura (modern Peshawar) and Mathura which were under Kanishka’s direct rule.
Kanishka’s successors Huvishka I and Vasudeva I continued his style of coinage till the Kushan dynasty was routed by local rulers at the beginning of the third century. The Kushans were thus responsible for the introduction of gold coins into the sub-continent with richer imagery of both the kings and deities that inspired later rulers.