The collapse of the Gupta dynasty in the fifth century under the pressure of foreign invasions from the north-west led to the demise of the golden age of Guptas reflected most conspicuously in the coinage of the sub-continent. The post-Gupta period saw various regional coinages which were poor in terms of artistic value and minted in baser alloys like billon (silver and copper). The period is seen as a period of numismatic decline in terms of circulation with fewer coins found as coin hoards (buried treasures).
The Guptas were temporarily replaced by the Huns or the Indo-Hepthalites who invaded and occupied the Western parts of the country via Kabul-Qandahar route. Toramana, the Hun leader issued silver and copper coins fashioned on the coins of Sassanid rulers of North-West India; he also issued silver coins based on Gupta coinage turning the king's head to the left and with ‘Toramana Deva’ inscribed on the reverse.
Toramana’s Indo-Sassanid coins have a typical bust of the King facing right on the obverse and a Sassanid fire altar with Gupta Brahmi legends on reverse. Toramana ruled over Malwa region till 510 A.D. but his successor, Mihirkula was driven off Malwa by the joint forces of Narsimha Gupta ‘Baladitya’ and Yashovarman of Malwa in 528 A.D. He captured
issued coins based on the Sassanid standards with ‘Jayatu Mihirkula’ engraved
in Brahmi on the reverse.
Regional coinages continued to be highly influenced by the Gupta coinage; in
Bengal, two kings, Samacharadeva and Jayagupta issued debased
gold coins resembling the archer type of Guptas with a Bull standard on the
coins. The reverse has Lakshmi seated on a lotus suggesting that Samacharadeva
replaced the last Gupta ruler, Vishnu Gupta in the middle of the sixth century.
The next major coinage from
Bengal was by
Sashanka, the king of Gauda who was the rival of Maukharis of Kannauj and their
famous ally, Harshavardhana. The coins have images of Shiva reclining on Nandi on
the obverse and Lakshmi seated on lotus flanked by an elephant on the reverse.
At the beginning of the seventh century, the entire
North India came under the
sway of Harshavardhana, the ruler of Thaneswar, a small principality near
Kurukshetra. Harsha was a great patron of arts, Buddhism etc. However, Harsha
did not initiate any new coinage in his four decade reign. Instead, he chose to
copy the ‘Eastern peacock’ type of Kumaragupta with the king’s portrait turned to
Top two images: Debased gold tanka of Shashanka of Gauda
Middle two images: Billion coin of Toramana
Last two images: Silver coin of Harshavardhana (Shiladitya) styled on Kumaragupta's peacock type
IMAGE COURTESY: NATIONAL MUSEUM, NEW DELHI