The Deccan region saw the rise of new dynasties after the fall of Satavahanas in the third century and their local successors in the Andhra region viz. Ikshavakus, Shalankayanas and Vishnukundins issued their own coinages. The Vishnukundins issued a typical coin with image of ‘a stylised lion’ on the obverse and a vase flanked by two lampstands within a rayed circle on the reverse.
In the Western Deccan, dynasties like the Traikutakas based their own coinage on the earlier prototype of the Western Kshatrapas. The Kadamba dynasty (r.345-525) of Banavasi in Uttara Kanara initiated a new gold coin called Padma tanka which revived the ancient technique of punch-mark minting with a central image of lotus deeply impressed upon the coin. These coins were emulated by many later dynasties like the Cholas, Yadavas of Devagiri and the Eastern Chalukyas.
The Kadambas were replaced by Chalukyas of Badami under Pulakeshin II (r. 610-642) who issued coins similar to the Vishnukundin prototype with his preferred epithet ‘Shri Satya’. Pulakeshin II helped his brother Vishnuvardhana capture Vengi in Andhra Pradesh and head a separate dynasty called the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi. The Eastern Chalukyas issued gold Padma tankas with the central image of a boar representing ‘Varaha’.
The Tamil Desha region witnessed a decline of ruling dynasties of Chola, Pandya and Chera rulers between 3rd and 6th century as they were subdued by the Kalabhara dynasty. The Kalabharas were vanquished by the later Pallavas and the Pandyas. The Pallavas issued copper and lead coins with obverse images of the dynastic crest of the Pallavas, the bull. Some Pallava coins show images of lion replacing the bull.
The Chola power was revived in 850 A.D. by Vijayalaya who assumed the titles ‘Rajakesari’ and ‘Parakesari’ which used by all succeeding kings on their coins. His successors consolidated the gains by throwing of the Pallava yoke. However, the earliest Chola ruler to issue a coin in his name was Uttama Chola (r.970-985) who issued gold and silver coins with ‘Uttama Chola’ written in Nagari for the first time on a South Indian coin! Another unique feature of Uttama Chola’s coin was the use of three royal crests viz. bow, fish and tiger symbolising the Chera, Pandya and Chola powers and symbolizing their unity under his leadership.
Rajaraja Chola (r.985-1014) increased the empire’s limits to Sri Lanka and Orissa. He initiated a new coin type in all three metals with the image of a standing king on the obverse and sitting king on the reverse with ‘Sri Rajaraja’ in Nagari below his left arm.Rajendra Chola (r.1012-1044) spread his domains right till the Bengal coast assuming the title ‘Gangaikonda Chola’ (the Chola whose horses drank the waters of the Ganga). Rajaadhiraja Chola (r.1018-1054) issued similar coins during his rule.
Kulothunga Chola (r.1070-1120) was the heir to the joint fortunes of the Cholas and the Eastern Chalukyas and issued gold coins based on Eastern Chalukya coins with multiple punch marks. The central punch bears the image of two fishes, a tiger flanked by a bow and parasol and a fly whisk above; the marginal punches have two titles, ‘Kataikondacholam’ and ‘Malainadukondacholam’ referring to his conquest of Katai and Malainadu. After Kulothunga’s reign, the Cholas were soon overshadowed by Pandyas in the twelfth century.
The Pandya coins show a consistent use of their dynastic symbol of ‘stylised fish’ throughout their history. The stylised fish emblem was also adopted by the Alupa dynasty of Dakshina Kanara (r.550-1500) who claimed to be descendants of Pandyas on their gold fanams along with the epithet ‘Sri Pandya Dhananjayam’. The later Pandyas under Sundara Pandya and Vira Pandya ushered the golden age of Pandyas in the thirteenth century and issued gold/copper coins with the legends ‘Sundara Pandya’ and ‘Vira Pandya’ indicating the last great phase of Pandyas.
Images (numbered from top):
1st and 2nd images : Vishnukundin Copper issue with Lion on obverse and Conch symbol on reverse
3rd image: Kulotthunga's Gold Punchmarked issue with central image of Varaha (Boar)
4th and 5th Image: Raja Raja Chola I's Silver Kaasu with images of seated King and Standing deity with Nagari legend 'Sri Raja Raja'
6th Image: Rajendra Chola I's Silver Kaasu with image of Tiger, Fish and Bow representing his rule over Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras respectively
7th and 8th Images: Pallavas Copper issue with image of Bull and Chakra
9th and 10th Images: Alupas' late Gold issue with images of two fishes flanked by two lamps and Chhatra (umbrella above) and Lotus below on obverse; Kannada Legend 'Shri Pandya Dhananjayam' on reverse