Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Story of Indian Money - XII Rise of indigenous South Indian dynasties (225-1336 A.D.)

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Story of Indian Money XI - Rise of three empires and their subsidiary clans (c. 700-1000 A.D.)

Rise of Gurjara-Pratihara and other subsidiary clans (700-1000 A.D.)
The eighth century saw the advent of the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire which came to dominate the Northern and West India on the Gupta pattern of imperial alliances with minor powers. Although the Gurjara-Pratiharas grew under Nagabhata (r. 730-756), their maximum power was exerted by Vatsaraja (r. 775-805) who sought to capture Kanyakubja (Kannauj) as a symbol of overlordship in a three-way contest with two other major powers; the Rashtrakutas of South India and the Palas of Bengal.  Kanyakubja was seen as the centre of power in Central India after Harsha established it as his capital.
The Gurjara-Pratiharas initiated a new coinage called ‘Vigrahapala drammas’ fashioned on the Indo-Sassanid prototype of the Huns in their initial period. These coins show the right facial profile of the king with short titles like ‘Shri Vigra’ and a reverse ‘fire-altar-attended-by-two-attendants’ image with large thin surfaces. These coins were modified by Bhoja I (r. 836-882) who assumed the throne assuming the epithet ‘Srimada Aadi Varaha’. Bhoja issued coins with images of the Varaha avatar of Vishnu with this title in Nagari. The two coin types find mention in the inscriptions of Bhoja II in 905-906 at Bharatpur in Rajasthan and another inscription at Siyadoni in Jhansi district where they were used as temple donations. The coinage was modified by Vinayakapala (r. 914-933 A.D.) as Vinayakpala drammas and continued till the end of the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire in the tenth century when several feudatory rulers declared their independence.
These coins were adopted in modified forms in the eleventh century by the former feudatories of the Gurjara-Pratiharas notably the Chaulukyas and Waghelas of Gujarat, the Shilaharas of Konkan in Maharashtra, the Guhilas and the Chauhans of Rajasthan, the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh and the Kalachuri rulers of Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The later coins acquired a thick dumpy appearance resembling pellets and were current as ‘Gadhaiya paisa’ till the late fourteenth century in these regions.
Other North Indian powers and their coinages (700-1000 A.D.)
The period from eighth to eleventh century saw the rise of three other powers in north-western India; the Arab and local Amirs of Sindh, the Hindu Shahi rulers of Kabul-Gandhara region and the local Hindu rulers of the Kashmir valley. In all these regions, special distinctive coinages evolved in response to the specific demands of the local economy.
Medieval Sindh came under Islamic rule when  defeated its last Hindu ruler, Raja Dahir in 712 A.D. Sindh became the easternmost province of the Umayyad Caliphate prompting the Arabs to develop Mansura as their capital city. The main contact of Arabs in Sindh with the Caliphate’s capital Damascus was the port city of Debal. Archaeological excavations at Debal have revealed a good number of Umayyad and Abbasid dirhams but no local coins have been found. 
In the tenth century, the Arab rule was replaced by local rulers belonging to the Soomro dynasty of Sindhi Muslims. These rulers controlled the province directly initially and as vassals from 977 to 1249 A.D under the Ghaznavids and the Delhi Sultanate. The Soomro rulers styled themselves as Amirs of Sindh and issued their own silver coinage of tiny silver coins with Arabic inscriptions in the Kufic script. The Kufic script is a script consisting of straight lines and angles, often with elongated verticals and horizontals. The coins are of uniform weight weighing around 0.5 gm and minted in high quality silver. The coins came to be used in inter-regional trade with Rajasthan and Saurashtra on account of their high silver content.
The last Hindu rulers of Gandahara and Kabul called Hindu Shahis by later chroniclers initiated a unique coinage in their domains. The Kabul valley along with Gandhara lay on a lucrative trade route between India and Central Asia. The Shahis taxed the bilateral caravan trade passing through this route. They also extracted silver from Panjshir mines which enabled them to issue a distinctive coinage in silver and copper. The silver coins carry an image of a seated bull (Shiva’s Nandi) turned to left on the obverse with a Devanagari legend and an image of a mounted warrior astride a caparisoned horse on the reverse. These coins are called ‘Bull-and-Horseman’ type coins by modern numismatists and were adopted by many later dynasties including the Tomara-Rajputs and Chahamanas of Dhillika and Ajmer under the last Hindu ruler of Delhi, Prithviraj Chauhan. These coins show two major legends on the obverse; Shri Spalapatideva (army commander) and Shri Samantadeva (feudatory chieftain) and two minor legends viz. Shri Khudaraiyakadeva (lesser king) and Shri Bhimadeva (the only proper name). These silver coins were minted in large quantities by the Shahis and were one of the major attractions for the Ghaznavids who attacked the kingdom repeatedly till its absorption into the Ghaznavid Empire in early eleventh century.
Sabuktagin, the founder of Ghaznavid Empire extorted one million dirhams from King Jayapala in 986-987 A.D. during his first attack on the Shahi kingdom! His successor, Yāmīn ud-Daula Maḥmūd popularly known as Mahmud of Ghazni, took seventy million dirhams from Jayapala’s son, Anandapala in 1009 A.D. These facts have been corroborated by the finding of numerous Shahi dirhams in Ghazni during modern archaeological excavations.   
Medieval Kashmir emerged as a culturally and economically distinct region because of its relative seclusion through highly-guarded mountain passes. King Lalitaditya (r.724-760) of the Karkota dynasty lorded over the kings of the hilly regions in the north through his Digvijaya. Kashmir also became a later refuge for the Hindu Shahis in eleventh century when Mahmud Ghaznavi evicted them from Kabul-Gandhara.

Medieval Kashmir evolved a unique economic system with copper coins called ‘Puntshus’ (Sanskrit – Panchavimshati) supported by cowrie shells as minor denominations and larger exchanges executed through bills of exchange called Hundikas. The Puntshus were designed after a Hun prototype issued by Toramana in 520 A.D. featuring a standing king on the obverse and a seated goddess on the reverse.

Images Top Two images: Gurjara Pratihara Silver Dramma with image of Varaha and Nagari legend: 'Srimad Adi Varaha'

Middle two images: Kashmir Copper Puntshu of King Harshadeva (r. 1089-1111 A.D.) with seated goddess and legend 'Harsha' in Sharada script

Bottom two images: Bull-and-Horseman Silver Tanka issued by Hindu Shahi rulers of Kabul-Gandhara region  with Nagari legend 'Sri Samantadeva'