Coinage with images of gods and goddesses dates back to Kushans

Source: The post is based on the article “Coinage with images of gods and goddesses dates back to Kushans” published in The Hindu on 29th October 2022

What is the News?

Delhi Chief Minister has appealed to the Union government and the Prime Minister to print images of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh on new currency notes for the country’s “economic prosperity”.

In this context, let us look at the Evolution of the Coinage System in India:

Indus Valley Civilization: The Indus valley civilization of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa dates back between 2500 BC and 1750 BC. However, there is no consensus on whether the seals excavated from the sites were in fact coins.

Punched marked Coins: The first documented coinage is deemed to start with ‘Punch Marked’ coins issued between the 7th-6th century BC and 1st century AD.

– These coins are called ‘punch-marked’ coins because of their manufacturing technique. Mostly made of silver, these bear symbols, each of which was punched on the coin with a separate punch.

– They are broadly classified into two periods: 1) The first period is attributed to the Janapadas or small local states, 2) The second period is attributed to the Imperial Mauryan period and 3) The motifs found on these coins were mostly drawn from nature like the sun, various animal motifs, trees, hills etc.

Dynastic Coins: The earliest of these coins relate to those of the Indo-Greeks, the Saka-Pahlavas and the Kushans. These coins are generally placed between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD.

Indo Greeks: Hellenistic traditions characterize the silver coins of the Indo-Greeks, with Greek gods and goddesses figuring prominently, apart from the portraits of the issuers.

Sakas: The Saka coinage of the Western Kshatrapas are perhaps the earliest dated coins, the dates being given in the Saka era which commences in AD 78.The Saka era represents the official calendar of the Indian Republic.

– Kushans: Kushans, who hailed from the Central Asian region were the first to use the image of Goddess Lakshmi on their coins, along with Ardochsho, the Iranic Goddess of wealth. They also depicted Oesho (Shiva), moon deity Miro and Buddha in their coinage.

Satavahana: Their coins were predominantly of copper and lead, however, silver issues are also known. These coins carried the motifs of fauna like elephants, lions, bulls, horses, etc. often juxtaposed against motifs from nature like hills, trees, etc. The silver coins of the Satavahanas carried portraits and bilingual legends, which were inspired by the Kshatrapa types.

Gupta: Gupta coinage (4th-6th centuries AD) followed the tradition of the Kushans, depicting the king on the obverse and a deity on the reverse; the deities were Indian, and the legends were in Brahmi. 

– The earliest Gupta coins are attributed to Samudragupta, Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta and their coins often commemorate dynastic succession as well as significant socio-political events, like marriage alliances, the horse sacrifice or for that matter artistic and personal accomplishments of royal members.

South India Coinage: The symbols and motifs on South Indian coin issues were confined to dynastic crests such as the boar (Chalukya), bull (Pallava), tiger (Chola), fish (Pandya and Alupas), bow and arrow (Cheras) and lion (Hoysala) etc.

Vijayanagara: Vijayanagara kings used coinage with Hindu idols. Harihara –II (1377-1404) introduced coins that had Brahma-Saraswati, Vishnu-Lakshmi and Shiva-Parvati. 

British India: The British East India Co. at Madras Presidency minted coins labelled as the Three Swamy Pagoda, which depicts Lord Balaji flanked by Sridevi and Bhudevi on either side.

Print Friendly and PDF