Coinage in India

Punch Marked Coins

  • These coins were generally rectangular or sometimes square or round, either cut out of metal sheets or made from flattened metal globules (a small spherical body).
  • These coins were not inscribed but were stamped dies or punches only on one side. Hence, they are called punch marked coins.
  • One to five marks or symbols incused on single side and termed as ‘Punch Marked’ coins.
  • Panini’s Ashtadhyayi cites that in punch marked coins, the metallic pieces were stamped with symbols. Each unit was called ‘Ratti.’
  • First Indian punch marked coins called Puranas, Karshapanas or Pana were minted in the 6th century BC by the various Janapadas and Mahajanapadas of the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
  • These were made up of silver with different markings like Saurashtra had a humped bull, Dakshin Panchala had a Swastika and Magadha had five symbols.
  • Magadhan punch-marked coins became the most circulated coins in South Asia. They are mentioned in the Manusmriti and Buddhist Jataka stories.

Indo-Greek Coins

  • Reign of Indo-Greeks was from 180 BC to 10 AD.
  • Legends on their Indian coins were mentioned in two languages – in Greek on one of the sides and in Kharosthi on the other side of the coin.
  • These coins are significant because they carried detailed information about issuing monarch, the year of issue and sometimes an image of the reigning king.
  • Coins were made of silver, copper, nickel and lead.
  • Kushan coins were adorned with helmeted bust of the king on one side, and the king’s favorite deity on the reverse. The coins issued by Kanishka employed only Greek characters.

Satavahanas Coins

  • Mostly used lead as a material for their coins. Silver coins were rare. Next to lead, they used an alloy of silver and copper called ‘potin.’ Many copper coins are also available.
  • Most Satavahana coins had on one side, the figure of an elephant, horse, lion or Chaitya. The other side showed the Ujjain symbol – a cross with four circles at the end of the two crossing lines.
  • The dialect used was Prakrit.

Indo-Scythians Coins

  • Western Satraps (35–405 AD) had their dominion in Western India, originally comprising Malwa, Gujarat and Kathiawar. They were all of Saka origin.
  • Coins bear dates in Saka era, which started from 78 AD.
  • Coins of Western Satraps have the head of the king on one side and on the other side, they carry the device of the Buddhist chaitya or stupa borrowed from Satavahanas.
  • Prakrit language used in many scripts on coins.

Gupta Coins

  • Gupta age (319 AD–550 AD) marked a period of great Hindu revival. The Gupta coins were made of gold, although they issued silver and copper coins too.
  • On one side of these coins, we find the king standing and making oblations before an altar, playing the veena, performing Ashvamedha, riding a horse or an elephant, slaying a lion or a tiger or a rhinoceros with a sword or bow, or sitting on a couch. On the other side is the goddess Lakshmi seated on a throne or a lotus seal, or the figure of the queen herself.

Chalukyan Coins

  • Western Chalukyan dynasty coins had image of a temple or a lion and legends, other side was left blank.
  • Coins of Eastern Chalukyan dynasty (7th century AD) had symbol of the boar at center, round which, each letter of the king’s name was inscribed by a separate punch. The other side here also was left blank.

Coins of Pandyan & Cholas

  • Coins issued by Pandyan dynasty were square shaped with an image of elephant in the initial period.
  • Later, fish became an important symbol in the coins.
  • Gold and silver coins had inscriptions in Sanskrit and copper coins in Tamil.
  • The coins of the Chola king Raja Raja-I had the standing king on one side and seated goddess on the other side with inscriptions in Sanskrit.
  • Rajendra-I’s coins had legend ‘Sri Rajendra’ or ‘Gangaikonda Chola’ inscribed with emblems of tiger and fish.
  • Coins of the Pallava dynasty had the figure of a lion.

Delhi Sultanate Coins

  • Coins did not bear any image of the issuing monarch as there was a prohibition of idolatry in Islam.
  • For the first time, name of the mint was also inscribed on the coins.
  • Sultanate kings issued gold, silver, copper and billon coins.
  • Silver Tanka & Copper Jital was introduced by Iltutmish.
  • Alauddin Khilji changed the existing design by dropping the name of the Khalif and replaced it by self-praising titles.
  • Muhammad Bin Tughlaq circulated bronze and copper coins & issued token paper currency which was a flop.
  • Sher Shah Suri introduced two standards of weight–one of 178 grains for silver coins and one of 330 grains for copper coins. These were known as Rupaya and dam respectively.

Vijayanagar Coins

  • Large quantities of gold coins; other metals coins issued were pure silver and copper were issued.
  • Pagodas: Higher denomination, figure of running warrior along with dagger symbol
  • Gold fanams: fractional units
  • Earlier Vijayanagar coinage were produced in different mints and were called by different names such as Barkur gadyanas, Bhatkal gadyanas, etc.
  • Inscriptions on coins were in Kannada or Sanskrit.
  • Images found are a double-headed eagle holding an elephant in each beak and claw, a bull, an elephant and various Hindu deities.
  • Gold Varahan coin issued by Krishna Deva Raya (1509–1529) had a seated Vishnu on one side and a three-line legend Shri Pratap Krishna Raya in Sanskrit on the other side.

Mughal Coinage

  • Standard gold coin of Mughals was Mohur of about 170 to 175 grains.
  • Abul Fazl in his ‘Ain-i-Akbari’ indicated that a Mohur was equivalent to nine rupees.
  • Akbar issued both round and square coins. The value of an ilahi coin was equal to 10 rupees.
  • Sahansah was the largest gold coin. These coins bore the names of the Persian solar months.
  • Jahangir showed the legend in a couplet in the coins. In some of his coins, he added the name of his beloved wife Noorjahan. The most famous of his coins had images of Zodiac signs.
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