A study of the Indian coins enlightens us a great deal regarding the history of ancient India. The Numismatics society of India is doing a lot of research work in this subject. We have at present a large number of coins found from various parts from India and dealing with the different aspects of ancient Indian history. Coins are generally of metals such as gold, silver and copper.
Numismatics of Ancient India
Numismatics, a study or collection of currencies like coins, paper money, tokens and other related objects. And the people who collects these currencies are termed as Numismatists. The discipline also extends its study on money and other payment media that are use to sort out debts and exchange of goods.
On a bigger picture, Numismatics dealt with various aspects of ancient Indian history in the following ways.
- Coins help us to figure out the history of the country in several ways. They reveal us the names of the kings who ruled at different times in various parts of the world.
- The coins also help us to build up the almanac. Coins footnotes the year in which they are issued.
- The whereabouts of the coins helps to discover the range of boundaries of the king. The findings of abundant number of Roman coins in India validates the fact that there was an active trade between the Roman Empire and India.
- Coins demonstrate an indication of the prosperity or else-ways of the country. If people have gold or silver coins, considered to be prosperous.
- In many cases, the coins are the only evidences we have regarding the existence of certain kings, in the absence of those coins the very existence of those kings would have remained unknown.
- The existence of a big number of coins circulated during the different years of the rule of a king helps us to set the exact dates of coming into power and the death of the king. For instance, coins helped to fix the dates of Samudragupta.
- The pictures of the different kings show up on coins and from them we can have an idea regarding the head-dress of those kings. Sometimes, the hobbies or the amusements of the rulers also found from the study of their coins.
- Sometimes, the depreciation of coinage gives an indication that the country was passing through abnormal times. During the Huna invasion of India, the Gupta currency depreciated. The symbols on the Gupta coinage refer to their zeal for Hinduism.
The earliest coins of India have only figures, devices or symbols and no legends. sometimes , the coins were cast in dies but very often symbols were punched on pieces of metals. The symbols varied from time to time and were punched with a view to guarantee their genuineness and value.
After the Greek invasion of India, the practice of writing the names of the kings on the coins started.
- A large number of coins issued by the Indo-Bactrian rulers who had under their control the Punjab and the North-Western Frontier.
- These coins possess a high degree of excellence and ultimately had a tremendous influence on Indian coinage.
- The Greek coins refer to about 30 Greek kings and queens who ruled in India.
- The classical writers refer to only 4 or 5 of them and in the absence of these coins, the names of other rulers would have remained absolutely unknown.
- The coins of Parthians and Scythians are of inferior quality but they also give us a lot of historical information.
- The Kushans also issued a large number of coins. The existence of the Malavas, Yaudheyas and the mithra rulers of Panchala is known only from the coins.
- The coins of Satavahanas supplement, correct and corroborate the accounts of the Puranas. The Gupta coins also gave us lot of useful information. The coins of Samudragupta, particularly remarkable and a detailed description of them will be given in their proper place.
- The Indian coins after the Gupta period do not give us much historical information.
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