All posts by sbstna

Author, Historian, Antiquary (books, stamps, rare coins, antiques, antiquities) Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Christian by Birth, Hindu by Art, Buddhist in Philosophy

Golden Age of Chandragupta

Ancient India

History of India

CHANDRA GUPTA

Gold coin of Chandragupta II , Author’s Private Collection

 

Chandragupta II (also known as Chandragupta Vikramaditya) was one of the most powerful emperors of the Gupta empire in India. His rule spanned c. 380–413 – c. 415 CE during which the Gupta Empire reached its peak. Art, architecture, and sculpture flourished, and the cultural development of ancient India achieved new heights. The period of prominence of the Gupta dynasty is often referred to as the Golden Age of India. Chandragupta II was the son of the previous ruler, Samudragupta. He attained success by pursuing both a favourable marital alliance and an aggressive expansionist policy

in which his father and grandfather (Chandragupta I) set the precedent. Samudragupta set the stage for the emergence of classical art, which occurred under the rule of Chandragupta II. Chandragupta II extended great support to the arts.

From 388 to 409 he subjugated Gujarat, the region north of Mumbai, Saurashtra, in western India, and Malwa, with its capital at Ujjain. Culturally, the reign of Chandragupta II marked a Golden Age.

Coins of Ancient India

Time-line of Ancient India on Coins

India, by far the most ancient culture since the pre-Harrapan period (3500 BC), happens to be the most diverse nation in the world with over 1000 spoken languages and equal or more number of Hindu Gods from which sprout the mythologies, rituals and  beliefs which form the backbone of Indian culture. The early Aryans (1700 BC) , Persians (600-500 BC), Greeks (356-100 CE), Parthians (100 BC -395 CE), Sassanians (30-10 BC)  and Scythians (100 BC – 400 CE) brought their own culture to the doorstep of India in the north west. The interlude that followed between the invaders and the native dynasties resulted in an epitome of culture brought about by the fusion of the foremost civilized societies of the ancient world. As a result India holds today a bewildering range of ethnicity, culture, color and traditions. The ancient coins of India are a reflection of  India’s glorious past and there is no better way than through these coins to realize and relive the splendor that was India.

This article is not meant to be an exercise in numismatics but rather an appreciation of India’s colorful history through its tangible objects in bronze, silver and gold: the coins

Mahājanapada 600-400 BC

Punch-Marked Coin, Maghada Janapada, Silver Karshapana 

JANAPADAS
Author’s  Private Collection Collection

 Sixteen kingdoms or oligarchic republics existed in ancient India from the sixth century BC to the fourth century BC. These Pre-Buddhist states in the Mahabharata epic, include  Kosala, Kuru, Magadha, Malla, Machcha (Matsya), Panchala, Surasena, Vriji and Vatsa. Each of these Janapadas (Jana; people, pada; foot) reflected the culture of its own people of the region and unique. Janapadas are also mentioned in both Buddhist and Jain texts which confirm their historical reality and continuity.

599 BC Traditional birth year of Mahavira of Jainism,

A  19th Century Temple Token of Jainism

JAINISM
Author’s Collection

Mahavira, 24th Tirthankar is born (traditional date) into a royal family in the present Bihar region of India. At the age of thirty, he left home in pursuit of spiritual awakening and to spread his philosophy which is now followed by over four million people in India.

Persian King Cyrus I “The Great” Ca 559-530 BC

 Cyrus, Gold Coin ca 550 BC.

CYRIUS THE GREAT

Cyrus, son of Cambyses I, founds the Persian Achaemenid Empire, and conquers the borderline North Western regions of the Indian subcontinent to establish one of the greatest empires of the ancient world.

CYRIUS EMPIRE

Empire of Cyrus the Great

Darius I, 522-486 BC

 DARIUS 1

In 516 BC,  the Persian king Darius  of the Achaemenid tribe embarked on a campaign to Central Asia, Aria and Bactria by marching from Afghanistan to Taxila (present Pakistan) before capturing Gandhara and other regions surrounding the Indus River.

Birth of Buddha 463 BC, Reign of kings Bhattiya, Bimbisara  Ca 590-491 BC

First mortal image of Buddha, Gold coin of Kanishka 127 AD

BOODOO

Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha-to-be, born in Lumbini into a royal family in the republic of the Shakyas, which is now part of Nepal.

Darius III 450-330 BC

Gold coin of Darius III

DARIUS 1

Under the last Persian king Darius III the north western part of Indian Achaemenid Empire became fragmented and was ruled by many satraps. Alexander the Great defeated Darius and conquered the region

Alexander III of Macedon (356 BC – 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great

Posthumous Silver coin of Alexander III  (Author’s Private Collection)ALEXANDER

Alexander defeated Darius III and invaded India in 326 BC, but was eventually forced to turn back at the demand of his troops facing the prospects continued war with King Porus who ruled parts of present Punjab.

Seleucus I Nicator c. 358 BC – 281 BC

Tetradrachm of Seleucus I, the horned horse

SELUCIUS

Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, his Greek general Seleucus I Nicator (c. 358 BC – 281 BC) carried an expedition to India, where, after two years of war (305-303 BC) with the Indian Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, made peace with him.

Nanda Dynasty 345-321 BC

Karshapana Mahapadma Nanda

MAHAPADMA NANDA

Nanda dynasty originated in the region of Magadha and lasted during 345–321 BC. Their empire extended from Bengal in the east to Punjab region in the west, as far south as the Vindhya Range. Chandragupta Maurya conquered the Nanda Empire and founded the Maurya Empire.

Mayuran Empire 320-232 BC, Chandragupta I 340 – 297 BC

Silver Karshapana ca 320 BC

MAYURA
Author’s Private Collection

Mauryan Empire was founded in 320 BC by Chandragupta Maurya in Magadha after he defeated the Nanda dynasty and the Macedonian Seleucid Empire. Chandragupta unified the Indian subcontinent, fragmented into Mahajanapadas in the North West,  and the Nanda Empire in the Indo-Gangetic Plain

MAYURA EMPIRE

                                          Mauryan Empire

Samudragupta, (c. 335 – c. 380 CE)

 Samudragupta, Gold Coin, King and Garuda on a pillai

Samudragupta Coin

Samudragupta,  the son of Chandragupta I succeeded after his father’s death and conquered almost the whole of India except the south. His vast military campaign added the neighbouring kingdoms of Ahichchhatra (Rohilkhand) and Padmavati (in Central India), whole of present  Bengal, Afghanistan and Kashmir to his empire.

Bindusara 320–273 BC

 Silver punch marked coin 320-270 BC (Author’s Private Collection)BINDUSARA

Bindusara, the son of Chandragupta inherited the vast regions of northern, central and eastern parts of India along with parts of present Afghanistan and Balochistan at the age of 22 years. Greeks knew him as Amitrochates, the destroyer of foes). Bindusara later conquered almost all the Indian peninsula, except the Dravidian South.

Asoka 268-232 BC

Punch marked coin of Asoka

ASOKA

Asoka, son of Bindusara 268- 232 BC reigned over the entire Indian subcontinent except  the present-day Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The misery following his war against the Kalinga state led him to embrace Buddhism. After his death, the Mauryan dynasty lasted just fifty more years.

The Shunga Empire (187 BC – 78 BC)

Shunga Copper Elephant and Swastik Coin

SHUNGA KINGDOM

The Shunga Empire,  an ancient Indian dynasty from Magadha that controlled vast areas of the Indian subcontinent was established by Pushyamitra Shunga following the fall of the Maurya Empire.

Indo-Greek Kingdom ca 180 BC –  100 AD

Silver Coin of Demetrius the Invincible ca 200 BC

DEMETRIUS

The Indo-Greek kingdom was founded by Demetrius I who invaded the Indian subcontinent in the 2nd century BC.  The kingdom had more than 30 Indo-Greek kings. Of them the most famous was Menander (Milinda) who ruled from his capital at Sakala in the Punjab (present-day Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan). The Indo-Greeks ultimately disappeared as a political entity around 100 AD following the invasions of the Indo-Scythians.

  Indo-Scythian 100 BC – 395 CE

 Indo-Scythian silver coin, Azilises (c.60-45/35 BC)

AZELES 1
Author’s Private Collection

Scythians (Sakas),  a large group of Iranian Eurasian nomads migrated to central and northern South Asia including Gandhara, Sindh, Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in 100BC. The first Saka king in south Asia was Maues established Saka power in Gandhara (modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan region) extended supremacy over north-western India.

Mayuran Empire 380-415 CE, Chandragupta II  (Vikramaditya)

 Silver coin Rudrasimha III 380-387 CErudrasena iii

Gold Coin of Chandragupta II, 380-415 CE

GUPTA GOLD HORSEMAN 1
 

Author’s Private Collection

 

 Indo-Scythian rule in North Western India ended following the defeat of the last Saka Satrap Rudrasimha III  by Chandragupta II, the son of  Samudragupta, in 395 CE.  During the latter’s rule the Gupta Empire reached its peak in art, architecture, and sculpture and came to be known as the “Golden Age” of India.

From the years 388 to 409 CE Chandragupta subjugated Gujarat, the region north of present Mumbai, Saurashtra, in western India, and Malwa, with its capital at Ujjain. Chandragupta was succeeded by his second son Kumaragupta I

Kumaragupta  (415 – 455CE)

Gold Coin of Kumaragupta

KUMARAGUPTA 1

Kumaragupta I succeeded Chandragupta II as emperor and kept the empire intact by defeating the invaders Pushyamitras from the banks of Naramada River and the White Huns, a Nomadic tribe from Central Asia. Kumaragupta was succeeded by his son Skandagupta after whom seven Gupta emperors ruled until the middle of 6th century when the greatest empire of ancient India disintegrated into petty chiefdoms.

 The Indo-Parthian Kingdom (30-10 BC)

 Coin of Gondophares I

GONAPHORES 1

Ancient Indo-Parthian Kingdom that occupied the present regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan was founded by Gondophares I or Phraotes of Central Asian Iranian Tribe in ca 30 BC . The city of Taxila is thought to have been the capital of the Indo-Parthians as per excavations by Sir John Marshall in 1913.

Kushan (Guishuang ) Empire (30-240 CE)

Bronze Coin of Kujula Kadphise

KujulaKadphisesCoinAugustusImitation

Gold Coin of  Kanishka I

KANISHKA 1

Gold Coin of Vasudeva I

vasudeva1

The Kushan Empire  was founded in the early 1st century by Kujula Kadphises (ca 30 – 80 CE) of a Yuezhi  Chinese Tribe in the Bactrian region, encompassing  much of present  Afghanistan, and the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent  as far as Sarnath near Varanasi

Vima Kadphises  (c. 95 – c. 127) the grandson of  Kadphises  was Kushan emperor from ca  90–100 CE and his successor and son Kanishka I (c. 127 – c. 140) the Great ruled virtually all of northern India from his two capitals Purushapura (Peshawar) and Mathura.

Vasudeva I (c. 190 – c. 230) was Kushan emperor from about 20 years after the death of Kanishka. He was the last of the “Great Kushans whose rule coincided with the invasion of the Sasanians  in the present Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India from around 240 AD.

The Satavahanas  (273 BC-220 CE)

Copper Coin of Satakarni 100 BC

SATKARNI
 

Author’s Private Collection

 

Coin of Gautamiputra  Satakarni  2nd century CE GAUMIPUTRA SATKERNI

At the decay of the Mayuran Empire a new power arose from the Deccan region which dominated from 1st century BC to 3rd century CE. This new  Satavahana kingdom comprised of the present-day Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra and led by the early kings like Satakarni and reaching its zenith under the rule of Gautamiputra Satakarni and his successor Vasisthiputra Pulamavi. The kingdom fragmented into smaller states in the early 3rd century CE

South India, Chera. Chola Pandyas 300 BC – 900 AD

SOUTH INDIA

Pandya Sangam Period Coin 300-100 BC

PANDYA SANGAM COIN

While the North of India was subjected to almost continuous invasions and political upheaval  the Dravidian peninsular in the south remained unscathed protected  by the Vindhya mountain range in the north and the sea. on its either side. Never the less the Chera, Chola and Pandiya Kingdoms were known to King Asoka. The Tamil language and culture flourished  through the support of the kings for the Tamil Sangam

The Hephthalites or White Huns ca 450-600 CE

 HEPALITE EMPIRE

        Hephthalite Empire

Hephthalite coin of King Khingila, 5th century CEwhite HUN

The Hephthalites or White Huns, were a confederation of nomadic and settled people from Central Asia who expanded their domain westward in the 5th century. They invaded North-West India  in ca 450 CE, posing a threat to late Gupta Empire. Although they were repelled, they served to destabilise the Guptas. At the height of its power in the first half of the 6th century, the Hephthalite Empire controlled territory in present-day Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, present Pakistan and other regions of north-west India.

 Empire of Harsha 590-647 CE

Silver Coin of Harshavardhana HARSHA

HARSHA EMPIRE

Prabhakarvardhana the 4th emperor of Vardhana dynasty defeats the Huna invaders, and his son and successor Harsha (c. 590–647), also known as Harshavardhana rules North India from 606 to 647 from his capital Kanauj.  The Empire of Harsha at the height of his power spanned the Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengal, Odisha and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain north of the Narmada River. Harsha was defeated by the south Indian Emperor Pulakeshin II of the Chalukya dynasty when he invaded the southern peninsula of India.

First Islamic Expansion into India 695-715 CE

 Umayyad dynasty. al-Walid I, 705-715, Silver dirham,

UMMAYED CALIPHATE

‘Imād ad-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Qāsim ath-Thaqafī  ( 695 – 715 CE) was an Umayyad general who conquered the Sindh and Multan regions along the Indus River (now a part of Pakistan) for the Umayyad Caliphate. He was born and raised in the city of Taif (in the present Saudi Arabia). Qasim’s conquest of Sindh and southern-most parts of Multan enabled Islamic expansion into India.

Gold Coin, Dharmapala, Pala Dynasty

PALA DHARMAPALA COIN

Gold Fanam of Chalukyas chalukya-coin

Rashtrakuta (753-982 CE) was a royal dynasty ruling large parts of the Indian Subcontinent between the sixth and 10th centuries. Having defeated King Kirtivarman of Chalukiya Dynasty (543-753) they rose to power with Karnataka as their power base in South India ca 753. Their contemporary rulers were the Pala dynasty of Bengal (ca 800-1200) and the Prathihara dynasty of Malwa  (700 – 1036) in eastern and north-western India respectively.

The Power of Gold on Coins

Since the earliest times of civilization gold has been the pursuit of kings, emperors and the rich alike as a symbol of their power, glory and splendour. Gold enshrined the Thrones, Crowns, Sceptres and other royal attire of rajas, rulers and tsars alike. Pharaohs even carried the glitter to their graves. As early as 1000 BC King Solomon sent his navy across the world in search of the precious metal to adorn his temple and his 500 concubines.   It is not surprising to see these ambitious great men and women to have their symbol of trade, power and gods on the face of glittering gold. Hence the birth of gold coins as early as 500 BC in Greece, followed by the Romans and Persians.

ROMAN GOLD COIN HADRIAN
Gold Coin of Hadrian 138 AD

Rome accumulated great wealth in gold through its imperial conquests, including the vast deposits of gold from the Iberian Peninsula, formerly held by Carthage. But like the Greeks, the Romans held most of their gold in reserve and struck gold coins only in emergencies. The first Roman gold coin was struck in 215 B.C. to help finance the Second Punic War against Carthage. Julius Caesar’s Aureus was the first Roman gold coin not struck out of necessity, and made circulating gold coinage more common. In the first century A.D., Emperor Nero further expanded gold coinage by continuing to strike an aureus and adding a gold Quinarius, which was half the value of an aureus. Both coins used almost pure gold and were issued in large quantities.

Gold coins continued to go through various debasements and reforms over the next 200 to 300 years in Rome, but they continued to enjoy widespread circulation in the Roman Empire and found their way to other lands through trade. After the empire was split, its eastern faction, the Byzantine Empire, continued to supply Europe with gold coins as the metal became scarce in Western Europe.

GOLD SHIVA 1

King Kanishka ca 100 AD, Shiva with Nandi, Anton Sebastian Private Collection

The Kushan kings of India around 100 to 300 AD were the first to adopt Greek style coinage in India and on their coins were depicted the first mortal image of Buddha (Bodoo) and probably the first image of Shiva and Nandi, that too on gold.

GOLD RUSH CALIFORNIA

 

In the modern era the rush for gold changed the demography of the world. The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 sparked the Gold Rush, arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century. By a cruel hand of fate the Mexicans without knowing had signed off their land rich in gold to the Americans in the treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848. Nine days later these Mexicans were being treated as foreign prospectors in a land that was their own.  As news spread of the discovery, thousands of prospective gold miners travelled by land and sea to San Francisco and the surrounding area; by the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory had risen to 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000). A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush, which peaked in 1852.

Thousands of miles apart Australia found its gold in the mid-19thcentury. The Australian gold rushes brought about significant immigration of workers, both more locally and from overseas, to areas which had discoveries of gold deposits. A number of gold finds occurred in Australia prior to 1851, but only the gold found from 1851 onwards created gold rushes when gold found its way into the poor prospectors who became rich.

PERSIA
Iran, Persia (Iran)Naser Al-din  AH 1297 /1882 , Gold

Gold coins became a yard stick of wealth of European colonial powers particularly in the 18th to 19th centuries as seen during the British Empire and remain sought after by collectors. Today these gold coins are prestigious objects in private collections, Museums and wealthy Private Collection

 

Gold Coins from Antiques International

 

ENGLAND GOLD MOHUR

Evolution of Hinduism

Hinduism, one of the oldest religions in the world is spanned by multitude of gods and goddesses. Shrouded by thousands of mythologies these gods evolved in to thousands of regional gods all over the Indian contiment with specific attributes. Shiva is known by many forms and names, the most iconic of them being the Natarja. His other symbolic representation is Ardhanushvara where he emanates his power through gender: both as a male and his female consort. Of the

BRAMAH HEAD

Bramah

Trimurti or Trinity in Hindu religion, Brahma enjoys the least popular worship inthe present times. The next of the Trimurti Vishnu who is a Vedic god is diversified through his many avatars, at least eight, all of whom are gods in their own right contributing to the vast Hindu pantheon worshipped in millions of temples all over India.

The early elements of Hinduism are witnessed in the pre-Aryan culture of the Indus Valley 5000 years ago. Sir Mortimer Wheeler referring to Indus findings states “…… thus by far is the largest unitary civilization of pre-classical times.” The proto-Hindu images of Lingam,

INDUS SEAL
Indus Seal

Yōni and Pasupathi found in Indus supports a Dravidian origin for Hinduism. Around 1700 BC the Aryans arrived at the Indus region bringing with them their gods of nature: Varuna, the controller the cosmos, Indra, the ruler warrior of the sky and wind, and the terrestrial Agni or the god of fire.  The Vedas were composed by the Aryans over the next 500 years but not put down in writing until a thousand years later.  The Dravidian personified gods such as Shiva, Muruga, Ganesha, Valli, Krishna, goddess Shakti (Parvati, Durga, Kali) merged with the nature gods of the Aryans  in to the present form of Hinduism.

GOLD SHIVA 1
Kushan Kanishka 1 gold coin 100 AD

Kushan kings of North East India in 100 to 300 AD were the first to depict Shiva and Nandi on a coin which we able to hold in our hands with marvel today. The oldest iconic Hindu Art and Sculpture emanates from South India as seen in the dancing deity of creation and destruction, Nataraja from the Chola and Pallava period. Lord Shiva’s physical and symbolic mergence with his consort  Parvati, as Ardhanarishvara encompasses the entire principle of Hinduism: creation as a union of female and male forces driving the cosmic power.

A Diverse Collection of Hindu Art & Sculpture

Visit Hinduism on Coins 

Visit Iconic Sculptures of the Hindus

Gods on Coins and Stamps,

There are more animals and immortals depicted on coins than Gods.  Yet religion is the oldest culture in the world. Religion and deities depicted on coins are construed by some pious people as effacing the value of their gods. Coins are a part of everyday life for everybody, and religious coins can also be a reminder to the presence god in daily life. In a puritan’s sense the use of religious coins in monetary transactions could mean that god looks over honesty and integrity when his image is used. 

It is notable that the first ever mortal figure of Buddha (Boddo) too was on a coin by Kanishka I (the Great) who was the emperor of the Indo-Greek Kushan Kingdom in 127–151 AD.

BOODOO
First depiction of Buddha , King Kanishka ca 100 AD,

The Hindu religious coins have been issued since at least 2000 years ago, first by the Kushan kings of India in Greco-Roman style. Often made of gold, they are an expression of the power and pomp of the kings when it comes to religion. The high value of these coins is one of the reasons for then being preserved in such pristine condition, but unfortunately they are far and  few and rare.

GOLD SHIVA 1
Shiva and Nandi, Kanishka 100 AD from Anton Sebastian Private Collection

The Shiva and Nandi coin of the Kushan kings of Indo-Greek Empire, originating in Bactria (the present Afghanistan, Peshawar and Pakistan) is not only an example of exquisite expression in Hindu Art, but also the earliest known depiction of Shiva and his sacred vehicle, Nandi.  

RAMA AND SITA RAMTAKA DURBAR
Rama and Sita on the Darbar, Temple Token, 19th Century

In India Temple Tokens were produced since 19th century but more recent productions to generate funds for temples are common. Most of these coins carried the effigies of Rama, Sita, Lakshamanan and Hanuman. The Jain tokens were relativly rare. It would be difficult to precisely date them but the wear and tear and pattern would be of guidance in valuing them. However almost all the  gold tokens usually genuine. It is an experience and pleasure to hold these old
Hindu coins in our hands.    


Hinduism on Coins, 

 

With the advent of postage stamps in the mid 19th century the gods found another forum in daily life. However it is is not until the mid 20th century that they found their way into postage stamps.

Hinduism on Stamps

NATARAJA STAMP
Shiva as Nataraja

Paradise Lost, the Utmost Isle

Milton’s choice, the utmost isle,
A paradise lost to a sinner’s vile
Eve’s tears of shame and guilt
Ample drops for lakes to brim,
Adam’s foot on the mountain top,
A reconcile to his mortal crave

Sumanakuta where pilgrims lay
At first man’s foot, do they pray
Heavenly clouds blur their eyes,
Sorrowful tears brim their brows
What heaven is this that reaches the sky?
Lost to man forever for his sin and vile

Glittering pearls off Mannar Coast
Pandya king could never afford
The Madura princess for a trade
Yakkha queen to be cast aside
For Vijaya to be the king of  the Isle

Kuveni’s wail for her master’s love,
No avail to the prodigal prince
Cast away from her den of love
Meant to die for her treacherous deed
To her brethren of noble creed,

For millennia did the Yakkhas rule
Almost since dawn of time
Sans vice or greed
Joyful in their wild abode
Oh! What a shame now
To be deceived by their queen

Serendib, an Arabian dream
Of Aladdin’s Cave and Sinbad’s tales
A pledge of wealth most abound,
Twinkling pearls and sparkling gems
Nature’s den of assorted hoard
The ocean’s pride, a fantasy isle,

From far ashore, the navy came,
In quest of wealth for their Hebrew king,
Ophir, from the Book of Kings
A land of gems for Solomon’s queens,
Priceless stones for his shrine divine

A draught of arrack with a honey taint
A gentle snooze on the gold coast isle
Beneath the shadow of the palm tree trail,
Ocean waves for a lullaby tale,
And scented breeze of cinnamon wild,

Marco’s haven on the gem stud soil,
While his fame at Kublai’s aisle
With the spoils from Mahavamsa isle
A Persian queen for a romantic stroll
On the shores of the coveted isle,
Oh what a romance in royal style

From far away by sea they came
Spelling dome to the peaceful isle
Eating stone and drinking blood
Aiming guns and cannons, they did
Instil fear into native soil
Alas, an end to Mahavamsa Isle

A poem by Anton Sebastian,

copyright©reserved

HISTORY OF CEYLON

Author of A Complete Illustrated History of Sri Lanka 

Rare and Ancient Coins of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from Anton Sebastian Private Collection for Sale by Antiques International

Rare Books of Ceylon from Anton Sebastian Private Collection for Sale by Antiques International

Rare Coins & Stamps of Ceylon (Sri Lanka)

PARAKRAMABAHU LION COIN 1
Lion Coin, King Parakramabahu ca 1100 AD , Anton Sebastian Private Collection

The trade and cultural ties to other countries of the world could be traced through the coins as old as 2000 years found in Sri Lanka.   Among hoards of foreign coins found in the most unlikely places in the island such as Sigiriya,  the site of the citadel of Kassayapa, the sleepy village of Kantharodai in Jaffna. Nearly 3000 Roman coins excavated nearthe Sīgiriya site suggest a Roman connection during early Christian era.  Most of the coins found here belong to the period from Constantine the great (r. 306-337) to (Flavius) Honorius (reigned 393-423), which predate Kassapa (reigned ca 477-495) by nearly a century. The earliest Roman coin found in the region dates to about 317, nearly 150 years before Kassapa founded Sīgiriya. From the above evidence it is likely that Kassapa did not choose Sīgiriya by chance and it was already a hub of culture and trade. Some gold coins issued during the reign of King

Vijayabāhu currently exhibited at the British Museum, as well as in the Colombo Museum follow the types of Raja Raja Cholan when he was in possession of Pollonnaruva.

The relationship between the Tamils and the Sinhalese is also seen through the ancient coins in Sri Lanka.  The The Mullaitivu coins (kahāpaṇas) as old as 200 BC arguably attributed to Eḷāra (Ellalan, bear a tree with branches (probably Sacred Bo Tree) on one face, and the bull (probably the Sacred Bull of the Hindus) suggesting that Eḷāra respected both religions.  Mahāvaṃsa itself (XXI, 26) reveals the earliest date of kahāpaṇa (coins) in Lanka when Eḷāra spent 15,000 kahāpaṇas to repair a  Buddhist stupa.

Known as Ceylon until it became a republic in 1972, the island had the most eye-catching colors of the Victorian Era in stamps.

Sri Lanka Post has a long history of 209 years, dating back to 1798, when the colonial Dutch rulers started five post offices in the Maritime Districts under their control. In 1799, they published the first postal regulations and postage rates. The Dutch East India Company operated the Postal service, which was not meant for the public but for official use.

1861 ceylon
The first postmaster by the British was appointed in 1802 and hand stamps were first supplied in 1813. The British took control of the whole island by conquering the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815 at the time of reign of King George III. Although horse drawn mail delivery commenced in Ceylon around 1832, the postage stamps were issued only on  1 April 1857.

VICTORIAN CEYLON
The first Stamp features a portrait of Queen Victoria and is brown in color and of 6 pence value used to send a half ounce letter from Ceylon to England. Eight more stamps were issued in year 1857, all featuring the portrait of Queen Victoria. One of the 5 stamps that were issued on 23 April 1859 is considered to be the most valuable stamp in Sri Lanka: it is a 4 pence with a dark pink color known as the ‘Dull Rose.

CEYLON WAR STAMPS
A week after the First World War ended in 1918, Ceylon under King George V  adopted war stamps when all postal rates were increased to defray war expenditure. The 2c, 3c, and 5 c were all overprinted “WAR STAMP” in two lines, and the 5 cent was also overprinted with an additional “ONE CENT” with a line struck through the original value. There are a number of varieties in the overprints, such as double and inverted overprints.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
CEYLON 1972
Sri Lanka later is the only country to include details in a stamp in three languages viz. Sinhala, Tamil and English. The first stamps marked Sri Lanka were issued on 22 May 1972.

CEYLON BIRDS 1966

The first ever souvenir sheet of Sri Lanka was issued on 5 February 1966 on the topic ‘Typical Birds of Ceylon’. This sheet was reissued on 15 September 1967 to commemorate the 1st National Stamp Exhibition of Sri Lanka, overprinted ‘FIRST NATIONAL STAMP EXHIBITION 1967’.

History of Ceylon

British Colonial Ceylon

COLONIAL AND RARE POSTAGE STAMPS OF CEYLON

Birth of New Buddhist-Hindu Fusion Art

Angkor, the lost capital of Kambuja (Cambodia) was rediscovered by the French naturalist Henri Mouhot in 1860. only about 150 years ago. Yet it has revealed culture, art and architecture that is unparalleled in South East Asia. Following the fall of Kambuja to the Siamese in 1431 AD, the splendor of the capital was lost to the jungle for the next four centuries. As the vegetation took grip on these magnificent buildings, their roots failed to shake the robust structures built through the masonry of ancient architects and artisans. Lost to man, snakes took shelter and the wild animals roamed claiming the territory that the humans took from them. Gods and nature mingled once again hidden from the greed and breed of the human race.

KHMER TRIAD 1
Khmer Triad, Anton Sebastian Private Collection,

Upon its discovery, the world was stunned by the cultural treasures that it  revealed. Here was a fusion of two most ancient religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, with no signs of conflict between the two. Vishnu and Buddha mingled sometimes as one, Shiva’s serpent (Naga) guarded the Buddha. Uma shared the platform with Buddha and Vishnu, while Linga adored the temple with Buddha. The mythology of Hindus adapted to Buddha’s philosophy of life was in harmony.

VISHNU KHMER ALTER BASIN 3
Vishnu, Anton Sebastian Private Collection

Having remained undisturbed for generations,  now a prolific number of magnificent work of art and sculpture from Angkor started emerging.  As these arefacts from the Khmer state started to reach the western world. If all these artifacts were to be real how did such a large number of objects survive? Or all these fake! the invention man’s greed.

According to legend an Indian named Kaundinya on arrival to the larger Malay Peninsula, called Funan, formed an alliance with a Nagini princess, hence probably the early Naga influence on the state. For the next 1000 years Kambuja remained a Hindu state with a balance of Brahma, Shiva (Linga) and Vishnu as deities. Almost all art, bronzes and culture are centered on these deities from 600 to 1200 AD until Buddhism arrived in the 13th century. A remarkable peaceful union of the two religions followed with their sculpture encompassing the Hindu deities and Buddha.

Upon its discovery, the world was stunned by the treasures that it  revealed. Here was a fusion of two most ancient religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, with no signs of conflict between the two. Vishnu and Buddha mingled sometimes as one, Shiva’s serpent (Naga) guarded the Buddha. Uma shared the platform with Buddha and Vishnu, while Linga adored the temple with Buddha. The mythology of Hindus adapted to Buddha’s philosophy of life was in harmony.During the reign of Jayavarman VII in the 12th century in Kambuja religious fervor set in fueling  an output of a large number of smaller bronzes. This new demand exerted pressure on the craftsmen, contributing to some poor quality bronzes. Good quality pieces became relatively less. By the time Khmer State starting to fade in the 15th century its treasures had got redistributed to rest of South Asia where they have survived into modern times. In addition, continuous wars and invasion by the neighboring states contributed to redistribution of Khmer treasures and artifacts in Siam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and as far as Tibet, Malaysia and China.

 

Khmer Antiques from Antiques International

During the reign of Jayavarman VII in the 12th century in Kambuja religious fervor set in fueling  an output of a large number of smaller bronzes. This new demand exerted pressure on the craftsmen, contributing to some poor quality bronzes. Good quality pieces became relatively less. By the time Khmer State starting to fade in the 15th century its treasures had got redistributed to rest of South Asia where they have survived into modern times. In addition, continuous wars and invasion by the neighboring states contributed to redistribution of Khmer treasures and artifacts in Siam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and as far as Tibet, Malaysia and China.

Some of my early collections are from these countries. Even as late as early 18th century the hostility between Siam and Cambodia continued causing further outflow of Khmer art and sculpture into other parts of the region. It is not surprising to encounter such relatively large number of ancient Khmer artifacts in the west over the past century, given the high output of Khmer bronzes for over a millennium. Some may be fakes or reproduction of the past century but certainly some jewels in sculpture cannot be painted with the brush.

Rare Religious Sculptures & Antiques for sale | Antiques International | Anton Sebastian Private Collection | South East Asian Antiques | Mahakala | South Indian Bronzes | Meenakshi | Tantric | Hindu Mythology | Hinduism |Shiva| Brahma | Vishnu | Parvati | Durga | Kali | Krishna | Hanuman | Uma | Gowrie |Shakti | Sarasvati | Kartegeya | Kubera | Nandi | Garuda | Tantric | Kubera | Linga | Antiquesinternational.co.uk

The Splendour that was India before Colonialism

At the time of the British withdrawal, 565 princely states were officially recognised in the Indian subcontinent,  apart from thousands of regional and local chiefs including taluqarszamindaris and jagirs. In 1947, princely states numbering 555 covered 48% of area of pre-Independent India and constituted 28% of its population.

Mysore State, Krishnaraja Wadiyar, Anton Sebastian Private Collection

The most important states had their own British Political Residencies:

Indore State, Anton Sebastian Private Collection

HyderabadMysore and Travancore in the South followed by Jammu & Kashmir and Sikkim in the Himalayas, and Indore in Central India. Gun-salutes were often given for personal distinctions of the ruler rather than the importance of the state and varied from time to time. The most prominent among those – roughly a quarter of the total – had the status of a salute state, one whose ruler was honoured by receiving a set number of gun salutes on ceremonial occasions, ranging from nine to 21. Rulers of salute states entitled to a gun salute of eleven guns and above received from the British the style of His/Her Highness; while the Nizam of Hyderabad had the unique style of His Exalted Highness.

JAIPUR STATE
Jaipur, Chariot of Surya (Sun God),  1931

The princely states varied greatly in status, size, and wealth; the premier 21-gun salute states of Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir were each over 200,000 km2 in size, or slightly larger than the whole of Great Britain. In 1941, Hyderabad had a population of over 16 million,, while Jammu and Kashmir had a population of slightly over 4 million,

Maharaja Morvi Stat

comparable to that of Switzerland. At the other end of the scale, the non-salute principality of Lawa covered an area of 49 km with a population of just below 3,000. Some two hundred of the lesser states had an area of less than 25 km2 (10 mi2).  At the time of Indian independence in 1947, Hyderabad had annual revenues of over Rs. 9 crore (roughly £6.75 million/$27.2 million in 1947 values, approximately £240 million/$290 million in 2014 values), and its own army, airline, telecommunication system, railway, postal system, currency, radio service and a major public university; the tiny state of Lawa had annual revenues of just Rs. 28,000 (£2100/$8463 in 1947 values, £73,360/$89,040 in 2014 values).[

Baroda State

The era of the princely states effectively ended with Indian independence in 1947. By 1950, almost all of the principalities had acceded to either India or Pakistan. The accession process was largely peaceful, except in the cases of Jammu and Kashmir (whose ruler opted for independence but decided to accede to India following an invasion by Pakistan-based forces), Hyderabad (whose ruler opted for total independence in 1947, followed a year later by the police action and annexation of the state by India), Junagadh (whose ruler acceded to Pakistan, but was annexed by India).[10] and Kalat (whose ruler opted for independence in 1947, followed in 1948 by the state’s annexation

STAMPS OF PRINCELY INDIAN STATES

Durga as an Inspiration to Hindu Art & Sculpture

Durga is a representative of female power in Hinduism and is also identified by the Hindus as Adi Parashakti, Devi, Shakti, Bhavani, Parvati and numerous other female forms. She is a warrior goddess and the source of Hindu mythology for combating evil and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good. Many of Hindu Art and sculpture represents her fierce role as the protective mother goddess ready to unleash her anger against evil. Given her multirole it is not surprising to see the Hindu religious artisans throughout the ages focussing their skills in depicting Durga’s power and emotions.

Hindu Art & Sculpture

Hindu Mythology

Hindu Art and Religion

Hindu Religion

Female Power through Hindu Art

Some of her artistic and sculptural representations of Durga are as a goddess riding a lion or tiger, with many arms carrying weapons. Her most ferocious form of defeating Mahishasura ( buffalo demon) with its head in her hands is the ultimate display of fate of the evil demons in her hands,

Her antiquity is takes its roots in the Vedic literature, such as in the Rigveda literature and the Atharvaveda. While the Vedic literature uses the word Durga, the description therein lacks the legendary details about her that follows in later Hindu literature.

Not only venerated as a destroyer of evil but also she is equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman for creation of the universe. Durga has a significant following all over India, Bangladesh and Nepal, particularly in its eastern states such as West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar. Durga is revered during the festival of Navratri celebrated by Hindus all over the world.

Art and Sculpture of Durga