The Mahājanapadas (Sanskrit: महाजनपद, lit. ‘great realm’, from maha, “great”, and janapada “foothold of a tribe, country”) were sixteen kingdoms or oligarchicrepublics that existed in ancient India from the sixth to fourth centuries BCE. Two of them were most probably ganatantras (republics) and others had forms of monarchy. Ancient Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya make frequent reference to sixteen great kingdoms and republics which had evolved and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Anga in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and included parts of the trans-Vindhyan region,[ prior to the rise of Buddhism in India.
Category Archives: HISTORY OF INDIA
History of Afghanistan on Stamps & Coins
Ahmad Shāh Durrānī (c. 1722 – 1772), the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan began his career by enlisting as a young soldier in the military of the Afsharid Kingdom and quickly rose to become a commander of the Abdali Regiment, a cavalry of four thousand Abdali Pashtun soldiers. After the death of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani was chosen as King of Afghanistan.
Time line of Afghanistan
1838-42 – British forces invade, install King Shah Shujah. He is assassinated in 1842. British and Indian troops are massacred during retreat from Kabul.
1878-80 – Second Anglo-Afghan War. A treaty gives Britain control of Afghan foreign affairs.
1919 – Emir Amanullah Khan declares independence from British influence.
1926-29 – Amanullah tries to introduce social reforms, which however stir civil unrest. He flees.
1933 – Zahir Shah becomes king and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for next four decades.
Afghanistan, Parliament House, 1939
1953 – General Mohammed Daud becomes prime minister. Turns to Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. Introduces social reforms, such as abolition of purdah (practice of secluding women from public view).
1963 – Mohammed Daud forced to resign as prime minister.
1964 – Constitutional monarchy introduced – but leads to political polarisation and power struggles.
1973 – Mohammed Daud seizes power in a coup and declares a republic. Tries to play off USSR against Western powers.
1978 – General Daud is overthrown and killed in a pro-Soviet coup. The People’s Democratic Party comes to power but is paralysed by violent infighting and faces opposition by US-backed mujahideen groups.
1979 December – Soviet Army invades and props up communist government.
1980 – Babrak Karmal installed as ruler, backed by Soviet troops. But opposition intensifies with various mujahideen groups fighting Soviet forces. US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia supply money and arms to the mujahideen.
1985 – Mujahideen come together in Pakistan to form alliance against Soviet forces. Half of Afghan population now estimated to be displaced by war, with many fleeing to neighbouring Iran or Pakistan.
1986 – US begins supplying mujahideen with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships. Babrak Karmal replaced by Najibullah as head of Soviet-backed regime.
1988 – Afghanistan, USSR, the US and Pakistan sign peace accords and Soviet Union begins pulling out troops.
1989 – Last Soviet troops leave, but civil war continues as mujahideen push to overthrow Najibullah.
1992 – Najibullah’s government toppled, but a devastating civil war follows.
1996 – Taliban seize control of Kabul and introduce hard-line version of Islam, banning women from work, and introducing Islamic punishments, which include stoning to death and amputations.
1997 – Taliban recognised as legitimate rulers by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. They now control about two-thirds of country.
1998 – US launches missile strikes at suspected bases of militant Osama bin Laden, accused of bombing US embassies in Africa.
1999 – UN imposes an air embargo and financial sanctions to force Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden for trial.
2001 September – Ahmad Shah Masood, leader of the main opposition to the Taliban – the Northern Alliance – is assassinated.
2001 October – US-led bombing of Afghanistan begins following the September 11 attacks on the United States. Anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces enter Kabul shortly afterwards.
2001 December – Afghan groups agree deal in Bonn, Germany for interim government.
Hamid Karzai is sworn in as head of an interim power-sharing government.
2002 January – Deployment of first contingent of foreign peacekeepers – the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – marking the start of a protracted fight against the Taliban.
2002 April – Former king Zahir Shah returns, but makes no claim to the throne and dies in 2007.
2002 June – Loya Jirga, or grand council, elects Hamid Karzai as interim head of state. Karzai picks members of his administration which is to serve until 2004.
2003 August – Nato takes control of security in Kabul, its first-ever operational commitment outside Europe.
2004 January – Loya Jirga adopts new constitution which provides for strong presidency.
2004 October-November – Presidential elections. Hamid Karzai is declared winner.
2005 September – Afghans vote in first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years.
2005 December – Parliament opens with warlords and strongmen in most of the seats.
2006 October – Nato assumes responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan, taking command in the east from a US-led coalition force.
2007 August – Opium production has soared to a record high, the UN reports.
2008 June – President Karzai warns that Afghanistan will send troops into Pakistan to fight militants if Islamabad fails to take action against them.
2008 July – Suicide bomb attack on Indian embassy in Kabul kills more than 50.
2008 September – US President George Bush sends an extra 4,500 US troops to Afghanistan, in a move he described as a “quiet surge”.
2009 January – US Defence Secretary Robert Gates tells Congress that Afghanistan is new US administration’s “greatest test”.
2009 February – Nato countries pledge to increase military and other commitments in Afghanistan after US announces dispatch of 17,000 extra troops.
New US approach
2009 March – US President Barack Obama unveils new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. An extra 4,000 US personnel will train and bolster the Afghan army and police and there will be support for civilian development.
2009 August – Presidential and provincial elections are marred by widespread Taliban attacks, patchy turnout and claims of serious fraud.
2009 October – Mr Karzai declared winner of August presidential election, after second-placed opponent Abdullah Abdullah pulls out before the second round.
2009 December – US President Obama decides to boost US troop numbers in Afghanistan by 30,000, bringing total to 100,000. He says US will begin withdrawing its forces by 2011.
An Al-Qaeda double agent kills seven CIA agents in a suicide attack on a US base in Khost.
2010 February – Nato-led forces launch major offensive, Operation Moshtarak, in bid to secure government control of southern Helmand province.
2010 July – Whistleblowing website Wikileaks publishes thousands of classified US military documents relating to Afghanistan.
General David Petraeus takes command of US, ISAF forces.
2010 August – Dutch troops quit.
Karzai says private security firms – accused of operating with impunity – must cease operations. He subsequently waters down the decree.
2010 September – Parliamentary polls marred by Taliban violence, widespread fraud and a long delay in announcing results.
2010 November – Nato – at summit in Lisbon – agrees plan to hand control of security to Afghan forces by end of 2014.
2011 January – President Karzai makes first official state visit to Russia by an Afghan leader since the end of the Soviet invasion in 1989.
2011 February – Number of civilians killed since the 2001 invasion hit record levels in 2010, Afghanistan Rights Monitor reports.
2011 April – Burning of Koran by a US pastor prompts country-wide protests in which foreign UN workers and several Afghans are killed.
Some 500 mostly Taliban prisoners break out of prison in Kandahar.
2011 July – President’s half-brother and Kandahar governor Ahmad Wali Karzai is killed in Taliban campaign against prominent figures.
2011 September – Ex-president Burhanuddin Rabbani – a go-between in talks with the Taliban – is assassinated.
2011 October – As relations with Pakistan worsen after a series of attacks, Afghanistan and India sign a strategic partnership to expand co-operation in security and development.
2011 November – President Karzai wins the endorsement of tribal elders to negotiate a 10-year military partnership with the US at a loya jirga traditional assembly. The proposed pact will see US troops remain after 2014, when foreign troops are due to leave the country.
2011 December – At least 58 people are killed in twin attacks at a Shia shrine in Kabul and a Shia mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Pakistan and the Taleban boycott the scheduled Bonn Conference on Afghanistan. Pakistan refuses to attend after a Nato air strike killed Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border.
2012 January – Taliban agree to open office in Dubai as a move towards peace talks with the US and the Afghan government.
2012 February – At least 30 people are killed in protests about the burning of copies of the Koran at the US Bagram airbase. US officials believed Taliban prisoners were using the books to pass messages, and that they were extremist texts not Korans. Two soldiers are also killed in reprisal attacks.
2012 March – US Army Sgt Robert Bales is accused of killing 16 civilians in an armed rampage in the Panjwai district of Kandahar.
2012 April – Taliban announce “spring offensive” with audacious attack on the diplomatic quarter of Kabul. The government blamed the Haqqani Network. Security forces kill 38 militants.
2012 May – Nato summit endorses the plan to withdraw foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
New French President Francois Hollande says France will withdraw its combat mission by the end of 2012 – a year earlier than planned.
Arsala Rahmani of the High Peace Council is shot dead in Kabul. A former Taliban minister, he was crucial in reaching out to rebel commanders. The Taliban deny responsibility.
2012 July – Tokyo donor conference pledges $16bn in civilian aid to Afghanistan up to 2016, with US, Japan, Germany and UK supplying bulk of funds. Afghanistan agrees to new conditions to counter corruption.
2012 August – The US military discipline six soldiers for accidentally burning copies of the Koran and other religious texts in Afghanistan. They will not face criminal prosecution. Three US Marines are also disciplined for a video in which the bodies of dead Taliban fighters were urinated on.
2012 September – US hands over Bagram high-security jail to the Afghan government, although it retains control over some foreign prisoners until March 2013.
The US also suspends training new police recruits in order to carry out checks on possible ties to Taliban following series of attacks on foreign troops by apparent police and Afghan soldiers.
2013 February – President Karzai and Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari agree to work for an Afghan peace deal within six months after talks hosted by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron. They back the opening of an Afghan office in Doha and urge the Taliban to do the same for talks to take place.
2013 March – Two former Kabul Bank chiefs, Sherkhan Farnood and Khalilullah Ferozi, are jailed for the multi-million dollar fraud that almost led to its collapse and that of the entire Afghan banking system in 2010.
2013 June – Afghan army takes command of all military and security operations from Nato forces.
President Karzai suspends security talks with the US after Washington announces it plans to hold direct talks with the Taliban. Afghanistan insists on conducting the talks with the Taliban in Qatar itself.
2014 January – Taliban suicide squad hits a restaurant in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, the worst attack on foreign civilians since 2001. The 13 foreign victims include IMF country head.
2014 April – The presidential election produces an inconclusive result and goes on to a second round between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.
2014 June – Second round of presidential election is held, with more than 50 reported killed in various incidents during the vote.
2014 July – Election officials begin recount of all votes cast in June’s presidential run-off, as part of a US-mediated deal to end dispute between candidates over widespread claims of fraud.
2014 September – The two rivals for the Afghan presidency, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, sign a power-sharing agreement, following a two-month audit of disputed election results. Ashraf Ghani is sworn in as president.
2014 October – The US and Britain end their combat operations in Afghanistan.
Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reaches an all-time high, according to a US report
2014 December – NATO formally ends its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan, handing over to Afghan forces. Despite the official end to Isaf’s combat role, violence persists across much of the country, with 2014 said to be the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001.
2015 January – NATO-led follow-on mission “Resolute Support” gets underway, with some 12,000 personnel to provide further training and support for Afghan security forces.
Islamic State (IS) group emerges in eastern Afghanistan and within a few months captures a large swathe of Taliban-controlled areas in Nangarhar province.
2015 March – US President Barack Obama announces that his country will delay its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, following a request from President Ashraf Ghani.
The lynching of a woman wrongly accused of burning a Koran in Kabul provokes widespread revulsion and criticism of hard-line clerics. Police face accusations of doing too little to save her. The incident leads to widespread protests against the treatment of women. Four men are later convicted of murder.
2015 May – Taliban representatives and Afghan officials hold informal peace talks in Qatar. Both sides agree to continue the talks at a later date, though the Taliban insist they will not stop fighting until all foreign troops leave the country.
2015 July – Taliban admits that reclusive founder, Mullah Omar, died a few years ago, and appoints Mullah Akhter Mansour as his replacement.
2015 September – Taliban briefly capture major northern city of Kunduz in their most significant advance since being forced from power in 2001.
2015 October – Powerful earthquake kills more than 80 people in northeast of country.
2015 October – US President Barack Obama announces that 9,800 US troops will remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2016, backtracking on an earlier pledge to pull all but 1,000 troops from the country.
2015 November – A new Taliban splinter group, headed by Mullah Rasool, announces its presence in southern Afghanistan. However, the group is totally crushed by the mainstream Taliban by spring 2016.
2015 December – Taliban make bid to capture Sangin, a town and district in Helmand Province. US warplanes deploy in support of Afghan security forces’ attempt to repel insurgents.
2015 December – NATO extends its “Resolute Support” follow-on mission by 12 months to the end of 2016.
2016 – Over one million Afghans are on the go during the year, either due to internal displacement because of the war, or are forced to repatriate by Pakistan, Iran and the European Union, according to the United Nations.
Heavy US air strikes reverse Islamic State’s gains in the east, and the group is cornered in a few districts in Nangarhar.
2016 May – New Taliban leader Mullah Mansour is killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan’s Baluchestan province.
2016 July – US President Barack Obama says 8,400 US troops will remain in Afghanistan into 2017 in light of the “precarious security situation”. NATO also agrees to maintain troop numbers and reiterates a funding pledge for local security forces until 2020.
2016 August to October – Taliban advance to the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, and to the northern city of Kunduz. The group has brought much of the two provinces under its control since the bulk of NATO forces withdrew by end of 2014.
2016 September – The Afghan government signs a peace agreement with the militant group Hezb-e-Islami and grants immunity to the group’s leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
2017 January – A bomb attack in Kandahar kills six UAE diplomats.
2017 February – Rise in Islamic State activities reported in a number of northern and southern provinces.
2017 March – Thirty people are killed and more than 50 wounded in an attack by so-called Islamic State on a military hospital in Kabul.
2017 June – Islamic State militants capture the mountainous region of Tora Bora in Nangarhar province, which was formerly used as a base by the late al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
2017 August – US President Donald Trump says he’s sending more troops to fight a resurgent Taliban.
Rare Coins and Stamps of Middle East & Afghanistan
Coinage of Satavahana Empire
Indus Civilization 2500 BC – 1500 BC
Ganges Civilization 1500 BC – 400 BC
Mauryas (Asoka) 322 BC – 320 AD
Shungas 185 BC – 30 BC
Satavahanas (Satavhana) 100 BC – 250 AD
The Satavahana (Stavhanas) Empire was an Indian dynasty based from
Dharanikota and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar (Pune) and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra. The territory of the empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward. Although there is some controversy about when the dynasty came to an end, the most liberal estimates suggest that it lasted about 450 years, until around 220 CE. The Satavahanas are credited for establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of Mauryan Empire.
The Stavhanas were vassals to the Mauryan dynasty until the decline of the latter. They are known for their patronage of Hinduism. The Stavhanas were early issuers of Indian state coinage struck with images of their rulers. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade and the transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to the southern tip of India.
The Satavahanas are among the earliest Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, starting with king Gautamiputra Satakarni, a practice derived from that of the Western Kshatrapas he defeated, itself originating with the Indo-Greek kings to the northwest.
Thousands of lead, copper and potin Satavahana coins have been discovered in the Deccan region; a few gold and silver coins are also available. These coins do not feature uniform design or size, and suggest that multiple minting locations existed within the Satavahana territory, leading to regional differences in coinage.
The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in Tamil, and Telugu languages.
Several coins carry titles or matronyms that were common to multiple rulers (e.g. Satavahana, Satakarni, and Pulumavi), so the number of rulers attested by coinage cannot be determined with certainty. The names of 16 to 20 rulers appear on the various coins. Some of these rulers appear to be local elites rather than the Satavahana monarchs.
The Satavahana coins give unique indications as to their chronology, language, and even facial features (curly hair, long ears and strong lips). They issued mainly lead and copper coins; their portrait-style silver coins were usually struck over coins of the Western Kshatrapa kings. The Satavahana coins also display various traditional symbols, such as elephants, lions, horses and chaityas (stupas), as well as the “Ujjain symbol”, a cross with four circles at the end.
Rare-coins of Ancient India from Antiques International
ANCIENT INDIAHINDU ARTMAURYAN EMPIRE
Temple Tokens and the State
Hindu Temple Coins
Temple coins or tokens which depicted specific Hindu deities on the coins often included native script including date, name of the saint or the name of the temple and location, goes back centuries. Early on they were stamped and used as holy offerings, but by the 1800s they are produced for sale at holy sites and temples as a source of income for the temple and kept by devotees as holy tokens or even murthes. Some were made by fine jewellers and many in metal from Calcutta based metal shops. Some of the stamps were used through the 19th Century into modern era. Earlier in the 12th Century they were often minted in gold, mostly in South India as the Muslim rulers who controlled areas of Northern India forbade any such holy tokens which depicted a figure or Deva, or any human-like stamps such as depictions of saints and mystics. After World War II, Diwali tokens became popular, often in silver. These would depict Ganesha and Lakshmi. However, in the olden days, most of the temple coins depicted the great epics, especially from the Ramayana. Thus the term Ramatankas, they would be stamped with Sita-Ram and the beloved Hanuman. Coins of Lakshman, Bharata and Shatrughnawere were also made.In July of 2011, a treasure worth over 10 billion dollars (500 billion rupees) including such coins were found in the vaults under the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram India, and there are more secret chambers which have been closed for over 150 years. This is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and built hundreds of years ago by the King of Travancore, but has origins back to the 6th Century, and has many treasures which are donations by devotees. It is considered one of the108 Divya Desams or Holy Abodes of Maha Vishnu. Thousands of gold coins and tokens were found here. Since Independence, a trust managed by the descendants of the Travancore Royal Family has managed the temple. However, India’s Supreme Court ordered that the temple valuables will be managed by the State. The actual value in materialistic terms of this temple exceed that of Tirupathi Temple in Andhra Pradesh which was thought to be the richest temple. This value of the treasures at the Vishnu temple is believed to actually exceed that of Tirupathi, and it is believed that in fact there are many other temples which have coins, jewellery and wealth of equal value that may tempt plunder by materialists and government both domestic and international – for example the 108 Vishnu Temples noted above.
Temple Tokens of India
Bloody Birth of Pakistan, and its early Philatelics
Prior to independence in 1947, the territory of modern Pakistan was a part of the British Indian Empire. Before this period the region was consecutively a part of Mauryan Empire, the Persian Achaemenid Empire, part of empire of Alexander of Macedonia, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, the Mongol Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Durrani Empire, the last being British Empire.
Pakistan’s modern political history began with the birth of the All India Muslim League in 1906 to protect “Muslim interests, amid neglect and under-representation” and to oppose Congress and growing Hindu nationalism in return the British Raj would decide to grant local self-rule. On 29 December 1930, philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal called for an autonomous new state in “northwestern India for Indian Muslims”.. Muhammad Ali Jinnah espoused the Two Nation Theory and led the League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940, demanding the formation of independent states in the East and the West of British India. Eventually, a successful movement led by Jinnah resulted in the partition of India and independence from Britain, on 14 August 1947.
The border between India and Pakistan was drawn right down the middle of the province, between Lahore and Amritsar. On both sides, people scrambled to get onto the “right” side of the border, or were driven from their homes by their erstwhile neighbors. At least 10 million people fled north or south, depending upon their faith, and more than 500,000 were killed in the chaos. Trains full of refugees were set upon by militants from both sides, and all the passengers massacred.
On August 14, 1947, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded. The following day, the Republic of India was established to the south. On January 30, 1948, Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated by a young Hindu radical for his support of a multi-religious state.
Initial stamps of independent Pakistan were overprinted definitive issues of British India. Initially a dominion after independence, Pakistan adopted a new constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic. A civil war in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh which in turn used the overprinted Pakistan definitive issues for postage during March 26, 1971 to April 30, 1973. These interesting local overprints are not listed in any of the major catalogs, and there are many machine printed and hand-stamped varieties of these local overprints issued for cities and towns throughout Bangladesh, especially those near the Pakistan-Bangladesh border controlled by the Liberation Army exist.
First Coins of Pakistan
First Stamps & Coins of India
India was a blend of most diverse culture of 360 million people, speaking over 1000 languages, enriched by 560 Princely States of Maharajahs until independence on August 15 1947 which consolidated them in to One Nation. The transition from British Raj to Republic of India created the biggest democracy in the world.
The first set of 3 stamps of the independent republic was issued on 21st November 1947 . The stamps were printed at Nasik Security Press with lithographic method. All the three stamps have become rare now after 70 years after issue.
The first coinage of the republic was introduced on 15th August, 1950. The portrait of British King George VI was replaced by the Lion Capital of the Ashoka Pillar. A corn sheaf replaced the Tiger on the one Rupee coin. In some ways this symbolised a shift in focus to progress and prosperity. Indian motifs were incorporated on other coins. The monetary system was largely retained unchanged with one Rupee consisting of 16 Annas.
Today we celebrate the First Coins and the First Stamps of this nation at Antiques International.
The Ramayana Connection: Sri Lanka
The Sanskrit epic Rāmāyana is perhaps the most depicted epic in the world today. Some of the most exotic historic sites in India and the rest of the east, such as the Ellora caves, Mahāvalipuram, Cambodian temples, and several other places in Thailand portray Rāmāyana scenes and characters in their sculptures and paintings. Its literary contents have continued to inspire artists and artesans to depict the Rāmāyana scenes in paintings, on stone and other media for sculptures. Consisting
of 24,000 verses, it is supposed to have been written around 250 to 300 BC, although the events described in it appear to be much earlier, around 1000 BC. Although generally looked upon as a religious epic of the Hindus the contents in relation to Lanka reveal some contents that may be historic.
Many other religious beliefs to stake a claim to Lanka, the present Sri Lanka. To the Mohammedans it was the paradise of Adam and Eve. One Islamic legend says that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the paradise, Adam fell on the island of Ceylon, and Eve near Jeddah, the port of Mecca. They later met each other and lived in Ceylon. Adam’s Peak is a legacy of this legend.
For the Buddhists, it was the island chosen for salvation of Rakshas and Nagas by the Buddha. With such a variety of claims it is not entirely surprising to see Lanka having a multitude of ancient names. The Island’s ancient name, Lanka (Laka or Laksha, thousands) is supposed to be derived from the Sanskrit language, to refer to a multitude of islands around its western coast. In the Pandiyan Saṅgam literature, the southern region in the peninsula is referred to as MaveIlaṅkai (great Lanka), while Lanka, known for its supply of rice to the Tamil kingdom, is referred to as Ilaṅkai. The Sinhalese called the island Sīhala, after the Siṃha (lion) of the Vijaya legend. This name was corrupted to Sinhaladipa, and became the Serendib of the Arabs around the 2nd century AD. During the colonial period Sieladipa became Ceilão, and later ‘Zeilan’, and ‘Ceylon’ under the Dutch and British.
To the Hindus, it was the scene of the epic Rāmāyana battle where Rāma and Rāvaṇa fought over Sītā. The Hindu epic poem, Rāmāyana refers to the island as Ilaṅkai, the most antiquated name for the island. Many holy places in the island are implied in the Rāmāyana. Rāma is said to have prayed for his victory over Rāvaṇa, at the shrine for Siva at Muniswaram (Tamil: mun, ancient or before, Īśvara, Hindu god) in the Chilaw district. The narrow causeway between Ramēśvaram (Hindu gods: Rāma, Īśvara,) in India and Talaimannar served as the crossing point for Rāma before his battle with the Lankan king Rāvaṇa, and we know that this is geographically true. Dandaka forest, the northernmost wildernes of South India (Penninsular India) is where the first conflict between Rama (Aryan) and Surpaanakai, the sister of king Rāvaṇa (Dravidian), began. The legend in many ways is a rerun of the Aryan invasion that occurred thousand years previously in the Indus which probably captured the imagination of Valmiki.
Following the Rig Veda of the Aryans (c 1400 BC), the next earliest quasi historic document that we can find is the Rāmāyana. The classical historian and Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Theodor Mommsen (1817-1910) quotes: “Imagination, mother of all poetry, is likewise mother of all history.” In the epic a divine monkey from the tribe of Vānarar comes to the island of Ilaṅkai in search of Rāma’s wife, who was abducted by Rāvaṇa, the king of Lanka. Shortly before entering Lanka he stands on Pavalamalai (Pearl Mountain) near Lanka, and observes the island which is regarded as a paradise. In the Kamba Rāmāyanam, a Tamil version of the Rāmāyana written later in the 12th century AD, the divine city of Lanka was built by the architect of God. Its palaces reached for the skies, with shining precious stones embedded in gold. Divine women of the giant race (Rākṣasas) and divine lords were serving giants like King Rāvaṇa. According to Kambar’s description Wind and God could enter the city only with Rāvaṇa’s consent; such was the the defence and glory of Lanka. Men and women happily lived here without the slightest care. Only happy people were seen about, and Hahnuman could not see any signs of discontent as he sifted through Lanka looking for Sītā.
The episode on war, the Uttara- kāṇḍa in the classic, between the Lankan Dravidian king and the Aryan king of India, constitutes 68 chapters out of a total of 537 chapters, in six books. Although in these verses the Rāmāyana narrates unlikely supernatural feats such as the flight of Hahnuman, a monkey god over Lanka, some geographical framework such as the Rama’s Bridge is noted. Rāma and Sītā’s legend still lives on in Sri Lanka through several place-names: Sītāvaka in the
Avissawella district where Sītā is believed to have been held in captivity: Sītākoṭuva, near Gurulupota in Minipe, on the Kandy-Mahiyangana road where Sītā is supposed to have been initially held by the Lankan king: Rāvaṇa, Älla, in Ella (near Badulla), a scenic cave behind waterfalls where Rāvaṇa hid Sītā: Ariṣṭa mountain Riṭigala) where Hahnuman is said to have dumped the earth containing medical herbs from Himalayas: MunĪśvaram where Rāma prayed for his victory: Sītā Amman Kovil, near Hakgala Gardens, where Hahnuman found Sītā, and the Rāma’s Bridge (Adam’s bridge) built by Hahnuman for Rāma to cross over to Lanka.
HINDU ART & MYTHOLOGY
Gods on Coins & Stamps
There are more animals and mortals depicted on coins than Gods. Yet religion is the oldest culture in the world. Kushan kings of India were the first represent gods incuding Shiva and Buddha in their coins as early as 100 to 300 AD.
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 of 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.
The coins have their own caste system or status too, the poorest being cooper or aluminium or copper, silver for the gentry, and gold for the kings and the wealthy.
Since late 19th century there came a new forum to represent gods in daily life: the postage stamps. The expression of gods on stamps and coins also contributed to philatelic and numismatic art in daily life.
Gods on Coins and Stamps
French India, the last of the Maritime Powers to reach India
France was the last of the major European maritime powers of the 17th century to take a foot-hold in East India trade. Six decades after the foundation of the English and Dutch East India companies (in 1600 and 1602 respectively), and at a time when both companies were profiting on the shores of India, the French still did not have a viable trading company or a single permanent establishment in the East.
French India, formally the Établissements français dans l’Inde (“French establishments in India”), was a French colony comprising geographically separate enclaves on the Indian subcontinent. The possessions were originally acquired by the French East India Company beginning in the second half of the 17th century, and were de facto incorporated into the Union of India in 1950 and 1954. The French establishments included Pondichéry, Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast, Mahé on the Malabar Coast and Chandernagor in Bengal. French India also included several loges (“lodges”, subsidiary trading stations) in other towns, but after 1816 the loges had little commercial importance and the towns to which they were attached came under British administration.
By 1950, the total area measured 510 km2 (200 sq miles), of which 293 km2 (113 sq miles) belonged to the territory of Pondichéry. In 1936, the population of the colony totaled 298,851 inhabitants, of which 63% (187,870) lived in the territory of Pondichéry
RARE COINS OF INDIA