Category Archives: WORLS HISTORY

Golden Age of Chandragupta

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

GUPTA GOLD HORSEMAN 2

Gold coin of Chandragupta

 

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