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From the IGNCA Bookshelves

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Of Kings and Coins 

Coins are an important source in the study of history. Not only do they help understand the socio-political, cultural and administrative aspects of past kingdoms and rulers, but also help immensely in archaeology in determining dates. IGNCA has an exhaustive collection of books on the subject, under the head Numismatics. A substantial number of these books are in the Lance Dane collection. This is just a glimpse. 

Stratigraphic Evidence of Coins in Indian Excavations by Dr. S.C. Ray: is part of the Numismatic Notes and Monographs series of the Numismatic Society of India. Published in 1958, the monograph discusses the importance of coins in the context of archaeological excavations, especially in India. Coins have more than anything else, helped to determine chronology in archaeological excavation when its presence in a particular stratum (a firm layer and not a mere dump) has fixed the date of the same along with other objects found in association and has secondarily made it possible to fix other phases of occupation also in a chronological sequence in relation to one thus already fixed. The presence of a coin in vertical excavation therefore is of immense value to an archaeologist Ray says. He gives ample evidences making it a rich presentation.

Indian Numismatic Studies by K.D. Bajpai: has discussed some of the major problems pertaining to ancient Indian numismatics. The book incorporates substantial new material on the coins of the early Janapadas (Tribal States) including the new Bodhi dynasty of Dahala, the early Sakas and of the Guptas. The problems of Ramagupta, the so-called mysterious ruler of the Gupta dynasty, have been discussed in detail mainly on the basis of coins. The gold coin of Harshavardhana, for the first time discovered by the author himself, has also been published in the book. It contains a majority of papers published by the author in different periodicals. He has written 28 books and over 500 research papers on ancient Indians History, Culture and Archaeology.

Catalogue of the Coins in the Indian Museum Calcutta by Vincent A. Smith: this was first published in the first decade of 20th century. The author encountered difficulties as the coins were given to him without any segregation. He received 5000 of which he has described 3000 in the volume. Here coins are treated in twenty-four sections, to each of which is prefixed a brief historical introduction with full bibliographical details. The sections have been grouped in three parts. The first part, dealing with the early foreign dynasties and the Guptas, includes almost all the coins, which exhibit clear traces of Hellenic influences, and consequently, with very few exceptions, all the coins possessed of artistic merit. Part II is devoted to the ancient coins of Indian types, some of which are earlier in date than the coinage derived from Greek models. Part III comprises all the other classes of coins and includes the mediaeval coins of Northern and Central India, the coinage of the south and west, and that of the frontier kingdoms up to the present day. 

Foreign Elements in Indian indigenous Coins edited by Ajay Mitra Shastri: This is a publication of the Numismatic Society of India. The papers in this were presented at seminar. The preface says it is admitted on all hands that the coins of the foreign rulers of India, more particularly those of the Indo-Greeks, Kushans and the Saka Kshatrataps of Western India, exerted a good deal of influence on the monetary issues of the contemporary and later indigenous rulers, both republican and monarchical and in some respects the impact was so far-reach that it continued to be felt for several centuries after the original prototypes had gone out of circulation. Some of the papers included are :Impact of Indo-Greek Coins on Early Indigenous Coins, Foreign Elements in the Metrology of Early Indigenous Coins of India, Foreign Impact on Legends Technique and Devices and Foreign Elements in the Coinage of the Guptas.

Coins of the Mogul Emperors of India by Chas. J. Rodgers: The author says that through the History of the Mogul Empire is so well known in India, the coins struck by the different Mogul Emperors are not so well known. The reason of this is that few of the historians paid any attention to them. Stressing the importance of coins, he says it is not known to historians that whenever a king conquered a town or province he ordered coins to be struck there in his name and with the name of the town on the coins as mint. In fact the Emperors must have carried their mints along with them. This would not be a formidable matter. The diesinker, the weigher, the actual striker could all carry their tools with them. He discusses extensively the pattern and timing of the casting of the coins.

Indo-Portuguese Coinage by V.T.Gune: The Portuguese in India manufactured their coins for more than three and half centuries that ended in 1869 with the closure of the Mint in Goa. The Goa mint was established just after the first conquest of Goa by Albuquerque in March 17th in 1510 and it was re-established after the second Conquest of 25th November 1510 from the Adil Shah of Bijapur. The book, an outcome of the Exhibition of Stamps and Coins at Panaji, Goa discusses the story of the mint in an interesting manner.

Studies in Indian Coins and Seals by Devendra Handa: is a collection of 31 chapters dealing with coins and currency from the earliest period of their appearance to the modern times. A new series of local early silver coins bring to light the first Kahudraka and Vrishni copper coins, new varieties of Kada and Arjunayana coins, the smallest coins of the Malavas and of Ala-ud-Din Khilji, an unique coin of Shah Alam II and an unique bilingual commemorative medal of the time of Guru Gobind Singh, some interesting temple tokens, commemorative medals etc. Interesting pieces like Alexander's tatradrachm, coins of Rudrila and the paper coins of the Bikaner state also find place in these pages. Neglected coins of the Rajanyas have been brought to the notice of the scholars and some wrongly attributed coins like those of the Audumbara-Mitras, Vidisagupta and 'Thaka-pa' are re-attributed. The smallest Copper Coin was believed to be of Alau-Din Khilji weighing 21.5 grains. The author however obtained a still smaller piece, which has been published in the book.

Impact of Indo-Greek Coins on Early Indigenous issues by A.N. Lahari: The Greeks had already attained a near perfection in the art of coin-making by c.250 B.C. when they established their independent sway in Bactria, i.e. Northern Afghanistan. The Greeks had very little contact with the Indians so long as they ruled in Bacteria. Consequently, Greek coins had no impact on the contemporary Indian issues, which originated and evolved the purely indigenous manner. Coins of India differed from their Graeco-Bactrian counterparts not only in their technique of manufacture, but also in their fabric shape and devices as well as in their weight-standard. Therefore, the view that the Indians learnt to inscribe their coins from the Persians and the Greeks is untenable.

The author discusses four fundamental aspects of Greek coins and sees how they had cast their influence on early indigenous issues. These are: the: Manufacturing Technique, devices coins, Metrology and coin legends. Indians used three distinct techniques of manufacture known as punch marking, casting and die-striking. Greeks, on the contrary, manufactured their coins only by the die-struck process, which was technically much superior to that used by the Indians. Devices of Coins Indians Pre-Greek indigenous issues had for their devices groups of symbols of various forms. These symbols were, for obvious reasons, designed in a small scale and included, besides rare humans, animals and plants. The standards of early North Indian coins were based on the raktika seed or ratti, the theoretical weight of which is considered to be 1.8 grains. As for the coin legend, the author says that Indians did not learn the use of writing on coins from any foreigner. Inserting a legend on coins was a natural evolution in India. 

Coin Collecting by Atkinson Matthews: is a handbook on the subject. Unfortunately, there is very little reference to India. There is a glossary of common terms used in coin collecting and references to several books, which will guide an amateur coin collector.


Compiled by Mangalam Swaminathan


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