Coins as a Source of Ancient Indian History

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Though numerous coins have been found on the surface, many have been found while digging the mounds. The study of coins is called ‘numismatics’. Numismatics was used for historiography as far back as the 12th century by Kalhana, the author of, Rajatarangini. The earlier coins discovered in India are of copper and silver.

However, ancient coins of gold, lead, etc., have also been found. The earliest coins of India contain a few symbols, but the later coins mention the names of kings and gods or dates.

Ancient people would store money in earthen­ware or brass vessels. Many such hoards, containing I both indigenous coins and those minted abroad such I as in the Roman Empire, have been discovered in I different parts of the country.

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The areas where they I are found indicate the region of their circulation. These coins have enabled us to reconstruct the history and extent of several ruling dynasties, espe­cially of the Indo-Greeks.

About 31 of the Indo- Grcek kings and queens have been known mainly from coins alone. Much of the history of the Kushanas has been revealed to us through their coins. Much of the political life of the Sakas of Ujjain comes to us only through coins.

Coins are a good source of administrative as well as constitutional history. The ancient coins celebrate the victory of republics in some cases. They thus confirm the prevalence of a republican consti­tution in ancient India.

The administration under the Sakas and the Pahlavas has been reconstructed largely on the basis of coins. The purity of the coins also reveals the economic conditions of a period.

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Coins also portray kings and gods, and contain religious symbols and legends, by which one can get an idea of the art and religion of the time. Portraits on some of the Indo-Greek coins are considered the best examples of ancient portraiture art.

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