Ancient Indian Currency:
Punch Marked Coins
The Indus valley civilization of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa dates back between 2500 BC and 1750 BC. There, however, is no consensus on whether the seals excavated from the sites were in fact coins.
Seals of Mohenjo-Daro
The first documented coinage is deemed to start with ‘Punch Marked’ coins issued between the 7th-6th century BC and 1st century AD. These coins are called ‘punch-marked’ coins because of their manufacturing technique. Mostly made of silver, these bear symbols, each of which was punched on the coin with a separate punch.
Issued initially by merchant Guilds and later by States, the coins represented a trade currency belonging to a period of intensive trade activity and urban development. They are broadly classified into two periods: the first period (attributed to the Janapadas or small local states) and the second period (attributed to the Imperial Mauryan period). The motifs found on these coins were mostly drawn from nature like the sun, various animal motifs, trees, hills etc. and some were geometrical symbols.
Dating of regular dynastic coin issues is controversial. The earliest of these coins relate to those of the Indo-Greeks, the Saka-Pahlavas, and the Kushans. These coins are generally placed between the 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD.
Hellenistic traditions characterize the silver coins of the Indo-Greeks, with Greek gods and goddesses figuring prominently, apart from the portraits of the issuers. These coins with their Greek legends are historically significant, as the history of the Indo-Greeks has been reconstructed almost entirely on their evidence.
The Saka coinage of the Western Kshatrapas is perhaps the earliest dated coins, the dates being given in the Saka era which commences in AD 78. The Saka era represents the official calendar of the Indian Republic. Earliest Kushan coinage is generally attributed to Vima Kadphises.
The Kushan coins generally depicted iconographic forms drawn from Greek, Mesopotamian, Zorastrian and Indian mythology. Siva, Buddha, and Kartikeya were the major Indian deities portrayed. Kushan gold coins influenced subsequent issues, notably those of the Guptas.
The Satavahanas were the early rulers of the region between the rivers, Godavari and the Krishna. They were also referred to as the Andhra. They soon brought under their control, both the Western-Deccan and Central India. The dates of their coming into power are contentious and are variously put between 270 BC to 30 BC.
Their coins were predominantly of copper and lead, however, silver issues are also known. These coins carried the motifs of fauna like elephants, lions, bulls, horses, etc. often juxtaposed against motifs from nature like hills, tree, etc. The silver coins of the Satavahanas carried portraits and bilingual legends, which were inspired by the Kshatrapa types.