Introduction

From the desk of the author


The Aravali range, one of the oldest mountain chains divides modern Rajasthan into two distinct regions diagonally. The Western Rajasthan is popularly known as “Thar desert” or as ‘Marudesh’ which is dry and sandy whereas the Eastern region of Aravali is comparatively fertile and semi humid. Here we find classic evidences of various civilizations that developed in different times well from Old Stone Age onwards. 

However, when we trace the evidences of early History of the region we find a number of architectural remains, epigraphs, numismatic finds etc. These evidences are sometimes supported by the Buddhist, Jain and Vedic literature. Amongst these, the numismatic evidences found through excavations or as hoards are the most important and authentic. The Department of Archaeology and Museums, Rajasthan is rich enough in having a collection of variety of coins comprising of about seventy eight series well from punchmarked to British period. Amongst these the most important are punchmarked series of coins comprising of more than Seven thousand silver coins kept in different Government Museums of Rajasthan. Besides these silver coins there are some copper punchmarked coins also found from South Eastern Rajasthan.

The Eastern plains and slopes of Aravali range yielded a number of silver and copper punchmarked coins whereas, the Western region of ‘Thar desert’ which is about 60%of the total area is yet to record such a discovery.

It is also of interest that some silver puncmarked coins have been found in company with datable Greek, Indo-Greek coins. Such finds definitely help in restructuring the early history of the region. The silver punchmarked coins reported here are from Bairat (Virat Nagar) Distt. Jaipur; Gurara Distt. Sikar; Ismailpur Distt. Alwar; Jaichandpura Distt. Jaipur; Sambhar Distt. Jaipur; Rairh Distt. Tonk and Nagar Distt. Tonk. The Rairh hoard comprises some copper coins also. In South Eastern Rajasthan, a large number of copper punchmarked coins have been reported from Nagari Distt. Chittorgarh, but most of these were surface finds. However, 16 coins were recovered during excavation by Bhandarkar at Nagari which can be considered authentic1. Thus, if we trace the numismatic finds from North to South in the Eastern region of Aravali, we find a huge number of silver punchmarked coins in North East and a few copper punchmarked coins in Southern Rajasthan.

Bairat is well known epic site (Virat Nagar) located 66 kms in North of Jaipur the capital of Rajasthan. Major Burt discovered in the year 1840 C.E. the Bhabru-Vairat rock edict of Ashoka of 3rd B.C.E. The other edict, was discovered by Carylle in the year1872 C.E.at Bhim Doongari2. In the vicinity of these edicts there were remains of Buddhist monastery. During excavation at Bairat Sahani in 1935 C.E. found a small pottery jar of coarse clay containing ancient silver punchmarked coins along with Greek-Indo-Greek coins kept in the lower course of the outer wall behind the fourth cell from the North of the monastery3. There were total 36 coins, 8 of these were punchmarked coins which were found wrapped in a piece of cloth. The other 28 were of Greek/Indo-Greek kings lay loose in the jar. The Greek coins include one of Helioclese (circa 140 B.CE.) the second son of Eucratides, Indo-Greek king Apollodotus- 1, Menander-16, Antialkidas-1, Strato1-2, Antimachos Nikephors-1, Hermaios with his queen Kalliape-2(circa-28-45 B.C.E.)and Hermaios-4.This find is significant as it provides numismatic, archaeological, and epigraphic proof about the ruling of Mauryans. The find also prove the leaning of Mauryans towards Buddhism. The silver punchmarked coins have been found in company with datable Indo-Greek coins. This indicate that Bairat, a Buddhist Centre later on came under the domains of Menander the Indo–Greek ruler who himself turned to be a Buddhist. This find provide authentic evidences of the Buddhist establishment here in the 3rd B.C.E. until about 1st century C.E.

In the West of Bairat (Virat nagar), a huge hoard comprising of 2744 silver punchmarked coins was found from village Gurara, tehsil- Khandela, Distt. Sikar. The hoard was found in a clay vessel while digging pits for plantation by the Department of Forest of Rajasthan. The hoard was acquired by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Rajasthan in the year 2000 C.E.

Adjoining to Bairat in the East, a hoard of 130 silver punchmarked coins was found by two boys who were grazing goats on the slope of a hillock near the village Doongari Ismailpur, Distt. Alwar. Ismailpur is situated about 19 kms in East of Bairat. This hoard of 130 Silver punchmarked coins was acquired by the Department partly (59) in the year 1965C.E. and partly (71) in the year 1971C.E.

In South of Bairat, a hoard of 595 punchmarked coins was found from village Jaichandpura, Tehsil Jamwa-Ramgarh, Distt. Jaipur. Jaichandpura is located 60 kms in South of Bairat and 46 Kms North- East of Jaipur. The hoard was acquired by the Department in the year 1995 C.E. and published by the author in the year 1997C.E.. The hoard was found in a broken earthen vessel.

In addition to above, a very important find came to lime light through excavation conducted at Naliasar Sambhar in the year 1884C.E. by Mr. lyon followed  by Col. Handely4 and thereafter by Dayaram Sahani in the year 1936-38 C.E.5. The site is about 60 Kms in West of Jaipur. About 200 silver and copper coins which also included 6 silver punchmarked coins were found from an ancient mound situated on the bank of newly dried up lake four miles from the Sambhar lake. The excavation was important in determining the dates of different layers and the habitations. This revealed six occupation levels. The lower most layers yielded 2 silver punchmarked and remaining four coins in the main trench. Above this a silver coin of Indo-Greek king Antimachaeous Nikephors was found. The upper layer yielded coins of ‘Arjunayans’,’Yaudheyas’ and one copper coin of Huvishka. The top most layer yielded 6 Indo-Sasanian coins. The discovery of a silver coin of Indo-Greek ruler Antimachaeous Nikephors was significant in the middle layer. One coin of Huvishka excavated in the main trench helped in determining the later phase of the habitation.

Another very important site is Rairh which is situated in Distt. Tonk in vicinity of Distt. Jaipur. The village Rairh is about 85 kms from Jaipur towards South. It was a chance discovery that a peasant boy who was playing on an ancient mound near the river Dhil a tributary of river Banas found an earthenware vessel containing 326 silver punchmarked coins in the year 1936 C.E.6. Afterwards, a stratigraphic excavation was initiated by Sahani followed by Puri in the year 1938-39C.E. and 1939-40 C.E. which yielded four more hoards consisting of 99, 132, 535, 1893 silver punchmarked, total 3075 punchmarked coins7.This is one of the largest hoard of silver punchmarked coins ever reported in the State. All the five hoards found at Rairh   were in earthen vessel. Puri published a detailed catalogue of the silver and copper coins found during excavations 8. One of the significant find from Rairh excavation is recovery of silver punchmarked coins (2) similar to the coins of Koshal Janapada. These coins are probably the earliest coins found in the State. Apart from these silver punchmarked hoards which were recovered from two different trenches during excavations at a depth of about two to four feet below the surface, a large number of copper coins were also recovered as surface finds. The surface finds comprised of a few silver punchmarkrd coins, over 300 Malava,14 coins of Mitra kings, 6 Senapatis issue, 7 Vapu coins, a broken coin of Apollodotous, 189 inscribed copper coins, a couple of base- silver Indo-Sassanian coins etc. Some of the copper coins found here were similar to the copper punchmarked coins found from Vidisha. These coins were thin, broad and rectangular in shape.

The recovery of a group of 5 rectangular and 1 round inscribed copper punchmarked coins bearing the name of the issuer ‘Senapatis Vachhaghos’ in Brahmi characters on the top is unique. No such coin has been reported anywhere else so far. According to ‘Anguttara Nikaya’ and ‘Bhagvati sutra’, Vachha (Vatsa) was one of the 16 Janapada. According to Vrahit samhita also Vachha-gosh was a Janapada9 It is also of interest that name of a village was Goshundi near Chittor from where an inscription of 2nd - 3rd century B.C.E. inscribed in Brahmi script was found.

Also from Rairh, 7 copper coins bearing the word ‘Vapu’ in Brahmi characters and symbols like Ujjayani and mountain of the period 2nd B.C.E. have been found. The fact is that around beginning of 2nd cent. B.C.E. Mauryan Empire started to decline and ultimately the assassination of Brahdrath grandson of Ashoka in 185 B.C.E. resulted into the rise of small principalities. Pushyamitra Sunga was responsible for the fall of Mauryan Empire. Later on some rulers having the suffix Mitra ruled in Kanauj, Panchala, Mathura and probably in some parts of Eastern Rajasthan. Coins, similar to Mitra coins have been found at Rairh.

Further south to Rairh a very important ancient historical site known as Nagar which is also known as Karkot Nagar situated near Uniara Distt. Jaipur. From here five punchmarked silver along with 100 Malava coins were recovered which are kept in the Archaeology &Museums. Department, Rajasthan10 The site was surveyed by Carlleyle long back in the year 1871-72 C.E. Inspired by this Deva undertook excavation at Nagar later on.11

Another important historical site Tambavati Nagari probably the ancient Madhyamika of Patanjali is situated about 10 kms North of Chittorgarh on the bank of river Bedach. The site was first visited by Carllyle in the year 1872C.E. and published his finds in Archaeological Survey of India report. Later on, Bhandarkar undertook the excavations at Nagari in the year 1915-16 C.E.12. During excavations at Hathi-Bada he recovered 16 Copper Punchmarked coins. Out of four symbols on these coins, he could identify three symbols but in my opinion the fourth one was that of a human figure having a pot in his right hand. Besides these, a number of copper Punchmarked coins were reported by and Sanklia13 and Gupta14 etc. in their publications but their provenance is not satisfactory mentioned.

Although some copper punchmarked coins are displayed at Govt. Museum, Ahar (Udaipur) but their provenance is not known. These coins are similar to the coins found at Nagari. The excavation report of Ahar by Sanklia, Deo, Ansari (1969C.E.) does not mention the recovery of punchmarked coins from Ahar 15 .

After the fall of Mauryan Empire, the copper punchmarked coins probably belonging to Matsaya Janapada and Vidisha were in circulation. The copper punchmarked reported from Nagari probably belonged to Sungas. Thus, there is a continuity of the punchmarked coins from 6th B.C.E onwards up to Sunga period in the Eastern Rajasthan. The datable Greek and Indo-Greek coins recovered from Bairat, Sambhar, Rairh and Ahar etc. are of great importance in determining the chronology of the region.

It is observed that ‘Thar desert, the western region of Aravalis is completely devoid of a hoard of Punchmarked coins whereas the eastern one is full of such type of coins. It also shows that western Rajasthan was probably not under the dominion of the rulers who issued such coins. Most probably Salves were ruling in this region.

Critical examination of the numismatic finds from Rairh, provide complete series of Punchmarked coins beginning with the coins of Koshal janapada followed by successors of Bimbisara, Sisunagas, Nandas, Mauryans, Sungas etc. This find can help the scholars in deriving the chronology of the region. Recovery of silver punchmarked from Buddhist monastery and the Ashokan edicts from Bairath definitely establish the influence of ‘Buddhism’ in the region. After the inroads of Greek/Indo-Greek indicated through the recovery of their coins from Bairath, Sambhar, Rairh and Ahar etc, it appears that the region was under political changes. During this period circulation of Copper punchmarked coins in place of silver punchmarked coins at Rairh and Nagari indicate political instability and economic degradation in the region around 1st - 2nd B.C.E.

The author studied these silver and copper punchmarked coins and prepared a catalogue of about 460 selected coins giving complete Numismatic details and submitted to the Department in the year 2010 C.E. Later on the catalogue was put on the Web-site for the use of scholars. The present catalogue represent selected punchmarked coins recovered as hoards or during excavations in Rajasthan and a few coins whose provenance is not known but laying in different Government museums of Rajasthan. However while deriving the historical conclusions and tracing the map of recovery only those coins recovered as hoards or during excavations are considered. The coins of unknown find spots are specially mentioned individually. Looking to the importance of these valuable ancient coins, it is proposed to publish a printed catalogue. The author consulted the Web-site16 of Department of Archaeology &.Museums, Rajasthan. Due attention was paid to the views of Hardekar17, Gupta18 and Mitchiner19 while mentioning the chronology and the dynasties.

I express my sincere appreciation to Fateh Singh Pokharna for his outright help in preparing web-site and the catalogue. 

References

1.      Bhandarkar D.R., (1920) The Archaeological remains and excavations at Nagari, (Memoirs of the Archaeological survey of India, No.4), P.122, 148-49.
2.      Sahni D.R, (1940) Archaeological remains and excavations at Virat nagar, P.18.
3.      Ibid, P.21, 32-35.
4.      Sahni D.R, (1940, Rep.1999) Archaeological remains and excavations at Sambhar, p.18-19.
5.      Ibid, P.19, 48.
6.      Puri K.N., (Rep.1998) Excavations at Rairh, P.4.
7.      Ibid, P.46-49.
8.      Ibid, Pl. XXIV—XXXVI.
9.      Gupta P.L, Bharat ke Purvakalik sikke, 1965, p.180.
10.  Pokharna P.L, (1997), Coins and Coin Hoards of Rajasthan, p.3.
11.  Srivastava S.P., Talk on coins, P.12.
12.  Bhandarkar D.R., (1920 ) The Archaeological remains and excavations  at Nagari, (Memoirs of the Archaeological survey of India,No.4),P.1,122.
13.  Sankalia H.D., Copper punchmarked coins fromNagari”J.N.S.I., Vol.XVII, 1955, Pt. I, p.1-28.
14.  Gupta (1965) P.L, Bharat ke Purvakalik sikke, p.80-81.
15.  Sankalia H.D, Deo S.B., Ansari Z.D.(1969),Excavations at Ahar (Tambavati),P.13 .
16.  http://www.ancientcoins.rajasthan.gov.in.
17.  Gupta P.L., Hardekar(2014 ) Punchmarked coinage of  the Indian subcontinent Magadh- Mauryanan   Series.
18.  Gupta P.l., (1963).The Amaravati    hoard of Silver punchmarked coins, P.149-151.
19.  Mitchiner, Michel (1978), Oriental Coins and their values, The Ancient and Classical world.
 
Abbreviations used
B.M.C.                  Catalogue of the coins of Ancient India in British Museum. 
A.R.E.N.               Archaeological remains and excavations at Nagari.
A.R.E.S.               Archaeological remains and excavations at Sambhar.  
A.R.E.V                Archaeological remains and excavations at Virat nagar.         
O.C.V.(A.C.W.)    Oriental Coins and their values, The Ancient and Classical world.
P.C.I.S.                 Punchmarked coinage of the Indian subcontinent. 
P.R.H.C.                Proceedings of Rajasthan History congress.
C.C.H.                   Coins and Coin Hoards of Rajasthan.
J.N.S.I.                  Journal of Numismatic society of India.                           
                      

 
 

© 2010 Prem Lata Pokharna

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