Webpages of Tamil Electronic Library (C)K. Kalyanasundaram
Aspects of Numismatics of Interest to Tamil Diaspora
Numismatics is the scientific study of money and its history in all its varied forms. While numismatists
are often characterized as studying coins, the discipline also includes a much larger study of
payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods. Lacking a structured
monetary system, people in the past as well as some today, lived in a barter society and
used locally found items of inherent or implied value. Early money used by primitive
people is referred to as "Odd and Curious," but the use of other goods in barter exchange
is excluded, even where used as a circulating currency (e.g. prison cigarettes). For instance,
the Kyrgyz people used horses as the principal currency unit and gave small change
in lambskins. The lambskins may be suitable for numismatic study, the horse is not.
Many objects have been used for centuries, such as conch shells, precious metals and gems.
Today, most transactions take place by a form of payment with either inherent, standardized
or credit value. Numismatic value may be used to refer to the value in excess of the monetary
value conferred by law. This is also known as the collectors value.
Numismatics Gallery at Government Museum, Chennai, Tamilnadu
The Government Museum, Chennai has a rich collection of the ancient, mediaeval and modern Indian coins, gold, silver, copper, lead, potin and billion. Besides these there is a representative collection of foreign coinage.
The Museum had, up to 1865 AD, only a very small collection of coins in its cabinet. Under the Treasure Trove Act all finds unearthed anywhere in the state are sent to this Museum by the Revenue authorities for examination and if it is decided that they are worth acquiring, they are acquired by the Government for the Museum. But treasure trove hoards are not the only source through which coins are received here. Most of the North Indian coins are donated by North Indian Museums and institutions such as the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay, the Asiatic Society, Nagpur, the U.P. Coin Committee, Indian Museum, Calcutta and so on.
In the year 1976 AD, on the first floor of the Bronze Gallery, the Numismatics section has started a gallery of its own. It is not possible to exhibit the coins in original to the public on grounds of safety. Therefore plaster cast impression of the coins are prepared and exhibited in the gallery.
There are at present two hundred and fifty medals in the section, a majority of which are exhibition medals, of very little interest. The rare pieces are the Mysore medals. The plaster cast of these medals are kept in the gallery with photographs. The collection includes a facsimile of the Great Charter of England, the Magna Carta of 1215 AD believed to be the only copy in India. It is displayed in the gallery.
The Government Museum, Chennai has the unique privilege of organising the first Philatelic Gallery in any Museum in India. The gallery has been organised in 1964 AD to present the evolution and development of postage stamps in the world. Stamps of all countries of the world beginning with the inception of the modern Postal System are displayed here.
This gallery is situated at present in the second floor of the Natural History block, which can be reached from the Jain Gallery or from a flight of steps from the first gallery.
Some of the Coins in display at the Chennai Museum
For young Sudharshan it is fun collecting and preserving them. For researchers like Jyothi, it is the ‘life line’ of archeology for understanding the political, historical, economic and religious conditions of a period. The common interest between these two - is the study of ‘ Numismatics’. Several coin collectors like Sudharshan and researchers like Jyothi participated in a two-day Indian Numismatics workshop organised by the Tamil Nadu Regional Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and the Madras Coin Society. The workshop organised at Anna University on March 16th and 17th gave the participants an insight into the several aspects of Numismatics with many historians and archeologists providing valuable information on the subject. Besides, coin-collectors, researchers and postgraduate students, many high school and college teachers attended the workshop.
Coin collection, as a hobby, interests the young and old alike. " I started collecting coins of different countries when my mother first gave 10 Francs. Today, I have 230 coins, and majority of them, are of foreign countries. It is fun going about collecting them. We friends exchange and sell them among ourselves," said M. Sudharshan, who is still a school student. While "coin-collection is a fascinating and interesting hobby as listening to good music," as Dr. R. Nagaswamy, former Director, Archeological Survey of India (ASI) said, numismatics can be pursued not only as a mere hobby, but to study in detail the many facets of life of any period in History. " During excavations, we find these coins from which we could determine the period they existed, instruments used by the kings, their religious symbols, etc. Kings used coins for propaganda too. We can also infer the economic conditions of the period by the metals used for minting these coins," said Ms. Christy Veda, a researcher.
Mr. R. Krishnamurthy, Editor, Dinamalar, an expert in South Indian coins, who inaugurated the workshop, in his address dealt in detail about the various coins of the Sangam Age, Tamil Kings - Cholas, Cheras, Malayamans and Pandyas. According to Dr. Suresh, Consultant (Numismatics) at INTACH, "The study of numismatics is still in its infancy in India, although the subject has been included in the syllabus of History in UG and PG levels in Tamil Nadu. The subject can be taught more systematically, if the teachers themselves have a good exposure to the subject. Hence, to remove this lacuna, INTACH (an NGO), organised this workshop." Dr. Suresh gave a lecture on " Foreign Coins Found in India with Special reference to Roman Coins". " Among the many foreign coins found in India, there are numerous Roman coins. Coins of almost all the Roman emperors such as Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nero are found mainly in the coastal areas. Some of these coins were even used as currency. But, a few of them found in India are however ‘imitation’ coins produced here itself. The Madras Museum has a large collection of Roman coins found in South India," he said.
There was an interesting talk on Delhi Sultanate and Mughal coins by Miss. R. Vanaja, formerly of the National Museum, New Delhi. This was accompanied by a video show of the coins of these periods. There were enlightening lectures by Prof. B.N. Mukherjee, former professor (Ancient History and Culture) of Calcutta University, Prof.B.D Chattopadhyaya, Professor of History, Jawaharlal University, Rtn.D. Hemachandra Rao, Sri. H. Oruganti and Dr. R. Nagaswamy. Subjects like Indo-Greek coins, Post Satavahana Coinage of South India, Vijayanagar, and Indo-European Coins were covered vividly. Mr. Bazil Shaik, Deputy General Manager (Department of Currency Management), Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai, read a Paper on ‘ Paper Money’. There was a coin and book exhibition, which was inaugurated by Prof.R. Prema, Principal, Barathi College for Women, Chennai. Coins of different periods were on display. Dr. Padma Subramaniam, the famous danseuse who delivered the valedictory address, stressed that coin collection should be encouraged to preserve our heritage.
Monographs on South Indian Numismatics
Studies in South Indian Coins, Volume XIII/edited by I.K. Sarma and S. Srinivasan.
Chennai, New Era Publications, 2003, 140 p., $13.
Preface. 1. Towards further development of South Indian numismatics/S.J. Mangalam.
2. Lion Slayer Motif on an inscribed gold ring from Karur/R. Krishnamurthy.
3. Half denomination silver portrait coin of Yajna Satakarni/Shashikant G. Dhopate.
4. Some salient features of coins of the Satavahanas and their contemporaries/S.J. Mangalam.
5. Three seals from three Pallava copper plates/C.A. Padmanabha Sastry.
6. A gold coin of Rashtrakuta Govinda IV/M. Nityananda Pai.
7. Two copper coins from Manikpatana—an ancient sea port of Orissa/T. Satyamurthy.
8. A gold coin of Seuna Singhanadeva/A.V. Narasimha Murthy & M. Nityananda Pai.
9. A gold coin of the Banas/K. Ganesh, M. Girijapathy & S. Rajavelu.
10. Viraraya Panam of Vijayanagar rulers/P. Shanmugam.
11. Coins depicting Venad—Vijayanagar relations/Beena Sarasan.
12. Impact of Vijayanagar rule on coins of Tiruvadi Rajya of Kerala-A.D. 1423-1559/Harihariah
13. Coins from the excavation at Maligaimedu, Tamil Nadu/S. Vasanthi.
14. An unfamiliar Sri Vira type copper coin/T.S. Ravishankar.
15. Some interesting coins of Karnataka/K. Ganesh & M. Girijapathy.
16. Tamil coins of Nizamul Mulk Asaf Jah/R. Jawahar Babu.
17. Two unknown Arcot Nawab period coins/S. Sankaranarayanan.
18. Rama—Lakshmana figure on a coin of Hyder Ali/H. Khandoba Rao.
19. Yet another Venetian Ducat from Karnataka/R. Gopal.
20. A brief note on the coins in the Salar Jung Museum/Balagouni Krishna Goud & Fida Ali.
21. Andhra coins : a bibliography/D. Raja Reddy & P. Suryanarayana Reddy.
1. I.K. Sarma, Numismatic researches: Critical studies from excavated contexts, review
by R. Krishnamurthy.
2. K. Ganesh, Coins of Tamil Nadu, review by R. Krishnamurthy.
1. Prof. Ajay Mitra Shastri/K.V. Raman.
2. On late Ajay Misra Shastriji/I.K. Sarma.
"This volume provides details about recently discovered coins and new interpretations of known issues attributed to: Satavahanas, Maharathis, Rashtrakutas, Cholas, Seunas, Banas, Venad rulers, Vijayanagar rulers, Madurai Nayaks, Nizam of Hyderabad, Hyder Ali and subordinates of Arcot Nawab.
"Some of the coins mentioned above were found during the archaeological excavations. Besides these, there are papers on an inscribed gold ring with Tamil Brahmi legend, three seals on three Pallava copper plates, a Venetian Ducat from Karnataka, a lengthy but useful bibliography of Andhra coins and reviews of two books." (jacket)
Book review by AJAY MITRA SHASTRI
SOME THREE decades ago it was reiterated in scholarly platforms that the Deccan and South India were barren from numismatic point of view and consequently, unfounded historical notions had got deep-rooted and distorted historical reconstruction of this vast region. It was also commonly believed that peninsular dynasties did not take much interest in coinage and related economic matters. But soon thereafter the picture underwent a welcome drastic change, thanks to pointed attention paid to numismatic finds thrown up by archaeological explorations and excavations and institutional and coin-collectors' concerted activities.
And in this respect the role of the Tamilnadu Numismatic Society and the South Indian Numismatic Society is simply great. More particularly the latter has provided a platform bringing together scholars, students and collectors interested in numismatology and sigillography and highlighting their discoveries and having them discussed. The society has been publishing the proceedings regularly, and the work under review is the eleventh such publication, setting at nought the aforesaid fond notion.
The latter society's activities cover trans-Narmada numismatics and this wide scope is reflected in this volume as well. Barring the presidential address of M. Mukunda Prabhu highlighting, inter alia, medieval Karnataka coins mentioning their denomination, most of the contributions fall into major well-recognised groups concerning major dynasties and coin-yielding areas. The Satavahanas were the earliest major autochthonous dynasty to strike money and their coins, known and new finds, naturally evoke keen interest, and the first three articles by I. K. Sarma, S. J. Mangalam and Jitendra Das either dwell upon some problems or new finds, the last one bringing to light for the first time the finds from the rich site of Kanganahalli in Karnataka.
Karur, on the banks of the river Amaravati in Tamil Nadu, has srpung up as a major source of coins and allied material during last over a decade, and as many as four articles by R. Krishnamurthy, the reviewer, P. Vijayaraghavan and P. Shanmugam and S. Raman are devoted to interesting material recovered from the locality recently. Vijayanagar rulers are known to have issued a large variety of coins in all metals, and new finds of this well-renowned series claim as many as six articles by R. Gopal, R. Jawahar Babu, A. V. Narasimha Murthy and Kesava Murthy, M. P. Mahadevaiah, Hariharaiah Oruganti and T. Satyamurthy.
Wodeyars of the former state of Mysore and their subordinates also issued a large volume of coins and six contributions dwell upon these coins. Rest of the contributions also treat the recent finds of other interesting coins including Kadamba, Chozha, Chera and miscellaneous issues and seals. At the end we find notices/ reviews of a few recent publications on the subject.
The book contains rich material for the study of Deccanese and South Indian numismatics and evidences the growing interest in these coins which is most welcome and bound to add to a vivid reconstruction of the political and economic history of this vast region. As such the publication is most welcome.
South Indian Coins by T Desikachari
Hardcover - 205 Pages (Year: 2005)
Asian Educational Services ~ ISBN: 8120601556
FROM AUTHOR'S FOREWORD: The study of South Indian numismatics is a fascinating one opening up a long succession of events to be remembered and anticipated, the vicissitudes of the history of the Peninsula of India South of the Vindhyas for over two thousand years. From the time that I read my first paper before the Madras Literary Society in 1888, I read my first paper before the Madras Literary Society in 1888, I have been speaking or writing on south Indian Coins.
The limited number of copies of my contributions to learned Societies or Journals has become exhausted-for year after year those who have done menthe honour of visiting me and seeing my coins have been given copies of whatever I had written on the relics of a forgotten coinage illustrating South Indian history. The call came for these being collected and printed in the form of a book so that my early efforts in this still vast and unexplored field of research might be made available to students interested in south Indian Coins.
There are many departments of Numismatic interest in my coin Register still requiring scholarly treatment; but many preoccupations, unrelated to scholarly pursuits, did latterly so obsess me as to neglect the publication of my notes that I sometimes thought that they could be published but posthumously. Still I hope, the span of life allotted to me permitting its being done, to complete the work if at least demonstrate that there is yet a great deal to be done for our reading and understanding properly the history of the Dravida Desam from inscriptions and coins.
The sole object of the present reprint of my papers, articles and notes on South Indian Coins is but to instill an enthusiasm and promote a keen desire for the reconstruction of South Indian history on the basis of such evidence as is real and not on materials as are based on mere tradition and imagination.
Table of Contents
Proceedings of the Madras Literary Society
South Indian Epigraphy and Numismatics Andhras-Pallavas
The Chalukyas and their Coinage
The Cholas and their Coinage
The Coins of Vijaiyanagar
The Coins of Malabaar
Notes on the Indo-Dutch Coinage
The Pallavas and Their Coinage
List of Pallava Coins in the Cabinet of T M Rangachari and T Desikachari
List of Pallava Coins in the Government Central Museum, Madras, and in the Cabinet of Dr J R Henderson
Dravidian Coins by Dewan Bahadur T M Rangachari, B A, and Dewan Bahadur T Desikachari, B A, BL, MRAS
List of Pandiyan Coins
List of Chola Coins
Some inedited Coins of the Kings of Vijayanagara by T M Rangachari, B a and T Desikachari, B A B L
Indo-Danish Coins by t M Rangachari and T Desikachari
Six plates-Illustrating Pandyan and Chola Coins in lists on pages 167-185
Tamil Coins - a study by R. Nagaswamy
(former Director of Archeology, Govt of Tamilnadu
Art and Culture of Tamil Nadu by R. Nagaswami
New Delhi. Sundeep Prakashan, 1st ed. 1980 , ISBN: 8175740159