Panchala coins: A lost piece of Indian heritage

After the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire, many new kingdoms emerged. One such powerful kingdom which rose in North India was Panchala. They had their own coinage from around 150 BCE to 125 CE. The Copper coins are characterized by three peculiar symbols arranged in a horizontal row and bearing the name of the ruler below. The obverse depicts the deity which is connected to the respective rulers.

Almost all the Panchala coins carry the name of the issuing king in Brahmi letters; these are some of the earliest indigenous Indian coins to carry legends. They typically carried an image of a deity on the obverse, most often the deity closely associated with the name of the issuing ruler, and an incuse punch on the reverse which had the legend bearing the king’s name along with the three symbols of the Panchala kingdom above.

These coins are characterised by bold strike of the royal Panchala emblem and the name of the king. The opposite side shows the deity after which the king is named. Inscriptions in Pabhosa caves (near Kaushambi, dist. Allahabad) record that king Shonakayaniputra Vangapala of Ahichchhatra was the father of king Tevaniputra Bhagavata and grandfather of king Vaihidariputra Ashadhasena, who was the maternal uncle of king Gopaliputra Brhaspatimitra.

The last ruler is known from Kaushambi coins inscribed in his name (‘Bahasatimitasa’). A very interesting coin, in which Bhanu (the sun) is depicted as a solar disc surrounded by emanating rays and is then garlanded with a pendant necklace manifesting a beautiful depiction! On lower denomination coins, Agni is depicted only symbolically, as a lamp or a flame. Some  have no legends, only depictions of the Panchala symbols. Perhaps they were issued in the period between the last of the named coin issues and the coins of Achyuta, which are so different in design.

This coin, previously unpublished, displays a superb fine style. Shrimali reports one rectangular coin in his entire corpus of Panchala coins. There are listed, in total, 400 spoked-wheel coins of Achyuta. Of these, 399 had 8 spokes (like on the previous coin) and 1 had 12 spokes. Not a single one had 7 spokes. Although not a lot of information can be procured about the chronology, the Panchala series is one of the most interesting of the ancient India coin series, because it is quite long and the kings are named on them.

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