There was a time when India was often called the Golden Sparrow, or Sone ki Chidiya. Over the years, various civilisations have depended on gold as a currency and a symbol of prosperity. Read on to discover some fascinating facts about India’s gold coins that will prove that our love for gold is truly timeless.
Some of the earliest gold coins in India were introduced by Kushan Dynasty
Kanishka I Gold Dinar
Reportedly the first ever gold coin issued by an Indian king; issued in 127 CE by Kushan king Kanishka 1. This was also one of the few coins that was issued in Greek as the later ones switched to the Bactrian language, an Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asian region of Bactria (present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan).
Huvishka Gold Dinar
Kanishka’s son, Huvishka, issued many gold coins and quarters and this is one of the examples. Also in Bactrian language, the coins were issued between 155 to 190 CE. This one features the Iranian solar deity Mithra.
Vasudeva I Gold Dinar
Vasudeva I is believed to be Huvishka’s son by a Hindu wife which is what explains his name. This is an example of a gold coin issued by him in 195 CE which shows Lord Shiva and the Nandi bull.
Kanishka II Gold Dinar
Gold coins issued by Kanishka II, who rules for at least 20 years, also featured Lord Shiva and the Nandi bull. Here is an example of a coin issued between 227 to 247 CE. It differs from its predecessors only in minor details and the inscription.
Vasishka Gold Dinar
This coin issued by Vasishka between 247 to 265 CE shows the king on the left and the Iranian goddess Ardochsho on the right.
Issued sometime between 275 to 300 CE, this coin is again remarkably similar to its predecessor.
Shaka Gold Dinar
After Vasudeva II, the Kushan chronology becomes uncertain. So, the Shaka gold coins might be a set of coins issued over a period of time or by a ruler named Shaka. The Shaka coins are more attractive than the others and were issued around mid-4th century. This coin, like others, too features the king and the goddess Ardochsho.
During the Gupta Empire, India saw its golden period in civilisation, culture, arts and… gold coins. Some of the finest gold coins issued in India come from the Gupta empire and were issued between 335 and 375 CE. Here are the various types of gold coins from the period:
Called the “standard type”, this one is amongst the first Gupta gold coins. It shows the king holding his rajadanda or royal sceptre.
King and Queen
This coin depicts the marriage of king Chandragupta I to Lichchavi princess Kumaradevi. This was an important event in early Gupta history as it is believed to have brought the King good fortune which allowed him to expand his empire.
One of the most common Gupta coins, it shows the king holding the long bow in his left hand an arrow in his right.
This coin shows the king holding a battle axe in his left hand. The other side depicts Hindu Goddess Lakshmi being depicted like on the sceptre, archer and king and queen coins.
As the name indicates, the coin depicts a horse. In Vedic times, Ashvamedha was a horse sacrifice ritual followed by rulers to expand their kingdoms. The other side depicts the queen.
This one is unique because it shows the king playing a musical instrument. King Samudragupta is known to have been an accomplished musician.
The tiger-slayer coin too depicts the king’s prowess with arms. The coin shows the King aiming a bow at a tiger and hunting the animal down.
The last of the Gupta gold coins, the Kacha coin shows the king holding a chakra-topped standard at an altar.
Post the Gupta era, coinage was dominated by interesting designs issued by Harsha and early medieval Rajput dynasties. The gold coins from the time were quite fascinating.
Seated Lakshmi coins
Issued by Gangeyadeva the Kalachuri ruler, these gold coins were widely popular and were later imitated by other rulers.
Bull and Horseman coins
The bull and Horseman were the most common motifs that appeared in these gold coins issued by the Rajput clans.
Gold coins that were issued during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji also stand out. Issued between the years of 1674 to 1680, this is a rare gold coin in which Shivaji is called Sri Raja Shiv on one side and Chhatrapati, or Lord of the Kshatriyas, on the other.
Coins have played a pivotal role in India’s illustrious relationship with gold. Today, with the Indian Gold Coin offering security, purity, prestige, and value all wrapped in one, gold once again finds its place in our hearts and our pockets!