Many scholars and historians mark 600 BCE at the end of the ancient era and the start of the medieval period. This era also witnesses the rise of feudalism in India, which paves the way for the self-sufficient villages, national and international trade. It was also the period when many strong and famous dynasties rose to power and the Rashtrakuta was one such power. The origin of Rashtrakuta is traced to 600 CE, they established their stronghold in Deccan in the later period and simultaneously extended their power till Kannauj, making them the part of the famous tripartite power struggle. This dynasty is the most studied and explored by historians for their warfare, expansion, administration and trade. Yet the subject of Rashtrakuta coinage is not explored on a large scale due to few variety and types of coins available. In recent archaeology excavation new scope to study and research on the monetary system of India during the Imperial Rashtrakuta has opened.
The first mention of Rashtrakuta name is found from the Ashoka’s edict which mentions the Prakrit name ‘Rathika’ or in Sanskrit ‘Rashtrika’. In copperplate, Rashtrakutas acknowledge them-self as ‘Ratta’ race. It is interesting to note that the ‘Lanchhana’ or the crest of Rashtrakuta’s is a ‘Garuda’-the mythological bird the vahana of Lord Vishnu. Garuda is depicted in anthropomorphic form seated on a lotus in Padmasana. Rashtrakuta Dynasty is scattered in different branches of Manyaketa, Achalapura and two branches of Gujarat. The imperial Rashtrakuta came into power during the reign of Dantidurga in 754 CE before that they were feudatories under the Badami Chalukya’s. The other famous Rashtrakuta kings were Druva Dharavarsha, Karka II, Amogavarsha I, Krishna III and Govindaraja. Rashtrakuta also had few feudatories serving under them all these things were easy to connect after 1996 when the coins for the first time attributed to the Rashtrakuta dynasty.
Rashtrakuta coinage is distinguished in three metals: gold, silver and copper. Amongst these gold coins are much rare in comparison to the other two metals. There are also few coins available in potent metal. The coinage denomination is known through different inscriptions and copper plates of Rashtrakuta dynasty, the different denomination of the coins go as dramma, Suvarna, Gadayana, Pana, Ponnu, Kalanju, Kasu, Manjadi.
Through Rashtrakuta charters (inscription) it is clear that coins were used for a variety of transactions. Gadayana denomination was used for giving donations to the temples, construction of the building and paying the fee of the priest. Gold Dramma was donated to the needy for purchasing clothes, health expenses and for procuring religious books. Ordinary drama minted in silvers and Panna minted in gold was used to pay taxs, fines and donations. Suvarna is used for donation. The loan, taxes or fines were paid through the Kalanju or Dramma.
The coinage of Rashtrakuta is quite complex and rare, most of the coins of Rashtrakuta dynasty consist of epithet or Birudu, it’s the title of kings mentioned on the coin. Few of the famous epithets are Prithvivallabha, Vallabharaja, Maharaja, Khadgavaloka, Akalavarsha. King’s like Dantidurga or Dantivarman have epithets like Prithvivallabha or Vairamegha, Krishna I is also tilted has Akalavarsha or Srivallabha, King Amoghavasha I bear the epithet like Nripatunga or Lakshmivallabha. Each of the Rashtrakuta branches had more than five epithets, it is traditions followed by the Imperial Rashtrakutas and its branches.
Yet there were many kings of the Rashtrakuta lineages whose epithet are not deciphered like those of Shubhatunga, Amogavarsha Nityadeva, Vikramaloka, Shubhatunga, Dhora, etc. Few of the best examples of the undeciphered Birudu on the Rashtrakuta coinage is of kings like Gunatunga, Nirupama and Sankaragrana.
a) The first coin illustrated in the above-shown image is a silver Drama of the Rashtrakuta king called Gunatunga. Gungtunga is the epithet adopted by the king, the name in the local dialect is not deciphered till date. The coin weighs around 0.43g; the obverse of this coin depicts the bust of the king is depicted in the centre facing right within dotted border. The reverse of this coin illustrates Brahmi legend in circular form covering the whole flan, which reads ‘ Sri Gunatunga’ within the dotted border.
b) The second coin is square-shaped issued in the name of king Nirupama on copper metal. The name of the king is undeciphered or the local name of the king is not known. The coin illustrates ‘Lanchhana’ or crest of Rashtrakuta dynasty ‘Garuda’ in the centre with spread wings within the dotted border. The reverse of the coin depicts Brahmi legend in two lines covering the whole flan reads ‘ Shri Ni(ru) pa ma’ within the dotted border.
c) The third silver coin in the above image also depicts the crest of the dynasty. It is issued in the title name of the king Shankaragana. The obverse of this coin depicts a figurine of the Garuda in the centre facing right. The wing of the garuda is spread as if he is ready to take a flight. In the reverse, an un-deciphered Brahmi legend is depicted in two lines covering the whole flan within the dotted border.
While studying Rashtrakuta coinage researchers and numismatics found different variation, it was assumed that this difference was due to the widespread of the empire or the different minting units. There can be many reasons, but these coins followed a certain pattern that connects them to Rashtrakuta dynasties like the legend, the title adopted by the king or crest. Hence, when we talk about the systematic classification of the coins, they are differentiated based on metal, type and varieties. Type is based on the obverse design and varieties are based on the reverse design.
As far as the discussion of the scholars on the coinage of Rashtrakuta dynasty, they have agreed about the various coins issued by the kings without the decipher title. These coins are a major part of the coinage studied today. But there are also coins issued by the anonymous Rashtrakuta rulers, their title name is unknown. Many of these anonymous rulers issued the coins in gold. This anonymous coinage depicts one of the finest design and craftsmanship of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.
a) The gold coin depicted in the above-shown image illustrates the crest Garuda seated in padmasana position (cross-legged) with Anjalimudra (folded hands) in the centre within the floral whorl. The reverse of the coin depicts a temple in the centre, a crescent is shown above it. The swastika is depicted at the top with the two lamp posts on either side within the line-shaped border. This coin is attributed to Rashtrakuta on the ground of the typical depiction of a seated form of Garuda.
b) The second silver coin illustrated in the above image weighs around 0.46g. It is an anonymous issue attributed to the Rashtrakuta coinage. An elephant is depicted in the centre, walking towards the right and it is mounted by a human figure (king/Mahout). A wheel or chakra is depicted at left with a dot in the centre within the dotted border. The reverse of this coin depicts a seated goddess/ Garuda in the centre seated in the padmasana posture. The figure’s hair is tied high-up in a bun and halo is depicted with long ears with an undeciphered Brahmi legend slightly trace around it.
It is understood that sometimes connecting coins to a certain ruler is difficult, so it becomes important to connect its attribute to a dynasty. So in these circumstances, the script plays an important role. Hence, around the early medieval period, there was a transition from late Brahami to regional scripts like Sharda, Nagari, Telgu-Kannada etc. The two types of transition that can be seen in the script when focusing on the Rashtrakuta period, it is the transition of Gupta Brahmi to Nagari Script and Kadamba script to Telugu-Kannada Script. Hence, due to this many coins become unreadable but the typology still can help to attribute the coins. The anonymous issues as connected to the same second method (typology), but they’re also other factors that help in recognising the coins.
As the research and study on Rashtrakuta coinage were continued, there came coin with the unrecognised title of the king. It was labelled as anonymous issues. There were many Rashtrakuta king’s who minted coins, but these coins remained anonymous due to various reasons. There was also king with the known title like Govinda I, Dantivarman, Karka I, etc. The above-shown image depicts a few of the finest specimens of the Rashtrakuta coinage. This coinage belongs to the Ruler governing from the capital of Rashtrakuta dynasty Manyaketa and Achalpur
a) The gold coin in the above-shown image was issued by the Rashtrakuta King Govinda IV. The obverse of this coin depicts a mighty roaring lion in the centre facing right with a curled tail and raised front paws in the attacking position within the dotted and line border. The reverse illustrates the Hale-Kanada legend is inscribed in two lines ‘ Sri na nni/ ve dem ga’ meaning Sri Nanni Vedemga “: Title of King Govinda VI within the dotted border.
b) The second silver coin is an anonymous issue that belongs to the Manyekheta branch of this dynasty. The obverse of this coin depicts the bust of an anonymous ruler in the centre facing right and it is titled 3/4 slightly. The king’s earring and twisted moustache are depicted properly within the dotted border. The reverse depicts Lord Kubera in the centre in the seated posture on his Asana (platform ramp) which is placed on a blossomed Lotus flower seen on this coin with his prominent potbelly & leg position. On either side of Lord Kubera, the Nidhi treasures the Padma & Shankha stand beside him in human form, with their heads emerging from a lotus bud & a conch respectively.
a) The first coin in the image belongs to the Rashtrakuta king from the Achalpur branch. This coin issued by Druva Dharavarsha. The obverse of this coin depicts the bust of a king facing right. It is slightly titled 3/4 axis with a long moustache. The reverse side depicts a Garuda in the centre facing left with a dotted halo. It is seated in padmasana on a blossomed lotus flower. The hair tied high-up with Brahmi legends ‘Shree Dho’ within the dotted border.
The final junction of the Rashtrakuta coinage belongs to the contemporary ruler of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. This coin is counted within the Rashtrakuta coinage under the assumption that they are either feudatories of this dynasty or the ruled side by side to them. The probability of their ruling under the Rashtrakuta is more possible due to the strength that the Rashtrakutas exerted in the region.
b) This copper coin was issued by King Madhavaman, he was a contemporary ruler during the Rashtrakuta dynasty. The obverse of this coin depicts a horse is prancing towards the right with a rider/king holding a spear in right and rein in left hand within the dotted border. The reverse of this coin depicts a three-letter characteristic Brahmi legend in the centre. It reads ‘ Sri Mu/Mha Va/Dha’ ( Ma Shri) within the dotted border.
To study and understand Rashtrakuta coinage, one has to under the geographical making of the region they ruled. The widespread of this empire and the constant power struggle in the north had a heavy impact on the Rashtrakuta coinage. The coins that we discussed today are segregated according to the typology, metal and epithet illustrated on them. The anthropomorphic seated and standing Garuda is the most common images on the Rashtrakuta coinage followed by Garuda with wings spread or the Garuda face. The Rashtrakuta coinage also has a portrait of the king depicted on the coins. The animals that appear on this coinage are lion, elephant, an elephant rider, bull, horse rider. Even lotus is also depicted on this fascinating coinage. There is more to study and explore in this section of Indian coinage, as new archaeology excavation are taking place many sites with Rashtrakuta coin are coming out. In the coming decade, there will be an advanced study of this dynasty coinage. Hence, one can also say what we know today about Rashtrakuta coinage may be a tip of the iceberg.
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