Old and tarnished, small pieces of metal were how Yaudheya coins were found for the first time by some canal digger way back in early 1800’s in Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh). After which numerous hoards of tribal coins were found from Western U.P. Rajasthan and all over India and also present day Pakistan. Yaudheya coins caught the attention of great numismatist James Prinsep; but as there was no information available at that time he wrongly assigned these coins to Indo-Greek kings. Later after further research in Indian numismatics the coins were rightly assigned to ‘Yaudheya’ the warrior tribe. A new enchanting chapter of Tribal coins found its place in Ancient Indian History where there is depiction of temples on Yaudheya coins.
Yaudheya were the rulers of South-Eastern Punjab and Rajasthan. Like many other tribes they declared their independence after the death of Pushyamitra Sunga in the middle of the second century B.C.E. Yaudheya clan has also been mentioned in Ashtadhyayi of Panini as well as in Ganapatha. They have also been referred in Mahabharata, Brihatsamhita and Puranas. From about 200 BCE to 400 CE they were at the peak of their power. The existence of this powerful clan has come to light from their coins and coin-moulds found in large number in Sutlej, Multan, Bhatner, Sirsa, Hansi and Panipat. Most of these coins depicted the god Karttikeya or also known as Brahmanyadeva. Yaudheya as we know it were an ancient republican city state or tribe of traders and warriors. The name ‘Yudha’ itself means a proficient fighter. Yaudheyas claim that they descended from Yudhishthira. Many ancient texts have mentioned this tribe; also historians of Alexander wrote about people ‘living in exceedingly fertile territory and good at agriculture and brave in war’. Yaudheya had a high social and political status; thus surviving the longest reign. Yaudheya’s were probably at the height of their power and glory during the period extending from circa mid-second century BCE to the fourth century CE when they struck coins as well.
Though coins are small in size they open up window various aspects of culture, political life, economic progress, trade and commerce of people. Especially the coins of ancient cultures where there are barely any other evidences available. The movement of various tribes can be traced from its coin. The Yaudheya issued their earliest coinage in copper, bronze and potin with the brahmi legend ‘Yoaudheyanam’. Karttikeya being the warrior god was the main deity in temples on Yaudheya coins and also peacock is widely depicted (vehicle of the war-god karttikeya).
Allan extensively studies coins from Indian subcontinent and has segregated the Yaudheya coinage in 6 broad categories. Of which one category is described as the obverse having six-headed Karttikeya with brahmi legend ‘Bhagavata-svamino Brahmanya’ and reverse contains different marks with a deer and the shape of the temple.
The fabric of these coins is very crude so the symbols on the coins are not very clear. The Shadananda-Deer types were struck for a long time from about the close to the first century BCE or the beginning of the next for nearly two centuries. The coins even though with crude fabric had various different varieties of temple like structures were minted on them.
Below are the details of some of the structures with illustrations to help understand the structures.
First among the temples on Yaudheya coins is a structure with a dome shaped roof was found from the coin; having probably a square plan. It stood on an elevated adhishthana (basement) consisting of four molding. As the depiction of these temples on the flan of the coin is in most cases on the side, it is difficult to make out whether they have moldings or any decorative features. The object of worship may have lay in the center but nothing except the outer row of pillar is shown. On right side there are some steps to reach the floor; the pillar supporting the rectangular shaped pillar beams which carried the hemispherical dome. The dome can be interesting feature exhibited by the structure is the existence of smaller second done over the first. The second dome supported the finial which seems there may have been single domed temples standing on an elaborate adhisthana of multiple moudings.
The temple depicted on Yaudheya coins has a dome marked by vertical divisions. This is possible in case of wooden beams forming the roof of the sanctum. A double or triple structure having square plan reveals that the domes were encased by slanting slabs giving spire a triangular look.
There are quite a few good examples of double domed temples. That this type of temples was popular with the Yaudheyas is evidenced by some other coins also.
There are examples of even triple domed temples built on perhaps on basement of different heights and mouldings. The construction of multiple domes was perhaps not possible heights and mouldings. The construction of multiple domes was perhaps not possible on stones or brick temples at that time and suggests the perishable nature of the structures.
A coin confirms this feature though the depiction of the double dome differs slightly and the temple is located on an elaborate basement.
One specimen indicates that the structure enshrined shiva-linga. The existence of Shaiva shrines is confirmed by a pillared domed structure surmounted by a trident, the emblem of Shiva.
Trident atop another four-pillared double domed structure also confirms the shaivite affiliation of such shrines.
One coin shows the sloping concave sides of the superstructure indicating the continuity of the tradition noticed on an Audambara coin.
One of the coins shows the construction of a hut-like shrine on round plan also. Earlier a similar coin was published but a close examination of the Yaudheya coin of this class illustrated by him reveals that the façade was topped with a vajra ‘thunderbolt’ – like motif. The coin is more likely to incline towards the worship of Indra.
The illustrated temples on Yaudheya coins if acceptable it would indicate the existence of shrines dedicated to kubera who is called Nara-vahana also. Stone image of kubera riding a human figure are also known to us. One specimen shows the human figure surmounteing a squat-domed structure also betraying that the worship of deities was not restricted to particular types of shrines-forms.
The vaulted roof supported on pillars in a temple betraying folk influence reveals three circular holes, to serve as gavakshas ‘air hole’ or window to admit air and light perhaps.
One coin shows a temple standing on four pillars with a superstructure consisting of a larger (with almost sloping sides) and smaller rectangular forms surmounted by a circular emblem. The round emblem may either be the solar disc or the chakra of the Vishnu or Krishna, thus indicating the solar or vaishnavite affiliation of the shrine.
It seems to provide evidence of what Somadeva Suri has recorded later – that the Yaudheya soldiers were devoted to Kartikeya and farmers worshipped Krishna.
Temples on Yaudheya coins that are dedicated to Siva have been depicted in other styles also. Some coins show a water-channel flowing from beneath the basement of a four-pillared domed temple.
There are quite a few examples of the structures being capped by a parasol and they may have been Chhatresvara Siva temples. These temples obviously had siva linga enshrines in them. That so called chaitya figures of different number of arches were religious structures is indicated by the Yaudheya coins. There are numerous coins showing symbols generally called as three- or six- or multiple arched hill or chaitya in front of the deer.
After the decline of the Kushana power, the Yaudheya continued to strike finely executed coins for circulation in the hilly region. We, thus see that various types of temples having domed, vaulted or wagon-shaped, flat or triangular spires, dedicated to different deities like Siva, Indra, Kubera, Surya or Vishnu, etc. have been depicted to these Yaudheya coins of Shadanana deer type of the first-second century. Though the Yaudheya worshipped Karttikeya as their tutelary deity, they worshiped other Hindu gods also this amply evidenced by the predominance of Shaiva temples as noted above. There were simple hut-shaped shrines as well as multiple-storied ones. They had domed, vaulted, arched, curvilinear and triangular spires. The multiplicity of forms of temples and spires on these coins, however, is simply bewildering in the absence of actual remains of early temples before the Gupta period. The perishable feature of these shrines as indicated above, and also perhaps the tendency of utilizing the material of the crumbled or destroyed structure by later people, may have been responsible for the absence of their remains. The Yaudheya coins thus open a new vista of knowledge and add a new chapter to the study of temple architecture in India.
Apart from “Yaudheya” many tribal coins have temples featured on them. Stay tuned for next part!