Solution: Daily Problem Practice for 2023 History Optional [Ancient India: Day 21]

Q. Give the political and economic outlook of the Kushanas and the Satavahanas based on the numismatic evidence of the period. [15 Marks]


Numismatics refer to ”the study of coins”. Coins are linked to monetary history and are also an important source for the political history of India.

The numismatic evidence of the period and the political and economic outlook of the Kushanas:

  • Economic outlook of Kushanas:
    • The Kushanas were the first dynasty of the subcontinent to mint large quantities of gold coins. They also issued many copper coins of low denominational value, which indicates the increasing spread of the money economy.
    • The wide distribution of Kushana coins indicates the flourishing trade of the period.
    • Kushanas issued many copper coins of low denominational value, which indicates the increasing spread of the money economy.
    • The presence of Greek and Roman deities on Kushana coins has been interpreted as suggesting the importance Indo-Roman trade during this period.
      • Also the Roman coins have been found at places like Taxila and Mathura.
      • Since the Kushanas had well established currency system, they may have melted down and re-minted the Roman coins.
    • Roman deities on coins show that the coins were minted for the foreign trade, especially the Roman trade, and thus the coins reflected the beliefs of these trade zones.
      • However, this proposition can be challenged on the grounds like the Kushana empire enjoyed a favourable balance of trade (so probably no need to pay gold coins) and the copper coins which were not minted for the foreign trade also exhibit this feature.
  • Political outlook of Kushanas:
    • Coins issued jointly by Kushana Kings Kujula Kadphises and his son Vima Kadphises reflect the practice of conjoint rule.
    • Kadphises II conquered the whole of northwestern India as far as Mathura. He issued gold coins with high-sounding titles like the ‘Lord of the Whole World’ which shows power of the king.
    • Kushana coins depict on the reverse, deities belonging to the Brahmanical, Buddhist, Greek, Roman, and other pantheons.
      • It can be seen as an acknowledgment of the religious diversity within the empire and the attempts of these kings to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the subjects.
    • The depiction of Indian gods on Kushana coins is significant as it indicates the efforts of Kushanas who were basically central Asian to adopt Brahmanism and gain legitimacy. This led to the emergence of Vrat-Kshatriyas.
    • Extent of Empire:
      • The discovery of the Kushana coins in far off places suggest that the Kushana empire expanded further east into the Ganga valley and southwards into the Malwa region.
      • The Kushana influence was felt in western and central India as well.
      • However, the discovery of Kushana coins as far east as Bengal and Orissa does not necessarily indicate that their political control extended this far in the east.
    • A number of city coins issued by the urban administration of cities such as Ujjayini, Kaushambi, Vidisha, Varanasi, and Taxila indicate autonomy and authority of the local administration of the cities.
    • A handful of nigama coins reflect the power and authority of merchant guilds.

The numismatic evidence of the period and the political and economic outlook of the Satavahanas:

  • Economic outlook of the Satavahanas:
    • In the Deccan, the pre-Satavahana coinage was followed by the copper and silver coins of the Satavahana kings. Most Satavahana coins were die-struck, but there are some cast coins.
    • Rulers of this dynasty issued coins of small denominational value made of lead and potin which indicate spread of the money economy.
    • Coins issued by Yajnashri Satakarni depict ships, some single-masted, others double masted which reflect the importance of maritime trade in the Deccan during this period.
    • Roman gold coins flowed into peninsular India in large quantities which indicate flourishing Indo-Roman trade interactions. The discovery of a large number of Roman coins and their imitations indicate that the economy of the Deccan was heavily dependent on this trade.
  • Political outlook of the Satavahanas:
    • Gautamiputra Satakarni counter-struck Nahapana’s coins with his own symbols. Another example of counter-striking comes from certain coins issued by Nahapana with counter-strikes by a Satavahana king named Shiva Satakarni. There are also coins issued by Shiva Satakarni, counter-struck by Nahapana
    • Counter-striking is generally interpreted as an indication of political rivalry and contest, showing which king had the upper hand over the other at a particular point of time.
    • But counter-striking was also a way of efficiently and swiftly providing an acceptable exchange medium when the political authority in an area had changed, announcing the change to money users
    • Extent of Empire:
      • The discovery of early Satavahana coins at Kotalingala and Sangareddy in the Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh has been used to support the hypothesis that the Satavahanas began their rule in the eastern Deccan.
      • The area of circulation of coins is often used to estimate the extent and frontiers of Satavahana empire
    • The Maharathis and Mahabhojas – local rulers who had emerged in the pre-Satavahana period were integrated into the Satavahana polity, but coins indicate their sway in various parts of the Deccan

Thus it can be concluded that the numismatic evidence helps in a number of ways to reflect the political and economic outlook of Kushanas and Satavahanas but numismatic evidence needs to be collaborated with other evidence like literary, inscriptions etc to present the complete and conclusive political and economic outlook of the Kushanas and satavahanas.


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