Bhubaneswar: Today, we have coins, currency notes and technological facilities to trade, but the beginning of civilization saw none of these and survived on barter system. Cowry shells were first used in India as commodity money, but metal currency soon replaced them. These survived the vagaries of time to tell the story of kings and kingship in Odisha and the wold over.
Here are some precious coins excavated from different places in the state, which shed light on the then rulers.
These coins had symbols punched on either side. Available mostly in silver and copper, these had symbols from mythological and astronomical characters, besides bulls, elephants, horses, hares, trees, arrows, bows and sun. Only silver coins were found in Odisha.
Unearthed in Sonepur, Mayurbhanj, Asurgarh, Ganjam, Kalahandi and Sisupalgada, these are marked as the earliest coins in India, classified into imperial and local. The classification was done on the basis of the symbols punched on them. Textual work of Manu and Panini, also mention about the use of these coins before the Christian era (4th century BC).
According to scholars, the period between the end of Kharavela’s reign and the rise of Samudragupta was the darkest period in the history of ancient Odisha. In the Deccan region, Satavahanas gained power around that time and the recent discovery of Yaksha image, belonging to Satvahana period, in Bhubaneswar, prove the fact that the Chedi of Kalinga had some cultural contact with them.
These were the first inscribed coins in South. Not many Satvahana coins are found in Odisha except a few copper ones bearing symbols of lion, elephant, horse and bow. Lead coins of 1.5-cm diameter were also found in Sisupalgarh, having slight traces of Ujjain symbol.
Largest-ever hoard of these coins were discovered in Odisha’s Bhadrak district. These copper coins are an imitation of those issued by the Kushanas in the North. They were termed Puri-Kushana since found in abundance in Puri district in 1895. These coins were also discovered in Mayurbhanj, Balasore and Ganjam.
These coins depict the coinage of the Gupta period that flourished in Odisha during fourth to sixth century. Though the coins belonged to Kushanas of the North, there is no evidence of them ever ruling Odisha.
These were chiefly issued in gold but very few of these coins can be found in Odisha. Chandragupta Kumardevi and Samudragupta’s lyricist type of coins are preserved in Odisha’s state museum. The use of these coins shows that the Gupta’s was a very prosperous era, though gold was brought from the Roman Empire during its early reign.
Roman coins, for that matter, can also be found in Odisha and other states. This also makes one more fact clear – the seaports of Odisha were flourishing at that time.