Evolution of Coins in Ancient India
Coins under Mahajanapadas
Earliest coins are found in 6th century BC, during 2nd urbanization (Mahajanapadas). They were punch marked and called Karshapana. Irregular in shape and were generally made of silver, with symbols stamped on one side.
Each kingdom had its unique coins. For example Magadh coins generally consist of 5 symbols: sun, trees, animals, hills etc. But generally these coins were issued by traders and guilds and not kings. It is interesting that although coins came in various shapes and designs, they were of same weight.
Arthasasra mentions coins like rupyarupa (silver coins), tamrarupa (copper coins), shisharupa (lead coins) etc.
These were also not issued by kings but traders and guilds.
Coins in Post Mauryan Period.
Indo Greeks Coins.
It was the first time that coins were issued by state and also the first time that gold coins were issued. Indo Greeks started tradition of inscribing images of kings and Gods on coins.
Coins under Kushanas
They are known for issuing largest number of Gold and Copper coins.
Coins under Weima Kadphises show images of Shiva, Nandi, Trident.
These coins depict Buddha, fire, sun-god.
Satavahanas used lead, copper and an alloy of silver and copper (potin) to make their coins. These coins would have images of animals on one side and Ujjain symbol on the other side. Many coins had ship symbol also, reflecting high attention paid to the maritime trade.
Gupta coins (Gupta numismatology).
Gupta period is especially known in Indian history for their coins. They issued largest number of gold coins and most of the coins found in India belong to this period.
These coins had inscriptions on them in sanskrit language and were called Dinar. And martial activities like hunting lions, tigers, posing with weapons etc. leisure activities like playing vina, Godess Laxmi, Ganga, Durga etc. were depicated on these.
Cowry shells were also used for economic exchange in these periods (particularly by lower classes).
Generally they were made of silver and depicted king on one side and peacock on other side
South Indian coins
Pandyas had fish on their coins.
Rajendra I Chola would write Gangaikondachola on his coins.
Medieval era coins in brief.
Iltutmish introduced Tanka (silver coins) and Jittal (copper coins).
Shershah Suri introduced Dam (copper coin) and Rupiya (silver coin).
Mughals started gold coins called Mohar.