In this article we will discuss about the trade practices adopted by Maurya empire.
The State had a special responsibility in the matter of Trade. Its revenue depended upon a profitable disposal of the vast quantities of various goods which were constantly accumulating in its hands in its factories and workshops under circumstances described. The State thus became the biggest trader in the country, and had to control its entire trade to safe-guard its own interests. The control of trade was based on the State control of Prices.
The system of control was based on certain inevitable provisions. Goods could not be sold at the place of their origin, field, or factory. They were to be carried to the appointed markets (panya-sala) where the dealer had to declare particulars as to the quantity, quality and the prices of his goods, which were examined and registered in the books. Every trader had to get a license for sale. A trader from outside had to obtain a passport in addition.
The Superintendent of Commerce (Panyadhyaksha) fixed the whole-sale prices of goods as they were entered in the Customs House. He allowed a margin of profit fix the retail prices. Smuggling and adulteration of goods were severely punished. Speculation and cornering to influence prices were not allowed. Strikes of workmen to raise wages were declared illegal.
The State had to undertake a heavy and irksome responsibility in protecting the public, customers and consumers, against unauthorised prices and fraudulent transactions. It had to post an army of spies or market inspectors on the trade-routes to detect false declarations as to goods and apprize merchants of same (II. 21). Apart from the State control of prices was the State control of weights and Measures.
The official standard was made a little lower than the public so as to provide a convenient source of revenue in the difference which amounted to a vyaji of 5 per cent. It was like the seignorage charge on the minting of coins. Trade was taxed all along its way by export and import duties, octroi and excise. Its progress through the country was punctuated by halts enforced for payment of taxes at different stages.
The foreign merchants were mulcted of their profits on the frontiers, by road taxes (vartani) and tolls, and by octroi at the gates of cities, which were carefully guarded by officers in charge of the Customs Houses provided even with a dounane and a place for detention for merchants evading the law. But if Trade was thus taxed, it received compensation in the protection assured to it in those olden days when life and property were not secure everywhere.
The transit of goods was guarded all along its way. Any loss suffered in transit was to be made good by the Government officer in charge of the locality through which they passed. In the village, the responsibility was that of its head-man (Grama-Svami or Grama-mukhya); beyond the village; the Vivitadhyaksha; beyond his jurisdiction the responsibility was that of the government Police, the Chorarajjuka; and beyond him was Sima-Svami, the chief of the frontier.
Trade had to be protected in those days against the gangs of dacoits who were abroad (chora-ganas), the turbulent Mlechchha tribes (like the Kiratas) and the wild people of the forests (Atavikas) who were all out for plunder (VII. 10). We have already referred to the rural police.
But every village was directly guarded against thieves (taskara) by the hunters and keepers of dogs (luhdhaka- svaganinah) already mentioned, whose method of dealing with them was to collect people by sounding alarm by conch shell or drum from a height, hill, or tree, unperceived, or by running fast to give information to the village (II. 34).
Trade depended upon its routes, which presented a problem for a continent like India.
Grand Trunk Road:
The Greeks tell of the Royal Road leading from the North West Frontier to Pataliputra, the Grand Trunk Road of those days, with a length of 10,000 stadia = about 13,000 miles (Strabo XV. 1, 11). Megasthenes refers to Government officers in charge of roads and how signboards were set up at intervals to indicate turnings and distances. It may be noted that Megasthenes refers to the Royal Road from the North West to Pataliputra as the road existing in earlier times.
As he entered India, Megasthenes was struck by this Royal Road leading from the Frontier to Pataliputra down which he must himself have travelled in prosecution of his mission. It is stated to have been constructed in eight stages, the distances between which were measured up to the Hyphasis (Beas) by Alexander’s survey officers named Baeto and Diognetus, while the distances from the Hyphasis to the Ganges are supposed to have been measured for Seleukos Nikator by Megasthenes and other Greek visitors.
These stages are thus described:
1. From Peukelaotis (Sans. Pushkalavati, the capital of Gandhara, modern Charsadda) to Taxila.
2. From Taxila across the Indus to the Hydaspes (Jhelum)
3. Thence to the Hyphasis (Beas) near the spot where Alexander erected his altars.
4. From the Beas to the Hesidrus (Satlej).
5. From the Satlej to the lomanes (Jumna).
6. From the Jumna via Hastinapura to the Ganges.
7. From the Ganges up to a town called Rhodopha (said to be Dabhai near Anupshahar).
8. From Rhodopha to Kalinapaxa (probably Kanyakubja or Kanauj).
9. From Kanauj to Prayaga at the junction of the Ganges and the Jumna.
10. From Prayaga to Pataliputra.
11. From Pataliputra to the mouth of the Ganges probably at Tamralipti.
Every mile of the road was marked by a stone indicating the byroads and the distances. The road was in charge of the officers of the P.W.D. who were responsible for its up-keep, repairs, and for erection of mile-stones and sign-posts at every ten stadia (Pliny, Natural History, VI, 21).
Buddhist Texts on Roads:
The Buddhist literature of earlier times throws much light on the roads of traffic.
The inland trade was carried on by carts and caravans. Anathapindika’s caravans travelling south-east from Savatthi to Rajagaha and back (about 300 miles) (Jat., i. 92. 348), and also to the “borders”, probably towards Gandhara (Ib. I, 377 f). To ensure easy fording of rivers, this route must have passed along the foot of the mountains up to Kusinara between which, and Rajagaha, lay halts at twelve intermediate stations (gamas or nagaras) including Vesali, with a single crossing of Ganges at Patna according to the recorded itinerary of the Buddha’s last ministering journey (Digha, IT, Suttanta, XXI. 81. ff).
Another important route led south-west from Savatthi to Patitthana (Paithan) with six intermediate halts (Sutta-Nipata, 1011-13) and frequent crossing of rivers. We read of boats going up the Ganges to Sahajati (Vinaya Texts, iii, 401) and up the Yamuna to Kosambi (Ib. p. 382), There were no bridges in those days but only fording-places and ferries for crossing rivers (Jat., iii, 228). Manu speaks of cart- ferries (viii- 404 f.). Setu was not a bridge but only an embankment.
A third route led west-wards to Sind, the home of horses and asses (Jat. i, 124, 178 181; ii, 31, 287) and to Sovira (Vimana Vatthu (Comm.), 336) and its ports, with its, capital called Roruva (Jat., iii, 470), or Roruka (Digha, ii, 235; Divyavadana, 544) or Roruka. We read of overland Caravans going “east and west” (Jat. 1, 98, f.), and across deserts requiring days to cross (the deserts of Rajputana), steering in the coolness of nights by the stars, under the land-pilot, Thalaniyyamaka. (Ib. 1, 107). Beyond the western ports, merchants went “out of sight of land” into the ocean and traded with Baveru (Babylon).
Lastly, there was the great north-west over-land trade- route linking India with Central and Western Asia by way of Taxila and cities of the Gangetic Valley like Saketa, Savatthi, Benares, or Rajagaha (Vi. Texts, ii, 174, ff.; Mahavagga, viii, I, 6 ff.). As a much frequented road, it was tree from dangers. We read of students travelling in numbers to Takkasila, unattended and unarmed (Jat, ii, 277) for education.
There is some evidence as to the sea-borne foreign trade of those days, though it is scanty. We read of Prince Mahajanaka sailing from Champa for Suvannabhumi (Ib. vi, 34 f.) of Mahinda from Pataliputra to Tamalitti and thence to Ceylon (Vin. iii, 388 (Samantapasadika)). A whole-village of defaulting wood-rights is described as escaping at night down the Ganges in a “mighty ship” from Benares out to the sea (Jat. IV, 159).
An accomplished helmsman brings safe by ships “passengers for India from off the sea to Benares by river” (Ib. ii, 112). We read of traders coasting round India from Bharukachchha to Suvannabhumi (Ib. iii, 188), touching at a port of Ceylon on the way (Ib. ii, 127 ff.). The cargo of a newly-arrived ship attracts a hundred merchants to buy it up (Ib., I, 122). The ships of the times were large enough to accommodate “hundreds” of passengers. We read of 500 traders on board ill-fated ships (Ib. 128; v, 75) and of 700 under the safe pilotage of Supparaka (Ib., iv, 138, ff) (Hindu Civilization, pp. 302-304).
The testimony of the Pali Texts to the existence of an overland trade-route is confirmed by Panini’s mention of Uttarapatha (V. 1, 77). He speaks of travellers going by Uttarapatha (Uttarapathena gachchhati) and of goods gathered by that route (Uttarapathena ahritam). According to Strabo, the river Oxus in the time of Alexander was quite navigable so that goods from India were carried down this river to the Caspian Sea on their way to the west.
As Warming ton points out (Commerce between Roman Empire and India, p. 121); there were three natural approaches to India from the west:
1. Where the mountains of Afghanistan become very narrow just north of the head of the Kabul River where only the Hindukush separates the basins of the Oxus, and the Indus;
2. 500 miles to the west and south-west, where the Afghan mountains end and open up an easy way over 400 miles of plateau from Herat to Kandahar and to Kabul, along the Helmund valley, and another way from south-east of Kandahar into the Indus lowlands through the Bolan or the Mula Pass;
3. By way of the deserts of Makran or along the coast of Baluchistana.
The Uttarapatha of Panini must have been the first or the second of above routes. It may be noted that Chandragupta Maurya’s conquest of these regions by which the boundaries of his empire were practically extended up to Persia must have resulted in an increase of India’s trade with the west along these routes.
Within India, this overland trade-route (Uttarapatha) must have passed through and linked up her chief cities mentioned by Panini and Patanjali, such as Balhika, Kapaisi, Pushkalavati Masakavati, Takshasila, Sakala, Hastinapura Kosambi, Kasi and Pataliputra.
Patanjali (commenting on Panin, II. 2, 18 and III. 3, 136) mentions the formations, Nish-Kausambih and Nir-Varanasih in respect of travellers who have passed beyond Kausambi and Varanasi, thereby indicating the Grand Trunk Road of those days connecting the two cities of Kausambi and Varanasi. In connection with Panini’s rule, III. 3, 136, Patanjali instances the cities of Saketa and Pataliputra as lying on the same road so as to enable us to construct the length of a Grand Trunk Road that connected the two cities of Saketa and Kausambi, Varanasi and Pataliputra.
Curiously, the Kasika mentions Kausambi as the starting-point of a journey instead of Saketa mentioned by Patanjali, though both retain Pataliputra as the other end of the journey. “There may be a personal and psychological reason involved in this difference between the two grammarians. Each was perhaps thinking of his own native city forming the centre of his geographical horizon” (Indian Culture, II, 2).
The Arthasastra on Roads:
The Arthasastra follows in the wake of all this earlier evidence. According to Kautilya (VII. 12), Trade-routes (Vanikpatha) are to be established as ways of profit.
One view is that, of trade-routes by land, and by water, the water-route is preferable as yielding more profit on the ground that transport of goods by water costs less money and less labour (alpavyaya-vyayamah probhutapanyodayascha). Kautilya does not agree to this view. In his opinion, water-route does not admit of any way to help in danger (samruddhagati vipadi sarvatoniruddhagamanah).
It cannot be used in all weathers (asarvakalikah). (‘such as rains’), is more exposed to risks, without remedies against them. Kautilya classifies waterways into (1) ways along the coast (Kula-patha), (2) ways through mid-ocean (to foreign countries) (Samyana-patha). Of these, again, he prefers the former as a source of greater profit for its access to many port-towns (Panyapattana-bahulyat). The river is a third water-way. This also has some points in its favour. It is without break and not exposed to serious risks.
Roads of Traffic:
As to land-routes, their broad division is into:
(1) Haimavata, or Uttarapatha, the road which leads to the northern snows;
One view holds the Haimavata route better, as it gives access to more profitable things (saravattarah), such as elephants, horses, the rare article kasturi or musk (gandhah kasturi), ivory, skins, silver and gold.
But Kautilya, though a Northerner, stands up for the South. He says that ‘if the southern route does not lead to countries from which come blankets (kambala), skins, or animals like horses, it brings in far more valuable products like conch- shells, diamonds, gems, pearls and gold. The southern road, moreover, leads through many mines (bahu-khanih) and lands yielding valuable commodities (sarapanyah), and does not mean risky or difficult travelling’ (prasiddhagatih alpavyayamah).
On the same ground of profit, Kautilya wants the State to provide the country with roads for cart-traffic (chakra-patha) by which much merchandise can be always carried (vipularambhatvat). He also recommends the tracks for beasts of burden like asses and camels.
Different Classes of Roads:
Kautilya (II. 4) speaks of various classes of roads in the country such as:
1. Raja-marga, or the king’s way, highway;
2. The provincial roads leading to different administrative head-quarters such as Sthaniya-patha;
4. Rashtra-patha, leading to the rural areas; or
5. Vivita-patha leading to the pasture lands on the country side; and ether classes of roads called
6. Samyaniya-patha leading to market towns (Samyaniyam kraya-vikraya-vyavahara-pradhanam pattanam tatpathah).
7. Vyuhapatha, the path for the army;
8. Setupatho leading to irrigated fields;
9. Vanapatha, the path to the forests;
10. Hastipatha, the path for elephants;
11. Kshetrapatha, leading to cultivated fields;
12. Rathapatha, the road for chariots;
13. Pasupatha, the track for cattle;
14. Kshudrapashupatha, the track for smaller animals like sheep etc; and lastly;
15. Manustiyapatha, the path for men.
All these various roads brought to markets commodities of different kinds from all parts of the country from which they were derived, from out of the way places like mines and forests.
For instance, pearls of different varieties came from distant places like the Tamraparni river in the Pandya country, at the place where the river falls into the sea Pandya-Vataka, the hill known as Malayakoti Parvata; the river Pasika near Pataliputra; the river known as Kula in Ceylon; the river Churni in the Kerala country; the hill called Mahendra; the river called Kardama in Persia; the river Srautasi; the lake (hrada) known as Srighanta; and the Himalayas (Hemavata).
Gems (Mani) were gathered in from the mountains known as Koti and Mala and from the hill called Rohana in Cevlon.
Diamonds came from Sabharashtra, the name of the Vidarbha country; Madhyamarashtra which is the Kosala country; Kastira-rashtra; the hill called Srikatana; Manimantaka, a hill in the Uttarapatha; and Indravanaka, a hill in the Kalinga country.
Corals were obtained from the place called Alakanda, a sea-port in the lands of the Barbaras; Vivarna, a place on the beach in the island of the Yavanas.
There was trade in fragrant woods like sandal (chandana), aloe (agaru) of or kaleyaka. Most of these were the products of Kamarupa or Assam.
There was a large trade in skins of different kinds derived from places like Kantanava and Preya which are the regions of the Himalayas (Uttaraparvata). Skins of varieties called Bisi and MahabisI came from twelve noted Himalayan villages inhabited by Mlechchhas (Dvadasagramiye). Various kinds of skin came from another Himalayan region known as Aroha. Another country on the Himalayas named Bahlava was the source of other varieties of skins. Lastly, there was trade in the skins of aquatic animals.
There was considerable trade in blankets of wool. Nepal is mentioned as a source of good blankets; of rain-proof (varshavaranam) blankets made up of eight pieces joined together and of black colour, known as Bhingisi; as well as blankets known as Apasaraka.
The dukula (white silk garments) came from Vanga; Pundra in northern Bengal supplied the stuff called Paundraka, while the place called Suvarnakudda in Assam was also known for its sills.
Kshauwa or Linen came from the country called Kasi, and from Pundra. Fibrous garments (Patrornah) were the products of Magadha, Pundra, and Suvarnalukudda. Of the same kind are the garments known as Kauseya (produced in the country called Kosakara) and Chinapatta (Chinabhumijah). V.R.R. Dikshitar proposes to identify China with Shina, a Gilgit tribe known for its manufacture of silk.
Cotton fabrics (Karpasikam) of the best quality were produced at the following places- Madhura, the capital of Pandya country; Aparanta (Konkana)- Kalinga; Kasi; Vanga; Vatsya; Mahishmati, the capital of Kuntala country.
Urban life had its own amenities like life in a village. These were offered by a number of institutions of different kinds. Every city had its rest-houses for travellers (Dharmavasathas), its factories where worked its artists (Silpi) and craftsmen, its shops, its vintners (Saundikah), its restaurants offering meals of cooked meat (pakkvamamsa), rice (odana), and cake (apupa), and its taverns (panasala).
It had many public amusements like theatrical performances (preksha), music, vocal, and instrumental, exhibition of acting, dancing, jugglery (chakra-chara), sorcery (kuhaka), storytelling, rhapsody, gymnastics, painting and the like, which were all given by its various classes of artists trained in its Schools of Art maintained by the State (II. 36; II. 27; IV, 4).
The city’s learning and culture were represented by persons noted for their knowledge, their oratorical gifts, their spirituality, who were all given the highest honours and allowances for their maintenance (Vidya-Vakya-Dharma-Sura (XIII, 5). We have already seen how religion and learning were endowed by grants of land made tax-free and in perpetuity (adanda-karani abhirupadayakani) by the State to their votaries named- (1) Ritvik, (2) Acharya, (3) Purohita and (4) Srotriya.
The State also bestowed stipends of honour (puja-vetanani) upon the teachers of music (Acharyah Gandharvacharyah) and the men of learning (vidyavantah) in the city whose services were always at the disposal of the public (sarvopasthayinah). The stipends were granted in accordance with merit (yatharham) (V. 3).
The Maurya Empire was based upon a money-economy. The literary references to the use of coins are older than their actual finds. The Vedic term for a coin is taken to be Nishka Rv. I, 126, 2. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad speaks of a gift made to Yajnavalkya in the form of five padas of gold with which the horns of 1000 cows were hung, a total gift of 10,000 padas.
Weights of gold and probably a gold currency are indicated in such terms as Ashtaprud (Kathaka Samhita, Chapter XI, 1)or Satamana defined as “a weight of 100 krishnalas”, The Satpatha (XII. 2, 3. 2) also refers to payment of sacrificial fee in terms of gold (hiranya) whether Suvarna or Satamana.
Gold (hiranya) being obtained from the beds of rivers like the Indus (Rv. X, 75, 8),or extracted from the earth (Av. XD, 1, 6, 26. 44) or from ore by smelting (Sata Br. VI, 1, 3, 5) or from washings (Jb. II, 1, 1, 5).
Panini (c. 500 BC) in his Grammar testifies to the continued use of some of these Vedic terms for coins. He knows of the gold coins Nishka, Satamana and Suvarna. Things valued in terms of Nishka are called Naishkika, Dvinaishkika, and so forth (V. 1, 20; 30). A man of 100 Nishkas was called a Naishka-Satika, a man of thousand a Naishka-Sahasrika (V. 2, 119). An article bought for a Satamana is called a Satamanam (V. I, 27).
It is interesting to note that Mr. Durga Prasad of Varanasi who had specialised in the study of punchmarked silver coins and handled thousands of them so far discovered, ascertained that 39 silver coins which were found in the earliest layers at Taxila weighed 100 rattis each =180 grains. These corns cannot be taken to be the double Persian sigloi mentioned below, for the Persian sigloi weighed not more than 36.45 grains and a double weighed 172.9 grains. They, therefore, are to be taken as indigenous coins called aptly Satamana coins in our texts.
It may be further assumed that weights of these coins followed a decimal system. The Satamanas had their Padas which may also be identified with certain broad pieces punched with 4 symbols and weighing 25 rattis or 1/4 of Satamanas.
Panini also refers to objects valued ill terms of Suvarna taken as a coin (IV. 3, 153; VI. 2, 55). He also knows of a gold coin Sana (V. 1, 35). In the Charaka-Samhita (Kalpa-Sthana, XII. 89) 1 sana = 4 mashas. Kautilya, as we have seen (II. 14), takes 1 Suvarna=16 Mashas and a pada of Suvarna = 4 mashas, the equivalent of a Sana.
The Karshapana, the established coin of ancient India, is fully known to Panini who refers to transactions made in terms of money taken to be the Karshapana (V. 1, 21; 27; 29, 34). He also knows of 1/2 (ardha) and 1/4 (pada) as denominations of Karshapana (V. 1. 48: 34). Karshapana, as the standard coin, was in silver. Kautilya uses the form pana. Panini again knows of the small coin called Masha (V. 1, 34), Kautilya takes Masha as 1/16 of Karshapana, and as a copper coin (II. 19).
It would be too small in size in silver, though even some specimens of the silver Masha have been found at some places like Taxila. Therefore, as a copper coin, it admitted of smaller denominations known as 1/2 Mashaka, 1 Kakani = 1/4 Masha and 1/2 Kakani = 1/8 Masha. Kakani and Ardhakakani are known to Katyayana (Varttika on V. 1, 33) and also to Patanjali. Panini also uses the term Vimsatika in terms of Karshapana of twenty parts. This coin was in circulation in the country in some parts, along with the Karshapana of 16 parts, as known to Kautilya.
It appears that Mr. Durga Prasad found coins weighing 40 and 60 rattis corresponding to 20 and 30 Mashas, 1 Masha being = 2 rattis of silver. These coins may thus be taken as examples of coins called aptly by Panini Vimsatika and Trimsatika coins as known in his day. It may be noted that the Vinayapitaka (atthakatha. II Parajika) furnishes the information that at that time (of Bimbisara or Ajatasattu), at Rajagaha, there was in circulation the Karshapana of twenty Mashakas (Vimsatimasako Kahapano), whence the Pada was five Mashakas.
Buddhaghosha in his Samantapasadika dubs this coin as Nilakahapana and further states that the coin in circulation in the capital of the empire became the current coin in all its provinces (Sabbajanapadeshu). It is also stated that the coin was fashioned in accordance with the specifications of the old technical numismatic Sastra (Purana-Sastra) (Chatterji, 384-386).
Patanjali refers to the Karshapana of 16 Mashas as being older (purakalpa) than the one of 20 Mashas with which he was apparently more familiar, Kautilya knows of this older Karshapana as the standard of his days but refers to another silver coin called Dharana of 20 parts (on. Panini I. 2. 64). Both varieties of Karshapana seem to have been in circulation in different local areas in the country. It may be noted that the Buddhist tradition cited above regards the coin of 20 Mashas as being older than that of 16 Mashas.
Thousands of actual examples of the silver Karshapana have been found in different parts of India and are designated now as punch-marked coins. Their average weight is 32 Raktikas = 56 grains. This agrees with the standard mentioned by Kautilya, Manu (VIII. 136) or Yajnavalkya (I. 364) and also in Saratthadipani where the weight of a ‘Rudradamaka‘ coin = 42 grains is stated to be 3/4 of a purana (old) Karshapana (Buddhistic Studies, Ibid).
Panini uses the term rupa (V. 2, 120) and explains the formation rupya as ‘beautiful’ or ‘stamped’ (ahata). The latter sense applies to a coin. The Arthasastra takes the term rupa in the sense of a coin alone and mentions an officer known as Rupadarsaka, ‘the examiner of coins,’ as we have already seen. It is interesting to note that Patanjali in commenting on Varttika on Panini’s sutra, I, 4, 52, refers to a Rupatarka ‘who examines (darsayati) the karshapanas’. It may be also recalled that Kautilya uses the terms Rupyarupa and Tamrarupa for silver and copper coins.
We shall now turn to the actual specimens of ancient Indian coins discovered so far. The oldest variety has been found in the parts of India in the northwest which belonged to the Achaemenian Persian Empire in the sixth and fifth century BC. Some of these coins were found in an early layer at Taxila along with a gold coin of Diodotus (250 BC), and, in another stratum, with the coins of Alexander the Great, looking “fresh from the mint,” and one Achaemenid siglos of the 4th Century BC.
These weigh, as we have seen, 100 ratia =180 grains on as average. The sigloi weighs 86.45 grains, while the Attic standard = 67.5 grains. These coins are “thick, slightly bent bars of silver, stamped with wheel or sun like designs resembling the 6 armed symbol to be seen on the later punch-marked silver coins, while they form only a single type”. It was probably these pieces in which Ambhi, the king of Taxila, had paid to Alexander his present of what the Greek writers describe as “80 talents of coined silver” (Curtius, VIII. 12, 42).
According to Durga Prasad (JRASB, Nunusmatic Supplement, XLVII, p. 76), these older per-Maurya coins are struck on a standard of 100 rattis as against the later Maurya coins of standard 32 rattis weight. This confirms the truth of the Vinayapitaka that the older Karshapana of 20 Mashakas was of lesser weight.
Next, a hoard of coins was found at a deep stratum in Golakhpur at the site of ancient Pataliputra. These are taken to be the earliest known punch-marked silver coins and to be pre-Maurya, perhaps, Nanda, coins. They bear a pre-Maurya symbol, ‘the hare or dog on hill’, which may be taken as the Nanda symbol.
It may be noticed that many of these were punched by the Mauryas with their own symbol to make them ‘legal tender,’ or kosa-pravesya, as Kautilya calls them, as contrasted with the coinage current among the public for purposes of business transactions and aptly called by Kautilya vyavahariki panya-yatra, as we have already seen. We may recall that the Kasika mentions a tradition about Nandas inaugurating a royal measure (Nandopakramani manani), (II. 4, 21; VI. 21, 14) while their proverbial wealth as mentioned in literature may be due to their new coinage and currency system.
Following the Golakhpur find in the chronological order is a vast body of silver punch-marked coins found in thousands in different parts of India, from Panjab to Malwa, and from C.P. to the Deccan and up to Madras and Mysore. These may be grouped under six classes in accordance with the variations in their symbols and marks.
Yet they are all struck on a common standard, that of 32 rattis = 56 grains, like the pana or dharana. Another common feature they present is that “they have regularly on one side a group of five punches found in a great variety of combinations, and on the reverse have one or more punches, normally different from those found on the obverse” (Ib. xiii).
The five punches on the obverse show figures of (1) Sun, (2) Circle with 6 arms, 3 arrowheads, and 3 taurine symbols, (3) Mountain, (4) Peacock, dog (or rabbit), or tree on a hill, (5) Animals, such as elephant, bull, dog seizing a rabbit, rhino, and even fishes and frogs, and in some cases, sacred tree within a railing (perhaps a mark of Buddhist influence which was so widespread in the time of Asoka Maurya) (Ib. XX f.).
The symbols on tike reverse of these coins are only the marks of punching made by authorities and shroffs in checking them. It may be assumed that the larger the number of these punch-marks, the older must be the coins. This may supply a due to the dating of these coins. It may be noted that Kautilya’s Mint-Master called Lakshanadhyaksha was in charge of the Lakshanas to be imprinted on the imperial coins.
Coins in circulation had also to be checked from time to time and this was done by the Rupadarsaka who punched his test marks each time on them. This means increase in the number, of these teat marks on the reverse, of which the maximum has been found to be 14 so far. Coins bearing larger number of marks appear to be older and more worn out.
It is difficult to comprehend fully the meaning of these symbols and punch-marks. That they have a meaning is indicated by Buddhaghosa who mentions in the Samantapasadika the ancient numismatic treatise known as Rupasutta as stating how a moneyer (Heranhako) could spot the village, the nigama or the nagara, and even the mint where a coin was manufactured, in the light of its marks, and whether it was “on a hill or on the bank of a river” (naditire va).
These puzzling punch-marks Buddhaghosa describes as chitta-vichitta, of various designs and forms. The mother of the boy Upali was full of fears that his eyes would be spoilt, if he chose the profession of a shroff (SBE, xiii. 201, f). Indeed, all eyes would suffer to this day if applied to find out the meaning of the bewildering punch-marks borne by these ancient Indian coins to which the key is lost in the absence of the old Rupasuttas.
Of the six Classes into which these coins are grouped, it is to be noted that Classes 2 and 6 are more closely connected and taken to be Maurya on grounds explained below. Indeed, a careful examination of the various symbols and marks borne by these numerous punch-marked silver coins found in so many parts of India, together with the evidence that they were in circulation in the country in the fourth, third, and second centuries BC, suggests the conclusion that they were “the coins of the Maurya Empire.”
That these coins were issued by a government authority and not by private individuals, there is not the slightest doubt. Only a central authority could have carried out such an apparently complicated, but no doubt—if we had the clue—simple, system of Stamping the coins in regular series.
The regular recurrence of five symbols on the obverse naturally suggests a Board of Five, such as Megasthenes says was at the head of most departments of Mauryan administration. It can hardly be that the symbols are those of the five officials actually concerned in the issue of each piece, as some symbols like the sun and the six-armed symbol occur over a wide range of coins.
The punches, though not struck with one disc, were struck at one time. They may represent a series of officials of diminishing area of jurisdiction. The last and most frequently changing symbol would represent the actual issuer of the coin. The constant symbol, the sun, would represent the highest official, perhaps the king himself, and the next commonest, the various forms of six armed symbol, the highest officials next under him (Allan, lbid., Ixx, lxxi).
The Maurya connection of these coins is perhaps further attested by the figure of the peacock on a hill common on the coins of Group II under Class 2 and also on Group IV of the same Class, where it appears both on obverse and reverse. The peacock, as has been pointed out above, was the dynastic symbol of the Mauryas. We may also note that of all the animals portrayed on the coins, the elephant is the most prominent as the principal factor in Mauryan military strength.
Durga Prasad considers that the figure of ‘Hill-with-crescent- on-top’ was a specific Maurya symbol, apart from the peacock. This symbol, he points out, appears on most silver coins found all over the country, and also on known Mauryan Monuments (as mentioned above). It also appears on the base of the Maurya pillar recently excavated at Kumrahar in Patna. It is seen on the Sohagaura copper-plate of c. 320-300 BC bearing an inscription which states that at famines, grain was distributed from public granaries, a provision also mentioned by Kautilya, as we have seen.
Lastly, the symbol appears on a seal on three terracotta plates recently discovered at Bulandibagh at Mauryan level at the site of old Pataliputra, along with three other symbols. Jayaswal agreed with Durga Prasad in taking the seal to be the Maurya imperial seal, the Narendranka, by which, according to Kautilya, royal properties like weapons (V. 3) or cattle (II. 29) were marked. Durga Prasad also makes the ingenious suggestion that where a coin bears on the reverse this Maurya symbol of a Hill-with-crescent-on-top or a peacock, it is to be taken as a pre-Maurya coin which was rest ruck by the Maurya kings (Ibid. Num. Sup. P. 67 f).
As has been already stated, of the six Classes into which the above type of coins are grouped. Classes 2 and 6 are taken to be Maurya. “Their composition is almost everywhere the same,” though they are very different in style and fabric, Class 2 consisting of small thick pieces and Class 6 of large thin pieces. Yet the constant association of these two Classes is surprising.
It has been found that these two Classes of coins “circulated together thick Peshawar to the mouth of the Godavari, and from Palanpur in the west to Midnapore in the east.” The distinction between them is not one of place. The same authority must have issued them as current coins in all the localities under the control of that authority. “The authority that issued these coins must have ruled the Ganges valley, the upper Indus valley, thrust its way up the tributaries of Jumna to the west, and come along the east coast through Orissa and penetrated far into the Deccan. This is what the find-spots suggest” (Allan, Ibid. 1v, 1vi).
The find-spots also agree with die distribution of Asoka’s inscriptions and thus point unmistakably to the Maurya Empire as the authority that issued the coins of these two Classes which are found to be so closely connected.
Since a part of the Punjab came under the dominion of the Achaemenian (Hakhamani) Emperors of ancient Persia, it was natural that their money must have come into India in the wake of their conquest. But it is not easy to prove it by actual finds of Persian coins in India.
The standard gold coin of ancient Persia was the Daric, weighing about 130 grains, probably first minted by Darius who first annexed to his empire the valley of the Indus. This coin is marked by the portrait on its obverse of the great king, armed with bow and spear, in the act of marching through his dominions.
The gold coin of Persia could not, however, obtain wide circulation in India for an important economic reason. India was known for its abundance of gold, so much so that its value relatively to silver was very low, as low as 1:8 as compared with the ratio of 1:13.3 maintained by the Imperial Persian Mint.
Therefore, the Darics that would find their way into India appeared to be an artificially inflated currency and would find no place in the India currency system, and would be exported at once. There was no profit in holding such Darics in India when they could be exchanged for more silver elsewhere. Therefore, Persian gold coinage has not been found in any appreciable quantity in India.
As regards the corresponding Persian-silver coinage, it consisted of what were called Sigloi or Shekels of which twenty were equivalent to a Daric. They weighed about 86.45 grains. Such silver coins would find their way into India where they had more value and would buy more gold.
Many sigloi coins have been found in India with peculiar counter marks closely resembling those found on the square pieces of silver constituting India’s oldest native punch-marked coinage. The Persian sigloi, however, did not long survive the overthrow of Darius III by Alexander.
The Persian conquest of the Punjab was followed by the so- called Greek conquest, which was short-lived. The effect of Alexander’s campaigns in the Punjab was only to unify the country all the more. Smaller principalities were brought together in the larger kingdom which, was Alexander’s gift to his whilom adversary, Poros. Another consequence of the pressure of the foreign invasion was the formation of the confederacies of free peoples already described.
These unities, as we have seen, paved the way of Chandragupta Maurya in building up his great Empire. It is not easy to ascertain how far the currency of India was at all affected by this Greek contact. The disappearance of the Persian Sigloi from the field after Darius IV no doubt opened the way to Greek influence.
But it was slow to show itself. Imitation Athenian ‘owl’ coins first appeared in the period of Macedonian ascendancy, but the specimens at the British Museum from Rawalpindi were not of Indian but central Asian origin.
Nor is the Indian provenance established for the Greek coins found in India, whether tetradrachms or drachms. The proper Greek drachm minted on the Attic standard weighs 67.5 grains, whereas the drachm found in India weighs not more than 58 grains.
Further, in these smaller denominations of coins, whether drachms or diobols, the Athenian owl is replaced by eagle. A find of a series of silver drachms of Attic weight made in the Punjab by Cunningham perhaps proves that the smaller Athenian imitations were known in the north of India.
Their obverse shows the head of a warrior, wearing a close-fitting helmet, wreathed with olive, while the reverse shows a cock and a caduceus symbol. These coins give an impression that they were designed after an Athenian prototype. These are supposed to have been the issues of king Sophytes or Saubhuti, and, if so, these coins form a memorial of Alexander’s invasion of India. It is doubtful whether Alexander as conqueror had issued any money of his own in India.
Some coins bearing the name of Alexander have been classed as Indian, of which the best example is a bronze piece. But it is doubtful whether their provenance is India. Even a number of silver tetradrachms showing Zeus and eagle and the significant satrapal tiara which were found at Rawalpindi were of Central Asian origin. The later issues of these coins were those of Antiochus I who had no connection with India after the defeat of his predecessor, Seleukos, by Chandragupta Maurya.
It is to be noted that these pieces do not bear the king’s title. But both title and name appear on an extraordinary silver decadrachm of Attic weight now in the British Museum. Its obverse shows a horse-man, with lance at rest, charging down upon a retreating elephant carrying on its back two men who are turning round to face their pursuer. Its reverse shows a tall figure, wearing cuirass, cloak and cap, with a sword hanging by his side and holding a thunderbolt and, spear.
This figure is supposed by Head to be the figure of Alexander himself. Head interprets the obverse to represent the retreat of Poros, one of whose companions on the elephant, the rear-most one, wields the lance aimed at the pursuing horseman. It is Paurava mounted on the State elephant at the Battle of the Hydaspes and aiming his javelin at Ambhi, the traitor king of Taxila, galloping after him on horse.
The story is thus told by Arrian (Chap. XVIII)- “Taxiles, who was on horseback, approached as near the elephant, which carried Poros, as seemed safe, and entreated him, since it was no longer possible for him to flee, to stop his elephant and to listen to the message he brought from Alexander.
But Poros, on finding that the speaker was his old enemy, Taxiles, turned round and prepared to smite him with his javelin, and he would have probably killed him, had not Taxiles instantly put his horse to the gallop and got beyond the reach of Poros.”