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The Coin Galleries: Panchala Kingdom

When the Mauryan empire collapsed, many new kingdoms emerged on its ruins. One such kingdom to emerge in northern India was Panchala. This had been one of the 16 great mahajanapadas in the time of the Buddha. Draupadi, one of the central characters of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, was reportedly a Panchala princess. This janapada had been absorbed by Magadha as it pursued its program of expansion. But now the kingdom was reconstituted under the Mitra kings, who issued a most interesting and long-lived series of coins. Almost all the Panchala coins carry the name of the issuing king in Brahmi letters; these are some of the earliest indigenous Indian coins to carry legends. They typically carried an image of a deity on the obverse, most often the deity closely associated with the name of the issuing ruler, and an incuse punch on the reverse which had the legend bearing the king's name along with the three symbols of the Panchala kingdom above.

Unfortunately, the exact dates of this kingdom's existence, and the order in which the kings ruled, are not known for certain and are the subject of some debate. K.M. Shrimali, in his History of Panchala, dates the main series to about 150 BCE to 125 CE, followed by a gap during the ascendancy of the Kushan Empire, which in turn was followed by the re-establishment of a Panchala dynasty during c. 300-350 CE. We know that the last Panchala king, Achyuta, was defeated by Samudragupta and therefore must have been his contmporary. The dates given below for individual kings are based on the estimates of Shrimali.

The coins of the main series below are divided into two series. The "Primary" series is the more common series of coins found mostly in the area of Ahichhatra, the Panchala capital, which is probably where they were minted. The "Secondary" series is a rarer group with a distinct design and fabric, which was perhaps minted at a separate mint.

Primary series

Yajnabala, AE quarter karshapana, c. 85-75 BCE
Weight: 1.33 gm., Diam: 13 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---
Although I have listed Yajnabala (or Yajnapala) according to Shrimali's date, it seems he belongs much later in the series. Note the close similarity between this coin and the small denomination coins of Agnimitra below. They clearly belong in the same general time period.

Dhruvamitra, AE half karshapana, c. 65-50 BCE
Weight: 5.42 gm., Diam: 20 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4538 var., Shrimali type 1

Vishnumitra, AE half karshapana, c. 20-10 BCE
Weight: 4.07 gm., Diam: 16 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Vishnumitra, AE quarter karshapana, c. 20-10 BCE
Weight: 1.61 gm., Diam: 12 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Suryamitra, AE double karshapana, c. 10 BCE - 1 CE
Weight: 16.00 gm., Diam: 25 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4547.

Bhanumitra, AE double karshapana, c. 1-20 CE
Weight: 12.58 gm., Diam: 25 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4549.
A very interesting coin, in which Bhanu (the sun) is depicted as a solar disc surrounded by emanating rays and is then garlanded with a pendant necklace ... a beautiful depiction!

Bhanumitra, AE karshapana, c. 1-20 CE
Weight: 6.21 gm., Diam: 20 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4550.

Bhanumitra, AE quarter karshapana, c. 1-20 CE
Weight: 2.50 gm., Diam: 15 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Jayamitra, AE half karshapana, c. 25-45 CE
Weight: 3.99 gm., Diam: 16 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Indramitra, AE half karshapana, c. 45-65 CE
Weight: 4.66 gm., Diam: 15 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4539

Indramitra, AE quarter karshapana, c. 45-65 CE
Weight: 2.54 gm., Diam: 13 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Indramitra, AE one-sixteenth karshapana, c. 45-65 CE
Weight: 0.51 gm., Diam: 9 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Bhumimitra, AE double karshapana, c. 65-80 CE
Weight: 15.52 gm., Diam: 25 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4549.

Agnimitra, AE karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 5.84 gm., Diam: 18 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4557.
Agni is depicted with flaming hair on the obverse.

Agnimitra, AE half karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 2.29 gm., Diam: 12 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4561.

Agnimitra, AE quarter karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 1.41 gm., Diam: 13 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---
On these low denomination coins, Agni is depicted only symbolically, as a lamp or a flame.

Agnimitra, AE quarter karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 1.38 gm., Diam: 13 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Agnimitra, AE one-eighth karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 0.95 gm., Diam: 13 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Agnimitra, AE one-sixteenth karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 0.56 gm., Diam: 10 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Agnimitra, AE one-sixteenth karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 0.55 gm., Diam: 10 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Phalgunimitra, AE double karshapana, c. 110-120
Weight: 13.59 gm., Diam: 23 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4542.
Secondary Series

Suryamitra, AE double karshapana, c. 10 BCE - 1 CE
Weight: 11.85 gm., Diam: 22 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4548.
Coins of the Secondary Series seem to form a distinct group, because of the radical difference in design and fabric from the main series. Apart from the five kings shown here, coins of this type are also known for Indramitra.

Bhanumitra, AE double karshapana, c. 1-20 CE
Weight: 13.69 gm., Diam: 21 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Bhumimitra, AE double karshapana, c. 65-80 CE
Weight: 15.06 gm., Diam: 24 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Agnimitra, AE double karshapana, c. 80-100 CE
Weight: 13.23 gm., Diam: 23 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---

Phalgunimitra, AE double karshapana, c. 110-120
Weight: 13.97 gm., Diam: 23-24 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---
Anepigraphic Coins

Anonymous, AE one-sixteenth karshapana
Weight: 0.36 gm., Dim: 11 x 11 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---
This coin and the next have no legends, only depictions of the Panchala symbols. Perhaps they were issued in the period between the last of the named coin issues and the coins of Achyuta, which are so different in design. This coin, previously unpublished, displays a superb fine style. Shrimali reports one rectangular coin in his entire corpus of Panchala coins.

Anonymous, AE one-sixteenth karshapana
Weight: 0.44 gm., Dim: 10 x 8 mm.
Ref:  MAC ---
Restoration coins, c. 300-350 CE

Achyuta, AE quarter karshapana, c. early 4th century
Weight: 1.50 gm., Diam: 14 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4727

Achyuta, AE quarter karshapana, c. early 4th century
Weight: 2.05 gm., Diam: 13 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4727 var
Shrimali studied and listed 400 spoked-wheel coins of Achyuta. Of these, 399 had 8 spokes (like on the previous coin) and 1 had 12 spokes. Not a single one had 7 spokes, as on this coin.

Achyuta, AE one-eighth karshapana, c. early 4th century
Weight: 1.09 gm., Diam: 12 mm.
Ref:  MAC 4727 type
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