goldpekary (goldpekary) wrote,

Taxila from

Post Maurya, Taxila, 1 and 1/2 Karshapana, Elephant & Lion type, 200 BC.
These 3 coins from Taxila usually show two animals with associated symbols.
Obv: Elephant facing right, 3-hill stupa surmounted by a crescent on the top (above the back of the elephant)
Rev: Lion facing left, Swastika above, 3-hill stupa below
Coin 3 below is unpublished showing both animals facing the same way ie to the left.
The weight of the above coins range from 12.20 to 12.65g. It's a mystery why on some of the coins (1 & 3 above), the edges are pentagonal or hexagonal shape. I don't know whether the coins were struck as-is in these shapes or the edges were clipped off later to serve whatever purpose intended.
The Elephant is shown walking with left leg raised while the Lion is shown standing proud and majestic with tail up.
Note on the Symbolism of Animals in Buddhism, Ven. Jampa Choskyi, Buddhist Himalaya, VOL. I NO. I, SUMMER 1988.
The main characteristics of the elephant are his strength and steadfastness. Therefore it became a symbol of physical and mental strength, as well as responsibility and earthiness. In buddhism the elephant is a symbol of mental strength. At the beginning of one's practice the uncontrolled mind is symbolised by a gray elephant who can run wild any moment and destroy everything on his way. After practising dharma and taming one's mind, the mind which is now brought under control is symbolised by a white elephant strong and powerful, who can be directed wherever one wishes and destroy all the obstacles on his way. Buddha Shakyamuni was born as elephant in some of his previous incarnations and in his last incarnation as Siddharth Gautama he entered his mother's womb in the form of a white elephant.
Lions are the kings of the animal kingdom: they are proud and majestic. Due to these characteristics, the lion has been considered through all ages and countries as a symbol of royalty and protection, as well as of wisdom and pride. In buddhism lions are symbolic of the bodhisattvas, the "sons of the Buddha" or "Buddha's lions" (bodhisattvas are beings who have attained a high level of spiritual development). In buddhist iconography we find the lions in their role of dharma protectors supporting the throne of the buddhas and bodhisattvas. They are also found at the entrance of the monasteries and shrines.

This is my kind of thing. Powerful symbolism.
If we'd have tourists from another planet, what would we show them? Red square? The Eiffel tower? Golden Gate bridge? The Taj Mahal? I think not. We'd show them an elephant, a lion, a bear and an eagle. They are globally understood symbols and we'd find it unacceptable if the real thing would disappear.
Lovely coins! The elephants and lions on the first two coins are absolutely stunning. I have a similar coin where it shows elephants on both sides of the coin, instead of the usual lion/elephant pair. I'll see if I can muster that up...
Rajagopal great coins sir. interesting to see that the first coin has a left handed swastika and other two coins having right handed swastika. any relevance ???

Well spotted, rajagopaltall. I have read that one represents the sun, the other the moon, but I am more inclined to believe that it is a meaningless difference only.

Thanks, Rajgopal. I never spotted the difference myself! Like Peter says, I don't think there is too much to read between the 'left' and 'right' facing swastikas.

You show some nice coins Mitresh !
When i saw Quant.Geeks response of two elephants, i thought of the coin i added here. I first mistook it for two elephants. I assumed the crescent of the chaitya in front of the lion to be the elephants tusk.
The position of the animals here is again another combination than on the coins already shown.

Nice coin, Anthony. What still puzzles me is the "clips" at the edges that gives the coin various shapes ie pentagonal, hexagonal etc.  I wonder why it was not simply kept as a square or rectangular shape coin. Perhaps the clips were done to unify the coin by weight in a transaction?

Well, mine is 11.8 grams. So i think it is most likely that the coins were clipped to obtain equal weights.
It may be that the makers did not have the technique to enable them to make evenly thick flat bars of copper. So they needed to check weights afterwards and clip when necessary. I think that this was done immediately when the coins where made, and not later in economic transactions. This because the cutmarks on the rectangular side and on the oblique cut sides seem identical.

It was common practice, even for the punch-marked Maurya-Magadha coins, to be clipped prior to stamping if they were overweight. This explains the wide range of shapes and sizes these coins come in. If they were underweight, they had to be discarded and remelted--an expensive wastage. I would suspect that the makers erred on the side of heavier, and then fine-tuned the weight by clipping. Rajgor and Gupta/Hardaker have nice descriptions of how they were made.

I think the ancients already took an extension of Murphy's law into account:
"Pieces cut to size are either too small or too large. The possibility with the largest chance of occurence is always the one with the most detrimental effect."

As a followup to the coins that have already been posted, here is one with two elephants instead:
Obv: Elephant facing right, turine above?; three-arched hill in front
Rev: Elephant facing right; three-arched hill in front

Here's my specimen, got it recently!
Post-Maurya North India, Pushkalavai
AE 1-1/2 karshapana
Later series, c. 185-160 BCE
12.82 g, ~ 20 mm x 22 mm
MACW# 4401-4403
Coin is surprisingly larger compared to the typical Indian ancient coins I have acquired so far.

Here's my specimen.

Another nice iconic specimen !
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