Roman Karur
R. Nagaswamy

Preface....
Foreword....
Introduction....
Numismatic finds, Inscrib....
Roman Coins....
Punch Marked Coins From K....
Satavahana Coins....
Square Chera Coins....
Square Chola Coins From K....
Pallava Coins....
Coin Moulds....
Karur Archaeological Exca....
Karur Antiquities....
Alagankulam, An Indo Roma....
Epigraphical Evidence....
Satyaputra Inscription....
Literary Evidence....
Romans In Tamilnad....
Impact Of Roman Art....
Chera Karur....
Epic Age: Silappadhikaram....
Pallava Age....
Chola Age....
Sekkilar....
Arunagirinathar....
Karuvur Puranam....
Karur: Modern....
Poetic Karur....
Select Bibliography....
Satavahana Coins

Karur has yielded a few Satavahana coins, bearing the name of the Satavahana rulers in Brahmi script. They show the commercial contact, the Chera capital had with the Satavahana Kingdom. Since the dates of Satavahana rulers are known, and their issues documented, the occurrence of their coins at Karur, helps us in assessing the age of flourishing Karur trade.
Coin of Pulamavi: A circular coin with the name 'Pudumavi' inscribed in Brahmi script on the obverse, and the Ujjain symbol on the reverse, has been found in Karur. The legend is in a straight line but does not have any other symbol. The lower part of the coin is somewhat corroded. The Brahmi letters are tending towards the nail-headed variety and may be assigned to 2nd cent. a.d.
The coin may be ascribed to Vasishti Putra Pulamavi II, who ruled between 88 a.d. and 116 a.d.(1). He came to the throne after Gautami Putra Satakarni. Vasishti Putra Pulamavi was a very powerful ruler who is said to have shifted his capital to Pratishtana (Paithan). His inscriptions have been found at Amaravati, Nasik, Karle and other places. Under his patronage, the art of Amaravati reached its Zenith. The Deccan witnessed all around economic prosperity under his rule. He has issued several types of coins like the elephant, horse, lion and chakra types. He has also issued a bilingual portrait seris of coins - bearing on the obverse, the legend in Prakrit, reading Rajno Vashishti Putasa Sri Pulamavisa.(2) The reverse reads in Tamil? Aracanaku Vacitti makanaku Thiru Pudumaviku. The occurrence of his coin at Karur, would suggest that Karur continued to have a flourishing trade in the 2nd cent a.d.
Notes
Sharma I.K., Coinage of the Satavahana Empire, Delhi, 1980, pp.98-101, and 135. Nagaswamy R., (i) A bilingual coin of the Satavahana, Seminar on Inscriptions, Madras, 1967, p. Nagaswamy. R., A bilingual coin of Vasishtaputra Siva Sri Pulamavi, Journal of Archaeology of Andhra Pradesh; vol 1, pp. 105-113.
Durga Coins
Among the different varieties of coins found at Karur, one series of coins is of great iconographic interest. They may be called Durga Mahishasura Mardhini coins. I have examined three such coins which are in private collections. The obverse bears an image, of goddess Durga.
Durga is standing erect, with both her legs planted firmly on the back of a recumbant Mahisha. Two hands are clearly visible. A long handled spear or sula appears by the side of her left hand. The right hand is raised in the pose of abhaya. By its side is a bow. Mahisha crushed by the feet of the goddess is lying beneath the feet facing left. A long bladed sword is seen above its neck.
Artistically, the figure no doubt belongs to 2nd - 3rd century a.d. Iconographically too, it is interesting. Which dynasty issued this coin series will remain doubtful for the present. The bow and arrow sign of the Cheras, imprinted on the reverse is not seen. The Goddess wields a long bow. Durga images in later sculptures do carry a bow.
The ear ornaments of the Goddess is big as found in early sculptures. Stylistically, the sculpture bears rsemblance to early Kushana sculptures. The reverse of the coin bears a standing lion. On ground of style, the coin could be placced in the 2nd century. There are no other evidences to date this series. Since all the three coins I have examined come from Karur, it is likely that they were issued at karur. We are not sure who issued the coin. It might be that they were issued by the Cheras of karur, as they have issued the elephant and tiger coins.
The Cheras were great devotees of Durga. The Durga on the hill of Ayirai, was their family Goddess, as she is praised in a number of Sangam poems. Following the footsteps of their ancestors a number of rulers of this dynasty propitiated her (see the chapter on Chera karur). We may tenttatively identify the goddess with goddess Durga of Ayirai malai, in which case this will be the earliest representation of a god, portrayed in coin though religious symbols like trisula, chakra etc do appear. This Karur, give us material evidence for the study of religious faith in Tamilnad in general and Karur in particular.
Lakshmi Coins
Ab oblong Sri Lakshmi Coin has been found in Karur recently(1). The description of the coin as given is:-
Metal - Copper; shape - oblong; weight 2.500 grams; length 3 c.m., width 1.1. cm.
Obverse: Standing female figure with very narrow waist facing front completely nude. Feet turned half outward, arms are hanging down holding at each side, near the border a thin curved line which may be a flower stem, ending at shoulder level. The nude figure has prominent breasts and big hips. The reverse seems to have a tree issuing from a railing
It has been suggested by Mr.R.Krishnamurthi(2) that the representation is that of Mother Goddess and that "these oblong cons with Mother Goddess symbol found in Mullaitivu, Anuradhapura and Tissa (in Sri Lanka) might have gone from Karur, the capital of the Sangam period Cheras to Sri Lanka due to maritime trade". Mr.R. Krishnamurthi draws our attention to the studies, of these coins by Parkar H.(3) Father Heras(4) and also that of Codrington(5).
I may draw attention to the excellent study by P.E. Pieris(6). Pieris reporting the discovery of such coins by Parkar in 1884 and Mr.Still in 1907, from Tissamaharama and Tuparama at Anuradhapura, referred to the occurrence of this specimen from Kandarodai, and Vallipuram, in extraordinary variety. Comparing the finds of this specimen from the middle and North of Ceylon, Pieris, remarked "The figure is somewhat of inferior make, bold but not graceful, and the lines of the design on both the faces undoubtedly heavy. Those found in the North are singularly artistic and of good workmanship, while the metal though largely mixed with lead, is in no way brittle". Giving an accurate description of the obverse and reverse of the coin (p.52-53), Pieris identified the figure quite correctly with Sri Lakshmi. "The representation, is of course, that of Lakshmi or Sri, the Goddess of Wealth, Chief consort of Vishnu, who sprang from the ocean, when it was churned to obtain the ambrosia of the Gods. She is usually represented with two elephants pouring water over her from two pots. This is a Brahminical Vaishnava symbol", (p.53) Citing Rapson (Indian coins - page 7 also plate 1 No.15) - Pieris suggested that these coins were imitated from Greek coins. Pieris also reported two series - which he calls "Lakshmi coins". The first series displays a fair degree of merit, the figure not badly designed and the metal of substantial thickness. Of this, a dozen prfect specimens have been found at Kandarodai and three at Vallipuram. The second series is stamped on copper in some cases, as thin as paper of medium thickness, irregularly chiselled out of a large hseet with the figure clumsily executed. A few perfect specimens of this series, and a large quantity of fragments have been found at "Kandarodai" - (p.54).
A chemical analysis of this coin, was made by Mr.Rae (pages 54-55) which showed.
lead - 59.93% copper - 11.84% silica - 0.62% iron - 0.14% nickel - trace
The coin reported from Karur may be rightly identified with "Lakshmi Coins" and that they are akin to the second series of coins, of great artistic merit, reported by Pieris. It should be mentioned that while very large number of such coins have been reported from Sri Lanka and that too mostly from Buddhist sites and whereas so far only one from Karur it cannot be said that the Ceylon coins were exported from Karur. The reverse may not be wrong.
The other point that deserves special mention, is the form of Lakshmi. Scholars familiar with the artistic trend in Sanchi and Amaravati sculptures(7), would at once recognize the Lakshmi figure to the mature Amaravati Phase, Ist cent.a.d. and not early phase of archaic forms.
Notes
1.
Krishnamurthi R., Oblong Copper Coin with Mother Goddess symbol from Karur, Paper presented at the Conference of the Numismatic Society of India, Aurangabad, 1990.
2.
Ibid.
3.
Parkar H., Ancient Ceylon, P. 475, coin no. 4 and pp.497 and 499.
4.
Heras Father, Royal Asiatic Society of Ceylon, Vol XXXIV, no 90, 1937, p.47-48.
5.
Codrington, Ceylon Coins and Currency, p.28.
6.
Pieris. P.E. Nagadipa Coins, Journal of the Asiatic Society (Ceylon) XXVIII, No.72, 1919, pp.52-55.
7.
Sivaramamurthi, C., Amaravati Sculptures in the Madras Govt Museum, Madras, 1977.
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