Indo-Sassanian holy grail - AR Dramma of Sri Somalladevi

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Finn235, Sep 15, 2021.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Finally added a very rare, very important Gadhaiya to the collection after a 4 year search for a seller who both had the type and was willing to ship it out of India!

    India, Chahamanas of Shakambhari
    Present-day Rajasthan in NW India
    Somalladevi, queen consort of Ajayaraja II (1110-1135 AD)
    Billon Dramma 16mm, 4.29g

    Obv: Imitation of Gadhaiya Paisa (ca. Series 1.4.4)
    Rev: Nagari legend Sri SoMa/ LaDeVi in two lines

    Ex. William "Bill" Spengler collection
    Deyell 162a (this coin)

    Sri Somala Devi imitative Gadhaiya.jpg

    This very rare variety of Gadhaiya has been known at least since the 1800s, although it was not until about 1900 that enough specimens had been found to piece together the queen's name - Sri Somalladevi. This has since sparked some scholarly debate - as there are two top candidates:

    Somalladevi, wife of Chahamana king Ajayaraja (1110-1135)

    Somalladevi, wife of Chaulukya king Bhima II (1178-1241)

    The accompanying flip attributes it to the latter (argued since it is still widely believed that the Chaulukyas were the primary authority under which the prototype was made) although Maheshwari argues convincingly that these were an imitative issue under a Chahamana queen:

    1) The Prithviraja-Vijaya (an epic poem of Chahamana history composed 1192) mentions both that Ajayaraja (AKA Ajayadeva) minted so many coins that he overshadowed other local kings' glory, and that his consort, Somalladevi had a love for silver coins, and had them made every day so she would not see one with a dark spot.

    2) Two coin types with the reverse inscription Sri Somaladevi are known: these, and copper coins with a horseman on the obverse. The silver coins have never been found in association together, but hoards have contained both Ajayadeva silver and Somalladevi copper coins. The calligraphy on silver and copper coins are practically identical, and are a good match to the Ajayadeva coins

    Example of an Ajayadeva drachm, also 16mm and 4.22g
    Obv: Seated Lakshmi
    Rev: Nagari legend Sri AJa/YaDeVa in two lines
    Chahamanas Ajayadeva II AR dramma.jpg

    3. Given that both Somalladevi and Ajayadeva drachms are typically in the ~4.2g weight range and that the Gadhaiya increased in weight abruptly from about 4.2 to 4.5g near the end of the main series (1.4) we can favor an earlier 12th century date over a later one (given that the main series is hypothesized to end with the fall of the Vaghelas to the Muslims in 1304)

    4. Given the extreme variance of bust types among the Somaladevi coins, it is safe to assert that these are imitative, e.g. made by engravers who did not understand the intricate rules governing the Gadhaiya symbology. This is most evident in the overall crude fabric, and especially in the treatment of the forward ribbon. Examples:

    In this one, the ribbon takes the normal retrograde S shape, but then curls back around on itself (image credit: Todywalla Auctions)

    In this one, instead of curving in front of the lips, it actually arcs upward and joins with the nose! (Image: Marudhar Arts)
    ZomboDroid 14092021174435.jpg

    Frankly, that these can show such variation in just ~25 years is fascinating, compared to how incredibly static the main is.

    This coin is a personal Grail coin for me as it is an extremely rare data point in this enigmatic series, and critical to establishing the overall timeline. The other important one (sadly which I have yet to find for sale, let alone win) is a similar coin of Chhittaraja, the Silahara king known to have ruled c. 1022-1035 and issued coins imitative of the transitional series 1.2/1.3
    (Image credit Marc Breitsprecher)

    Assuming that the imitative types were minted within about 20 years of the original output, that puts the entirety of series 1.3 and most of 1.4 within the timeframe of 1000-1135, barely over a century!

    The coin also came with a small writeup and the original Bill Spengler paper envelope, which had been modified quite a bit over the years

    My curiosity was piqued at the hand-written addition of the Deyell reference, so I pulled up my scan (thanks @Bob L.!) And wouldn't you know it...
    Screenshot_20210831-142434_Samsung Notes.jpg

    My first-ever genuine plate coin!

    Thanks to all who have made it this far through my ramblings, and feel free to add anything relevant, especially if you happen to have Mitchiner NIS handy, as I don't have a scan of the pages covering this coin type.
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Always nice to get a plate coin and a provenance! No wonder you're thrilled!
    Finn235 likes this.
  4. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    I think they were, in the Barwala-Makrana hoard ? See Dyell J. "A Fresh Look at Dehliwalas and Related Coinages of the Twelfth Century". Numismatic Digest 2017

    This are the two horseman types:

  5. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    You're right- that hoard was found after Maheshwari's book was published. Looks like out of a hoard of about 20,000 Chauhan coin types, just under 400 (2%) were Somalladevi types - but that also apparently brought the total number of specimens up about five-fold!
    +VGO.DVCKS and rrdenarius like this.
  6. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    Quick pic from Mitchiner:
  7. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    That looks as though Finn bought a double plate coin, doesn’t it?
    +VGO.DVCKS and Finn235 like this.
  8. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  9. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    This is a great thread and a cool new addition @Finn235 . I really enjoyed the read and congratulations on the plate coin discovery.

    I don’t have much in this collecting area but I do have a gadhaiya paisa that you yourself helped me understand better a few years ago. :D I appreciate your posts and your willingness to help educate in this collecting area that is way out of my knowledge base.

    Medieval India
    Paramaras of Malwa
    BI Gadhaiya Paisa, struck ca. mid-13th century AD
    Dia.: 12.5 mm
    Wt.: 3.9 g
    Obv.: Stylized bust right
    Rev.: Stylized fire altar on raised platform surrounded by dots and lines
  10. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    Bill Spengler was quite a guy. I feel fortunate to have known him, if only casually. His career was as a foreign service officer in Pakistan. The books he wrote with Wayne Sayles belie his real interest which was always Indian coins. I wouldn't be surprised if many of the coins plated in Deyell and Mitchiner are from Bill's extensive collection. I believe he was also a primary contributor to the Indian section of Krause. Wonderful provenance!
    +VGO.DVCKS and Finn235 like this.
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