Featured Indo Sassanian - The Evolution of the Gadhaiya Paisa

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Finn235, Oct 13, 2019.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Here it is by popular request, an ultra-condensed version of my write-up on the evolution of the Indo Sassanian drachm from the Peroz prototype through the end of the Gadhaiya Paisa!

    These coins were inspired by the Sassanian silver drachms of Shah Peroz I (459-484), which were by far the most numerous coins in central Asia, largely because Peroz lost three wars against the Hephthalite Huns, and twice was forced to pay enormous ransoms consisting of hundreds of thousands of coins each to free himself and his son Kavadh from captivity. His final loss in 484 resulted in his death on the battlefield.

    How exactly these came to inspire the predominant trade currency of medieval India is a source of scholarly debate, but Maheshwari (Imitations in Continuity) argue that the Gurjjar people, who were a nomadic central Asian warrior society and ostensibly slave-mercenaries of the Hunas, migrated south into what is today Gujarat around 500 AD, filling the power void left by the retreat of the Alchon huns. Since these new settlers did not pillage and rape as the Alchons did, they were largely tolerated. When the old Peroz drachms became worn and unusable, the Gujjars would have had to mint their own coins, so they stuck with the tried and true motifs - the Peroz drachms which with they had been paid by the Hephthalites.

    Around 690 AD, the Gujjar people established a permanent kingdom in Gujarat, calling themselves the Chavadas, or Chapas. Their control of the Gujarat sea port along the important trade routes from the Orient to the Islamic empires greatly enriched them, and they managed to repel the Islamic invaders and retain sovereignty. The ethnicity of the Chavada rulers, along with the complete lack of any medieval Rajput coins which cite any of their kings by name, have led many to believe that the Chavadas issued many or all of the early Gadhaiya Paisa.

    The Chavadas were overthrown in 942 when their final king, Samantsimha adopted his nephew Mularaja, who overthrew him and established the Chaulukya kingdom of Gujarat, which flourished until 1244, despite the growing power of the Islamic sultanates in India at that time. The terminal Chaulukya kings were weak and increasingly became puppets under the control of their client kingdoms, as the final Roman emperors were under their Gothic commanders. The final king, Tribhuvanapala, was formally overthrown by his subject, Visala-Deva, who usurped power just has Mularaja had three centuries earlier.

    The Vaghelas, however, were destined for a short tenure, as just 60 years later they were conquered by the great Delhi sultan, Alauddin Khalji.

    Although it is quite difficult if not impossible to definitively assign the types of Gadhaiya to any particular dynasty (let alone ruler, as Deyell argued could be done!), careful analysis of the coins in sequence can allow us to trace the evolution in sequential steps. Note that there are still some gaps in this evolution, but I am finally satisfied in my assessment of late Series 1.1 until late series 1.4.

    Series 1.1 - Earliest imitations of Peroz Drachms minted in India

    - General size and fabric is retained
    - Legends present on earliest of coins
    - Attendants switch from the "parallel rows of dots" design on official coins to wearing a distinct "herringbone" dress
    - Fire altar ribbon is a string of dots, usually held by the attendants

    ZomboDroid 13102019110014.jpg

    Over time the design gets more stylized
    ZomboDroid 13102019110140.jpg
    (I've skipped many types here which I believe to be largely tangential to the series. You can see all of my coins along with detailed analysis here:
    https://www.cointalk.com/threads/indo-sassanian-coinage-series-1-1-early-types.341648/ )

    The next important step, we see the trend away from "line relief" portraits, and the attendants no longer hold the ribbon
    ZomboDroid 13102019110246.jpg

    Then we see the Chavada type portrait emerge
    ZomboDroid 13102019110407.jpg

    Series 1.2 - This is the "Chavada" type; it is much more common than series 1.1 in general, typically better made, and most importantly, the fire altar has two rows of dots to represent the ribbon. The attendants also quickly lose their herringbone dresses.

    ZomboDroid 13102019110504.jpg

    From series 1.2.1 into 1.2.2 we see the attendants shrink into just a torso and an increasingly globular skirt with vestigial herringbones
    ZomboDroid 13102019110601.jpg

    Then moving into 1.2.3 the feet are lost and the portrait starts to become more standardized; the nostril is no longer attached to the nose and the skirt becomes a ball. This is also where the attendants stop wearing anything other than a solid necklace
    ZomboDroid 13102019110738.jpg

    1.2.4, we see the appearance of the eye line!
    ZomboDroid 13102019111038.jpg

    During 1.2.4 the portrait becomes standardized with a prominent brow and tall forehead. Note also that the attendants are becoming more simplified
    ZomboDroid 13102019111157.jpg

    Here we see a split - 1.2.5 continues with this general schema, but shrinks in size to below 18mm, where it dead ends. 1.2.6 is the "Neanderthal portrait" type, where the brow is exaggerated to comical proportions. In both cases the die is now substantially larger than the flan.
    ZomboDroid 13102019111301.jpg

    (continued in next post)
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  3. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Continuing 1.2.6 we see the attendants further degrade until the lower body becomes just another line parallel to the arm - the die is so oversized for the flan that it is usually difficult to see much of the reverse!
    ZomboDroid 13102019111403.jpg
    At the end comes 1.2.7; the brow straightens out and the head becomes more boomerang shaped.
    ***Here is where we have our first anchor in history - type 1.2.7 was imitated by the North Konkan ruler Chittaraja, who ruled ca. 1022-1035***
    ZomboDroid 13102019112420.jpg

    Here we come to series 1.3 - There was an apparent imitation event, and the celatores for series 1.3.1 copied a coin from 1.2.7, but decided to improve upon it; the chin is now connected, and the nostril is now a crescent, not a dot. The large moustache on the cheek has also been dropped.
    ZomboDroid 13102019112515.jpg
    Somewhere early in 1.3.1 another interesting feature is added - the top flame dot of the fire altar now has a vertical "spire" shooting upwards! Sadly, the top dot is rarely visible on these coins, so it is difficult to sort out exactly how many of these coins do or do not have this feature.
    (And my avatar decided to make a cameo appearance!)
    ZomboDroid 13102019112618.jpg

    From here we have another divergence - In one series we see portraits with a tall vertical head and no facial hair (aside from the highly stylized beard), series 1.3.2 which may be a dead-end. Then in 1.3.3, the celatores decided to add a cute little moustache to the upper lip! Note that my example here has a six pointed hair bun and more than the standard seven dots in the sun - It is entirely possible that this was created as a synthesis between 1.3.1 and earlier coins from late 1.2.
    ZomboDroid 13102019112716.jpg
    Here I'm still trying to sort things out - the moustache gets more prominent briefly as the coins become more chunkily engraved, then it disappears almost as suddenly as it appeared. The forehead is becoming increasingly curved, and the reverse die is shrinking to fit the flan
    ZomboDroid 13102019120913.jpg
    And here we see the end of series 1.3, the portrait is already of the Gadhaiya type, but the flan is small (usually about 14-16mm) and the fire altar base is quite a bit wider than the bowl; another feature of series 1.3. The chin has also become a dot that is barely attached to the cheek.
    ZomboDroid 13102019121004.jpg
    Now enter series 1.4, the canonical Gadhaiya Paisa. The features were ported over almost verbatim from terminal series 1.4, but the flan has widened considerably and the fire altar base has narrowed to allow the entire reverse die to fit on the flan. This is series 1.4.1.
    ZomboDroid 13102019121108.jpg
    Moving into 1.4.2, the forehead shrinks into a more familiar shape and we begin to see the differences between each coin become less significant. I call this one the early or large head Orthodox type.
    ZomboDroid 13102019121210.jpg

    Apparently not satisfied with not having part of the obverse die cut off, the celatores opted to shrink the portrait to accommodate the entire die on the best-struck coins. This is by far the most common single type of Gadhaiya, the Small Portrait Orthodox type, series 1.4.3.
    ZomboDroid 13102019121255.jpg

    (continued in next post)
  4. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    To illustrate my point about the "Orthodox" series 1.4.3, here are six of mine side by side. Note that despite very slight variations, thy are nearly all identical. Even the moon points in the same direction, the crescent generally opening toward the 2:00 position. The upper left is an exemplary example of how well the reverse die can fit on the coin, where as the upper right has probably 99% of the obverse die on the coin.
    ZomboDroid 13102019121415.jpg

    After the Orthodox small head series, the coins branch out significantly in terms of style, although a majority of specimens still retain the eye line. Those with the eye line are series 1.4.4. Note that some have large heads, some small; some have curved heads and others are more straight. The moon on the reverse can open in any direction, although most have it open somewhere between the 1:00 and 6:00 position.
    ZomboDroid 13102019150836.jpg
    A smaller portion (about 25%) of coins do not have the eye line - these which are still in good style and workmanship are 1.4.5.
    ZomboDroid 13102019150928.jpg
    Note that there is no singular point at which the eye line disappears - this is a curiosity that I cannot readily explain.
    ZomboDroid 13102019151123.jpg
    Toward the end of the series, we see the workmanship begin to decline; the dots are less carefully arranged, the flan shrinks in diameter while it thickens, and the weight shifts from about 4.2g to upwards of 4.5g. At some point in this series, the attendants break down into simple rows of dots, no longer identifiable as heads, necklaces, and breasts above the arms. These are tentatively 1.4.6.
    ***We have another historical anchor here; the Chauhan queen Somalladevi, (1110-1135) was reportedly enamored with coins such as these, and had her husband make copies of these coins with her name. Thus, it is apparent that all coins between 1.2.7 and 1.4.6 were minted between 1022 and 1135!***
    ZomboDroid 13102019151025.jpg
    Finally comes 1.4.7, the closing type for this series. The artistry begins to break down and little besides the portrait is usually visible on the coin. The coin at the top seems to be the final hurrah of the eye line. These coins are distinguished from later types by still having crescent nostrils and lips, even though the later types have the nostril flattened out to a line.
    ZomboDroid 13102019151230.jpg

    Now 1.4 comes to a close in favor of 1.5, the last in the series, which I call the Vaghela type for lack of a better term. The exact transition is not at all clear to me, but Vaghela drachms can be distinguished by their reversion to using dots for the nostril and lips of the portrait, as well as quickly dropping the eye from the portrait.

    The second coin from the left is a one-off; I have only seen one other coin like it (Which I purchased from eBay India, but got swindled out of my money :( ) It is remarkable in that it shows how far the attendants have degraded into meaningless piles of dots, as well as the unusual Vaghela feature of pushing the upper three lines of the obverse ribbons to the side. Vaghela drachms usually show the backwards S ribbon directly beneath the dotted brim of the hat, but this one still shows a bit of the ribbons above it. The coin at the right clearly shows the ribbons being pushed to the side!

    I am still working through how to categorize Vaghela type Gadhaiyas.
    ZomboDroid 13102019151436.jpg

    Here we see the final phases of the displacement of the obverse ribbon; the coin in the middle shows a bit of the line nested into the curve of what should be the bottom (!) while the coin on the right simply shows the lower portion bumping right up into the brim of the hat.
    ZomboDroid 13102019151522.jpg
    From this point the coins become crude, finally ending with the face being an almost indistinguishable cluster of dots around a central pill shape. These final coins have negligible silver content.
    ZomboDroid 13102019151557.jpg

    That wraps up the main line of Gadhaiya, save for the peripheral series minted further to the east in Malwa; I will have to save those for another day!

    Although it doesn't go into nearly the depth that I hope to reach, this was much easier than writing up a couple paragraphs for each of my 300+ coins in this series!
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2019
  5. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    Thanks for this informative write-up, @Finn235 !

    It might be better to condense a bit further before even this level of detail. I need to learn the difference between x.y before I learn to distinguish x.y.z.

    Do these numbers come from Maheshwari?

    It might be good to show photos of the edges, at least of the major types.

    What do you think of this? Is it a 1.1.2?
    Indo-Sasanian, 570-712 AD, 4.2g, 22mm
    cf. Afganistan / Pakistan Area » Early Indo-Sasanians » Gurjura kingdom of Sindh

    How about this? Is it a 1.5? The nose looks very different from the examples you posted.
    Indo-Sasanian, brown-colored, Gadhaiya Paisa 4.14g, 16.5mm
    Obv: Degenerate Indo-Sasanian style bust right.
    Rev: Stylized fire altar.
    cf. Medieval India - Hindu dynasties » Northern India » Later Indo-Sasanian » 'Gadhaiya Paisa'
  6. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Great write up @Finn235 ! I didn't know much (anything) about my Gadhaiya Paisa really before reading this.
    After reading your posts, I think mine is what you describe as a 1.4.5.

    Thanks again!
    Finn235 and Spaniard like this.
  7. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @Finn235 ..Wow ! ...What an excellent write up!......And great photos to boot!
    As you know I'm close to owning 1 coin from each of your main series and a few of the variants too......
    I suspect in the future collectors will be using your reference book?? to attribute their own coins...
    I know that personally I've been able to understand and group together my collection due to your hard work and passion of this series.....
    Great focus Finn keep it going and thanks!
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  8. dadams

    dadams Well-Known Member

    Fantastically informative @Finn235 !!
  9. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    Thank you very much, @Finn235 ! Lotta great work, summarizing, and great coins.

    The degeneration of the design is bizarre to me! Quite cool, but what an odd progression! Until you laid it out, it was very difficult for me to see the bust on the obv, as well as to see the reverse fire altar. All cool !
    Makanudo likes this.
  10. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..wow!..great thread and info! :) .. indo sassanian drachm   theodosius 001.JPG indo sassanian drachm   theodosius 002.JPG
  11. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    @Finn235 Hmmm... I will say this again: great layout and explanations... let me have some fun interpreting what attributes belong to my paltry collection:

    India, Chalukyas of GujaratGadhaiya Paisa
    Billon drachm Gadhaiya Paisa), 4.6g, 14mm, 3h; ca 9th cent AD
    Obv.: degenerated Indo-Sasanian style bust to right, sun and moon above
    Rev.: stylized fire altar, sun above left, crescent moon above right
    Reference: Deyell 156-159: Series Vaghela 1.5

    India Gujarat Chalukyas Gadhaiya Paisa BI Drachm 11th C CE Sun Moon Fire Alter Crescent: Series 1.4.3
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  12. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    Very interesting and detailed write-up and it inspired me to take a closer look at a couple of my pieces. I believe they are all 1.4.5 but I'd appreciate further confirmation on this. I have another, much small, piece I'll post later. I can't thank you enough for compiling and sharing this information!
  13. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    @TuckHard yours looks pretty similar to mine, which I also believe is a 1.4.5
    INDIA, Gadhaiya Paisa, c. 1000 AD, Sassanian style bust rt fire altar.jpg
  14. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Thanks all!

    @Ed Snible:

    The first coin you posted I do have assigned to 1.1.2 on account of the beardless portrait, but I cannot stress enough that my groupings are probably not even remotely in chronological order. I have seen lots of auction houses assign that type (and it does come up from time to time - it is quite distinct as the only type in the entirety of series 1 that has two lines in the upper ribbon rather than three) as an issue of the Chavadas. Maheshwari postulates that based on the shape of the eye, it is a predecessor of my series 1.1.8 "Almond Eye" type. But, based mainly on the fact that no other type has a two-line ribbon, I suspect it is just another evolutionary dead-end.

    The second type is actually one of the many types of Gadhaiya-derivative, called the "Distinctive Nose" by Maheshwari. He worked off of a large hoard of coins just like yours and noted that there are a considerable number of quantifiable varieties based on the placement of dots on the reverse, and the shape of the ear. His assumption that they were an imitation of the later Malwa type, however is demonstrably false thanks to two important discoveries that show them to be a derivative of perhaps some coin near the middle or end of 1.4.5:


    I have found evidence of about five coins like this one, of which I own three.

    Based on the above coin, I highly suspect that the "nose" is in fact supposed to represent a sacred left-spiraling Sankh shell, which would have been touted as a royal treasure by a medieval Hindu kingdom, given the extreme rarity of that mutation and its religious connection - when blown like a horn, the shell gives off a clear OHMMMMMM

    After this, the face just vanishes, although a vestigial nose can be found on some specimens:
    Indo sassanian unusual nose moon.jpg

    The bulk of this series are the coins like yours, which Maheshwari XRF tested and found that they had a consistent silver content of about 1%!

    The "Distinctive nose" type is my series 1.6, and is followed by the various "Malwa" types:

    Horseman battle scene, 1.7

    Note that the Malwa type always has a similar "nose" but it always curves back toward the head; perhaps a show of humility if indeed this is the common Sankh shell?

    After 1.7 comes the Malwa fire altar, 1.8


    Then the famous 1.9, OM

    Indo sassanian om new calligraphy.jpg

    And 1.10, SRI OMKARA
    And finally, a brand new type never before published, 1.11, Circle Lips!
    ZomboDroid 18082019220357.jpg
  15. TuckHard

    TuckHard Well-Known Member

    Amazing details and explanation. These coins have confused me for such a long time and it's incredible seeing so much detail and groupings with them. I haven't seen many of these types before and I'm particularly impressed with the Sankh shell coins and the horseman battle scene. Thanks again for sharing and making this accessible.
  16. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    @Finn235 , this is a next level awesome post. I am definitely bookmarking it as a reference.
  17. Mihirbhoj

    Mihirbhoj New Member

    A poorly written thread. There is no evidence that Gujar caste migrated from outside India or that this Identity has origins outside India...except Speculative theories. Gujars originated from the region of Gurjara, not vice versa, as Gujar is a Toponymic name used by Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Jains etc from the region assumed by them on migration. For eg Gurjar Brahmins are Shrimali brahmins with Bhinmal origins.

    Further, there is no Chavda clan among members of the Gujar caste. Second, the Gujar caste is never known to have lived in Gujarat. There is a difference in Gurjara and the modern State of Gujarat. Gurjara was a pre-11th century name of south-west Rajasthan from where the Gujar caste originated. Third, the Gurjara or Gujar is an Indian word related to Gau-char ie pastoralism, which is what the region was associated with. It is not a foreign word, which itself cancels the foreign-origin myth. The pastoral clans which migrated from this region in 13th century after drying up of Sukri River eventually became Gujars .
    Fourth, the language spoken by Gujars wherever they migrated is Gojri, which has similarities with Mewari and is put as Southern Rajasthani dialect. Again hinting the origins here.
    Fifth, the Chavda or Chap also ruled from Patan which is why they have that Toponymic term Gurjara.... Otherwise , they are never known to have married into any clans of the present-day Gujar caste.
    Lastly, prior to 13th century there is no evidence of a Tribal people called Gujars made up of Kasanas, Khatanas, Bainslas etc (Gujar clans)...in fact the first mention of the topography and demography of Gurjara was by Jain monk Uddotana Suri in Kuvalayamala Kaha , he mentions Kshatriyas, Bhils, Jains, Vanijs, Brahmins etc but no community called Gujar.
  18. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    There is quite a lot that could be said in reply to your argument, but for now I will comment just on your complete avoidance of the numismatic evidence.

    1) If Gujars were an entirely indigenous caste, and they struck the coins attributed to them, why did they adopt an entirely foreign, Persian, coin form and fabric?

    2) If the Gujars did not strike the coins in question - who did?

    The coins are very hard evidence. Even "speculating" about it (should such be the case) is surely better than just turning a blind eye to it?

    Rob T
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  19. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I went through a group of these trying to find a decent victim on the flan but did not do well.
    oc6330bb2596.jpg oc6331bb2755.jpg
  20. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    @Mihirbhoj, I am curious to know where this information came from?

    I do not profess to be an expert in Medieval Indian history by any means, but I have never once heard the claim that the Gujjar people are indigenous to any part of India. My historical introduction to the series was based largely on the works by Dr. Maheshwari (who argues for a migrated-with-Huns theory) as well as Deyell and other online resources. I do freely admit that assigning of series 1.2 to the Chavadas / Chapas is likely less than 100% accurate, but speculation must be made somewhere, and I feel it to be a more plausible hypothesis than alternatives. Echoing @EWC3 I would love to hear your thoughts on who made these coins, if not the Gujjar peoples.

    At a minimum, we know:
    1) They used drachms of Peroz I enough to equate them to "good money"
    2) They shunned existing Indian weight standards, specifically the Gupta and Maitraka drachms of ~2g which would have still been in circulation when these were made.

    As a fun aside, in my searching for scraps of fact for this write up, I discovered that there are large groups dedicated to Gujjar culture on social media, complete with their own "gujjar pride" memes:



    Note that they themselves have opted to claim lineage from the Kushan dynasties, specifically using Kanishka's tamgha.

    Bet you never thought you'd see a Kushan tamgha in an internet meme!

    (And mods, I cant read the text in the second pic, so please remove it if it's anything vulgar)

    @dougsmit, it is indeed tough to get a nicely centered Battlescene example. My first two acquisitions show the bottom victim fairly well:
    Gadhaiya battle scene 1.jpg Gadhaiya battle scene 2.jpg

    It is also worth noting at a high level that the earliest iterations of this series do not have a victim beneath (and some very rare examples have no combatants at all - just a stick figure on a horse. This one shows the horse prancing, not leaping, and only one victim to the front:
  21. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Am not knowledgeable on Gujar matters, but I looked a bit into the sources last night. I do not have Maheshwari but he seems to broadly follow the lines laid out by James McNabb Campbell in this 1896 work:


    See especially his chapter 10 here:


    Campbell drew extensively upon Hindu, Islamic and Chinese historical sources, but all of them are very incomplete, and he surely correctly leans very heavily on the evidence from copper plates.

    According to his reading, some Gujars emigrated from further North into Gujarat rather early. Campbell suspects this happened between 571 and 588 AD, if not earlier, and definitely before 649 AD.

    Turning now to the coins, Mitchiner attributed the very earliest “Indo-Sasanian” issues to a similar period, but only to Northern Gujars in Sind and Rajasthan.

    Its a salutary experience reading what Victorian fellows like Campbell managed to achieve in their spare time!

    The only living authors I can think of whose output compares are Michael Mitchiner and Stephen Album. And noteworthy I think that both are, like so many great Victorians, amateur scholars.

    Rob T
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
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