Coinage of India
Coinage of India, issued by imperial dynasties and middle kingdoms, began anywhere between the 1st millennium BCE to the 6th century BCE, and consisted mainly of copper and silver coins in its initial stage.1 Scholars remain divided over the origins of Indian coinage.2
Cowry shells was first used in India as commodity money.3 The Indus Valley Civilization dates back between 2500 BCE and 1750 BCE.4 What is known, however, is that metal currency was minted in India well before the Mauryan Empire (322–185 BCE),5 and as radio carbon dating indicates, before the 5th century BCE.6
The practice of minted coins spread to the Indo-Gangetic Plain from West Asia. The coins of this period were called Puranas, Karshapanas or Pana.7 These earliest Indian coins, however, are unlike those circulated in West Asia, were not disk-shaped but rather stamped bars of metal, suggesting that the innovation of stamped currency was added to a pre-existing form of token currency which had already been present in the Mahajanapada kingdoms of the Indian Iron Age. Mahajanapadas that minted their own coins included Gandhara, Kuntala, Kuru, Panchala, Shakya, Surasena and Surashtra.