Brief IdentificationEditThese intricately detailed coins, called dinara or suvaranas have been found throughout India , many of which currently reside in the British Museum . These coins were created between 415 and 450 CE, during the reign of Kumara Gupta of the Gupta Empire in modern day India. According to Dr. Sarla Khosla’s book Gupta Civilization, Kumara Gupta issued up to thirteen different types of coins that served as currency [See Khosla 1982, 154]. The first coin is of the peacock type and the second coin, of which the front and back are both pictured, is of the Asvamedha type [See Mookerji 1969, plate VI, 85].
The Kumara Gupta dinara were 1.9 cm in width and made of gold, which was rare and expensive. The coins were decorated by detailed and intricate designs depicting gods, legends and the emperor Kumara Gupta and his actions [See Khosla 1982, 155]. For example, coin 2, which is of the Asvamedha type, depicts on one side a horse about to be sacrificed in celebration of a conquest achieved by the king and thus celebrates the king’s achievements [See Mookerji 1969, 85, 74). The first coin, which is of the peacock type, shows the king feeding a peacock, which was an animal symbol of the “commander-in-chief of the gods” [See Mookerji 1969, 86; Khosla 1982, 70]. Kumara Gupta’s depiction of and allusion to certain gods on the coins was a testimony to the king’s dedication to those gods, so, by showing himself feeding the peacock he was aligning himself with the god and showing his respect for the god [See Khosla 1982, 155]. According to Khosla, the discovery of clay molds has led scholars to the conclusion that the Gupta dinara were minted by the use of clay molds [See Khosla 1982, 74]. The intricate designs of the coins were examples of what Khosla called the “great skill of the [mint] masters” [See Khosla 1982, 70].
The coins have been found and excavated throughout Indian lands that were once part of the Gupta Empire, a large collection of the coins can be found at the British Museum today [See Raychaudhuri 1996, 500].
Local Historical ContextEdit
Dinara coins from the reign of Kumara Gupta were gold coins commissioned by Kumara Gupta that were, according to Raychaudhuri, only used for large purchases [See Raychaudhuri 1996,493]. Therefore, the majority of society in their day-to-day life would not have dealt with the dinara, but rather would have interacted with smaller denominations of currency, such as the kakanis [See Majumdar 1980, 387]. So, the possession of dinara was a status symbol, showing that its owner was wealthy and important enough to make large purchases.
The dinara of the Kumara Gupta reign were created in the midst of the Gupta Empire, which is referred to by some scholars as India’s golden age [See Keay 2000, 132]. According to John Keay in his book India: A History, the Gupta era’s manufacture of gold coinage was the original reason for its title as “golden” [See Keay 2000,139]. By 410 AD, towards the end of Kumara Gupta’s predecessor, Chandra Gupta II, the Gupta Empire encompassed most of modern day India, with the exception of a region in the south-west [See Keay 2000,138]. However, the empire was without a bureaucratic structure, according to Keay, so the feudatories making up the empire retained much of their freedom [See Keay 2000, 138].
Kumara Gupta ruled from 415 AD to 455 AD, and, according to Raychaudhuri in his book Political History of Ancient India, he was able to retain most of the empire Chandra Gupta II had built, including the provinces in the center and west of the Indian sub-continent [See Raychaudhuri 1996, 500]. This information is known because of the circulation of gold dinara, as well as the images depicted on the coins. According to Khosla, the lion and tiger type coins that Kumara Gupta had minted reflected his position as the ruler of both west and east India [See Khosla 1982, 155]. Further Kumara Gupta’s coinage was extensive, with pieces found in many Indian cities throughout the Gupta Empire, illustrating that Kumara Gupta maintained the empire at its previous size [See Mookerji 1969, 74; Raychaudhuri 1996, 500].
Although he maintained the empire at or near its previous size, no records show any campaigns by Kumara Gupta to extend the empire [See Khosla 1982, 18]. Kumara Gupta’s reign was marked by two major conflicts towards its end, one against the Pushyamitra and another against the Huns [See Keay 2000, 143]. Kumara Gupta’s son and successor, Skanda Gupta , fought successfully against the Pushyamitra and eventually succeeded in temporarily pushing back the Huns [See Keay 2000, 144]. Although Skanda Gupta’s military campaigns against his father’s empire were successful, these attacks greatly taxed the Gupta fortunes [See Keay 2000, 143]. Gupta currency began to decline after the reign of Kumara Gupta, both in aesthetics and value. Under Skanda Gupta the coinage of the Gupta dynasty began to become “crudely cast” [See Keay 2000, 144]. Further, under the leadership of Skanda Gupta the gold content of the coins began to diminish, which was an indication of the economic decline of the government during his reign [See Majumdar 1980, 386].
World Historical SignificanceEdit
In the greater scheme of world history, the Kumara Gupta dinara represent the influence of the Roman Empire and Hellenism throughout the Roman Empire’s surrounding countries. The dinara of the Kumara Gupta reign were beautiful and intricately designed coins, unique in their style. But, the coins were largely imitations of superior Graeco Bactrian and  Roman coins] [See Majumdar 1980, 382]. This can be seen by comparing the styles of the coins, see the photograph of the Gold solidus of Magnus Maximus for comparison. The mint of the Roman coin is cleaner and more precise, with more uniformity in the design. Further, the name dinara is the “sanskritized” form of the Greek denarius [See Majumdar 1980, 382]. According to Khosla, the figures depicted on Gupta coins through Kumara Gupta’s reign were Hellenistic in their design [See Khosla 1982, 150]. Also, the coins imitated Roman ones by depicting rulers and deities.
Mookerji, R. K. The Gupta Empire. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1969.
Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra. Political History of Ancient India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1996
Khosla, Sarla. Gupta Civilization. New Delhi: Intellectual Publishing House. 1982.
Keay, John. India: A History. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 2000.
Majumdar, A. K. Concise History of Ancient India. Vol 2. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. 1980.
British Museum,"Gold dinara coin of Kumaragupta I," http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/cm/g/kumaragupta_i_gold_coin.aspx
British Museum, "Gold coin of Kumaragupta I," http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/cm/g/gold_coin_of_kumaragupta_i.aspx
Britannica Online, "Karma Gupta," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/324732/Kumara-Gupta
Britannica Online, "Skanda Gupta," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/547260/Skanda-Gupta
British Museaum, "Gold solidus of Magnus Maximus" http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/cm/g/gold_solidus_of_magnus_maximus.aspx Britanica Online, "Roman coins, Republic, and the Empire," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/124716/coin/15954/Roman-coins-republic-and-empire