Ancient India

This Just In

Why do we collect what we do? The inexorable pull of nostalgia. The simple human need to draw closer to beauty. The undeniable thrill of acquisition. All these influence the act of collecting. At our archive, each potential addition to the collection is judged by one other criteria: Can this object expand our understanding of the Indian subcontinent and its inexhaustible vault of stories?

India: Geographical, Statistical and Historical

This book is a gazetteer compiled from the London Times Correspondence, by McCullock, and others containing geographical and statistical information on various aspects of India, including topography, water systems, religion, education, and arts and culture. Published in 1858, the book contains illustrations by British artists in India. The succeeding section of the book delves into… Read more »

Rock Temple, Mavalipuram (Descent of the Ganges ,Mamallapuram)

This photograph of an open-air sculptural relief at Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) is attributed to photographer John P Nicholas. Mamallapuram occupies a significant place in India’s cultural and historical landscape and has a rich presence of ancient caves, temples, and rock-cut structures. The sculptural relief in the photograph is dated to the 7th century CE and was… Read more »

Temple on the Seashore, Mahavellipore (Shore Temple, Mamallapuram)

This photograph by Francis Frith (1822-1898) & Co is of the Shore Temple of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) in the present state of Tamil Nadu. Mamallapuram occupies an important place in the cultural and historical landscape of India due to the rich presence of ancient caves, temples, and rock-cut structures. The Shore Temple was built during the… Read more »

The Asoka Rock, Junagadh

Pictured here is the Girnar Rock Edicts in Junagadh, Gujarat, photographed by D. H Sykes in 1869. Located on the foothills of the Mount Girnar in Gujarat, the Girnar Rock Edicts, also known as the Junagadh Rock Inscriptions, are collections of 14 significant Prakrit edicts or inscriptions credited to Ashoka, the 3rd century Mauryan King.… Read more »

Gondophares (Indo-Parthian), Silver Tetra Drachm

The Indo-Parthian kingdom was the largest sub-kingdom of the Parthian Empire, which at its peak expanded from Turkey to Eastern Iran. It was located west of the Parthian homeland and was founded in the late 1st century BC by the first of several kings named Gondophares – a Scythian or Saka king as well as… Read more »

The Seven Cities of Delhi

This map points out the locations and broad layouts of several ancient cities of Delhi, while emphasising that they were isolated and did not overlap. Tughlukabad, Old Delhi, Jahanpanah, Hauz Khas, Purana Kila and Shahjahanabad stand out. There is cause to believe that this map was published later, even though it  is dated 11th September,… Read more »

The mythical origins of shadow puppets

Made in China, made in India, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, or even Turkey, the tradition of shadow puppets has survived for a long time, the second century BC, some say. But as is also custom, scholars have many disagreements on its origins. Folklorist Stuart Blackburn suggests that this tradition, like Buddhism, travelled to the rest of… Read more »

Antialcidas, Silver Drachm of Bactria Mint

Greek coinage unlike the early Indian punchmark coins were very finely made. They went beyond the use of symbols to include bilingual legends, and bear-headed and helmeted busts of kings and gods from the Greek pantheon. The rule of the Indo-Greeks covers a period of 300 years from 2nd Century BC to 1st Century CE.… Read more »

Krishnadevaraya, Gold Pagoda Coin of Vijayanagara

This should give you an idea of how powerful the Vijayanagara dynasty was: they changed the entire currency system in south India. It was the ruler Hari Hara II who impressed upon the administration the importance of collecting state revenue in currency instead of in kind. This led to the mass production of coins in… Read more »

Raja Raja Chola I, Silver Fanam

Raja Raja Chola I was a renowned king who ruled over the Chola kingdom in southern India from 985 to 1014 CE. Regarded by many as one of the greatest kings in Indian history, he was a celebrated conqueror and an efficient administrator. It was during his reign that the Cholas were able to subdue… Read more »

Kochiputra Sri Satakarni, Copper Coin

When the Mauryan empire fell, ancient India saw some new kingdoms take root, which then went on to become formidable dynasties of their own—the Satavahanas are a prime example. They emerged in southern India in the middle of the 1st Century BC and their reign lasted till the 3rd century CE, making them the longest… Read more »

Vima Kadphises, Copper Coin

The Kushanas or Kouei Shuang were the descendants of the ancient Central Asiatic clan of Yueh-chi. They ruled parts of the Bactrian region (Afghanistan and Tajikistan) in the early 1st Century CE. What makes this coin special is that it shows the syncretic spirit of this empire and offers evidence of the king’s assimilation with… Read more »