Understanding Ancient Coins: Uncovering the Hidden History of Bengal

Understanding Ancient Coins: Uncovering the Hidden History of Bengal

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At least three locations in the Bengal region – Chandraketugarh in West Bengal, Wari-Bateshwar north-east of Dhaka, and Mahasthangarh in Bogura – have found coins dated to approximately the same period or even older. These coins resembled those issued by the Maurya royal dynasty of Magadha, but were independent. There were four symbols instead of five. Symbols frequently used were wheels, bulls, birds, ploughs, boats, elephants, fish, prawns, the sun in different phases of the day, etc.

Historians have identified all the kings before and after the Maurya dynasty, from King Brihadratha, the first ruler of the Magadha Empire. Chandragupta Maurya's minister Kautilya described in his book Arthashastra how the coins of that era were made. But who was in charge of those three areas of Bengal? what did they look like? Did he have long hair? Were they made bigger? Dark or fair? And how were the people of the area? what did they eat? What was their lifestyle like? Their property?

There is no way to directly answer these questions because Bangladesh has no initiative to decipher the inscriptions on coins that tell about the history of specific times. However, in this day and age, deciphering coin inscriptions has become easier than ever.

The largest collection of coins of Bengal from different eras is in the Bangladesh National Museum. Of the 96,000 artefacts in the museum, 56,000 are coins. There is no clear information on how many coin inscriptions have yet to be deciphered. “More than 50 per cent of the coins are yet to be deciphered,” said MD Kamaruzzaman, managing director of the National Museum.

Monirul Haq, officer-in-charge of coins and conservator of the Department of History and Classical Arts, said, “This cannot be specified precisely. There are only a few hundred copies of each coin. Probably around 5000 types of coins have inscriptions not understood. Is.” Another source said museum officials have made three catalogs of the studied coins. These catalogs contain details of coins and gold coins of ancient Bengal. Moreover, it has not been possible to decipher other coins and hardly any initiative has been taken in this regard.”

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