Maharashtra State BoardHSC Arts 11th
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Trade, Coinage, Art, Iconography

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Trade, Coinage, Art, Iconography:

In Indian history, the period of six centuries from 2nd century B.C.E. to 4th century C.E. was the period of arrival of the Central Asian tribes and the kingdoms that they established. These people adopted various cultural traits as they came to India.

The introduction of these traits brought about a transformation in the cultural life of India as well. In contemporary India, agriculture and animal husbandry were the main sources of livelihood. Along with its various industries and trade developed during this period. India’s contact with the foreigners proved to be beneficial for this. During this period also merchants and artisans guilds (shrenis) were in existence. During this period, India’s sea trade began to increase on a large scale. Indian goods were sent up to the Red Sea and from there via Egypt to Rome. From India, animals such as tiger, lion, and monkey; birds such as parrot and peacock; wool, silk, muslin, cotton cloth, ivory, pearls, spices, sandalwood, medicinal herbs, diamonds, precious stones, and other luxury items were exported and from other countries goods such as lead, copper, glass, silver, gold, wines, etc. were imported. Due to this trade, the flow of gold coins was constantly coming in India and hence India became prosperous. The portraits of kings and images of deities were inscribed on the gold coins of the Bactrian Greeks. There was a great impact of the Greek and Roman coins on the coins of Shaka and Kushana rulers. The use of the Kharoshthi script is seen on the Shaka coins. The coins of this period indicate the mixed impact of Greeks, Indian, and Persian cultures. The Kushana kings depicted Indian deities on coins. They brought in circulation the gold and copper coins with the image of Shiva. Kushana coins are also found in the border regions of India and China. There were political relations between the Kushanas and Chinese rulers. The legends on the Kushana coins found in Central Asia are in Prakrit language, written in Kharoshthi script. This evidence indicates that people speaking the Prakrit language were also staying outside the Indian subcontinent. The Gandhara region had become a melting pot of Indian, Greek, Roman, Persian, and Shaka cultures. This province acquired importance from a cultural point of view. A new style of iconography developed in the cities of Pushkalavati, Taxila, Purushpur, etc. It is known as ‘Gandhara style’. The theme of the sculpture was Indian but the style was Greek. The Mahayana sect of Buddhism gave an impetus for the development of this style of art. Along with the images of Gautama Buddha and Bodhisatva statues of the donors are carved in stone. But this style remained limited to parts of Northwest India. In the icons of Gandhara style, there was more emphasis on physical beauty. During the same period, the Mathura and Varanasi's style of art developed. The images of Gautama Buddha were completely Indian in nature. Mathura was an important center of the Indian art of sculpture. Portrait sculpture is the feature of the Mathura style of art. The statues of Kushana kings, Vima Takshama, and Kanishka are examples of this portrait sculpture. Similarly, images of Saraswati, Vishnu, Surya, Shiva, and Karttikeya were created for the first time during this period. The sculptural art during the Kushana period was an indication of innovation in the history of Indian sculpture. During this period there was an effort of imprinting the reflection of the then society.


Some Bactrian coins resemble the Greek coins in terms of their shape and weight. On some of these coins, the image of an owl is seen. The owl is the symbol of Goddess Athena. Athena was the main deity of Athens. Indo-Greek coins are found in Bactria. The Greek legends are written on the obverse side and the legends are written in Prakrit. Kharoshthi script on the reverse side.

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