The Bronze Coins Of The Chola Found At Lembah Bujang, Kedah

Kedah, also written as Queda, and known in the early days as Kedaram, Kidaram, Kalagam and Kataha by the Tamils, and Kalah or Kalaha by the Persians, is a early kingdom on the Malay Peninsula and an important early trade centre. Early west-coast trade centres are few in number as they were overshadowed by Kedah.

Lembah Bujang (Chandi)
Candis are Hindu and Buddhist temples and sanctuaries which were built in the 8th to 15th centuries, out of brick and stone. Ancient non-religious structures such as urban ruins and bathing places are often called candi, but the word is mostly used to describe a religious shrine. While candi are prominently found in Indonesia, they are also found throughout South-east Asia. A candi believed to be more than 1,000 years old, located in Sungai Batu Estate, Lembah Bujang, was demolished by housing developers clearing land for a residential housing project.

Candi 11, which measured 250ft long and 150ft wide, was first discovered by British explorers in the 1920s, and was reconstructed in 1974 by the Museum Department. The NGO Badan Warisan Malaysia is trying to get the valley recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is feared that several candi have been destroyed over the years.

In the middle of the 6th century, new waves of colonials from the Pallava Empire asserted themselves and engineered the break-up of the neighbouring Hindu state of Funan. Funan had, at that time, been in existence since the 1st century CE. The expatriate Pallavas must have been a formidable force to shatter such a long-established kingdom whose monarch had a significantly Pallava name: Rudravarman. Clearly, the fact that the people of Kadaram and those of Funan shared a common religion, culture and, possibly, a language, did not deter the Pallavas from widening their sphere of influence, to Funan's great misfortune.

Map showing Rajendra Chola's raid that include the Malay peninsula

The Chola dynasty
The Chola dynasty (also called Choda and Cholan) was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of southern India. Together with the Chera and Pandya dynasties, the Cholas formed the three main Tamil dynasties of Iron Age India, who were collectively known as the Three Crowned Kings. The earliest datable references to the dynasty are in inscriptions from the 3rd century BCE, left by Ashoka of the Maurya Empire, and in the ancient Sangam literature.

The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River, but they ruled a significantly larger area at the height of their power from the later half of the 9th century until the beginning of the 13th century. The whole country south of the Tungabhadra river was united and held as one state for more than two centuries. Under Emperor Rajaraja Chola I and his successors Rajendra Chola I, Rajadhiraja Chola, Virarajendra Chola and Kulothunga Chola I the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South and Southeast Asia. The power of the new empire was proclaimed to the eastern world by the expedition to the Ganges in northern India which Rajendra Chola I undertook and by the occupation of cities of the maritime empire of Srivijaya in Southeast Asia, as well as by the repeated embassies to China. The Chola fleet represented the zenith of ancient Indian sea power.

During the period 1010–1200, the Chola territories stretched from the islands of the Maldives in the south to as far north as the banks of the Godavari River in Telangana. Rajaraja Chola conquered peninsular South India, annexed parts of which is now Sri Lanka and occupied the islands of the Maldives. Rajendra Chola sent a victorious expedition to North India that touched the Ganges and defeated Mahipala, the Pala ruler of Pataliputra. His army went on to raid what is now Bangladesh. He successfully invaded cities of Srivijaya in Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand. The Chola dynasty went into decline at the beginning of the 13th century with the rise of the Pandyan dynasty, which ultimately caused their downfall.

Their patronage of Tamil literature and their zeal in the building of temples has resulted in some great works of Tamil literature and architecture. The Chola kings were avid builders and envisioned the temples in their kingdoms not only as places of worship but also as centres of economic activity. The Chola school of art spread to and influenced that of Southeast Asia.

They pioneered a centralised form of government and established a disciplined bureaucracy. During the Imperial Chola period urbanisation increased and there was a tremendous agrarian expansion and well-developed system of water management. During this period the economy and particularly trade flourished because of the emergence of prosperous and well-organised Tamil merchant guilds which controlled long-distance trade.
11th century bronze coin of the Chola

Dynasty that ruled South India

One of several kingdoms that historically dominated the Indian subcontinent was the Cholas. The history of the Chola Empire can be traced back before the 4th century B.C. They prospered most notably during their "Golden Age" (mid-10th through 11th centuries A.D.) when the powerful Tamil rulers of the Chola Dynasty dominated the entire south of India. Ceylon was also held by the Cholas during most of the eleventh century, during which time this copper coin was issued.
Very little information about these coins has survived the passage of time. We know that this coin, used in exchanges with sea traders from Arabia, Persia, China and Burma, was found far beyond south Indian and Ceylon shores. The entrepreneurial Cholas encouraged trading a wide variety of common goods by issuing lower denomination copper coins based on a rice standard rather than the gold standard used for larger transactions. These now rare coins are unusual for their time in history, and for their exceptional artistry and high relief. This coin is part of a hoard of coins that were discovered in an amazingly fine state of preservation.

The coin features a standing figure, the king who issued the coin. He is holding a lotus flower in upraised left arm with four or five flattened pellets below the elbow. Under the hanging right arm is a weapon or scepter. The king's drapery, legs and another line between them are represented by five straight lines.

On the reverse, a similar figure is seated with a legend (commonly Raja Raja) or other symbols under the left arm. The right arm is hanging down over the knees, fingers extended. This coin is a genuine antiquity minted during the dynasty of the Chola monarchs in southern India and Ceylon. Bronze coins of this type were struck during the Cholas’ "Golden Age" during the mid-10th through 11th centuries A.D. Unlike the experiences of previous cultures, these coins were popular for smaller transactions among the Cholas and neighboring civilizations even though they lacked a gold or silver content.
980 AD - 1014 AD

This coin has a figure of standing king on obverse. His left hand holds a lotus near his face and the right hand has a sceptre. Near by is a small lamp-stand.
The reverse side shows a seated goddess. On the right is the three line legend in Sanskrit. "Sri Raja Raja".
Rajendra Chola
Rajendra Chola I was the son of Rajaraja Chola I and is considered one of the greatest rulers and military leaders of the Indian Tamil Chola Empire. He succeeded his father in 1014 CE as the Chola emperor. During his reign, he extended the influences of the already vast Chola empire up to the banks of the river Ganges in north India and across the ocean. During his reign the Chola Empire became the most powerful Empire of India. Rajendra’s territories extended, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and he successfully invaded the territories of Srivijaya in Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Indonesia in South East Asia with his fleet of ships. He defeated Mahipala, the Pala king of Bengal and Bihar, and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital called Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
The Cholas became one of the most powerful dynasties in Asia during his reign. The Tamil Chola armies exacted tribute from Thailand and the Khmer kingdom of Cambodia. The successful invasions of Rajendra Chola were applauded by several medieval Tamil poets like Jayamkondan in his text Kalingattupparani and Ottakkoothar in his text Ula.[5] He received the titles Gangai Kondan (He who took the Ganges river in north India) and Kadaram Kondan (He who took kedah in Malaysia). Like the predecessors of the Cholas, the Pallavas and the contemporaneous Pandiyans, the Cholas too under Raja Raja I the father of Rajendra and then Rajendra Chola I too undertook several expeditions to occupy territories outside Indian shores. Of these kings, it was Rajendra who made extensive overseas conquests of territories like Sri Lanka and wide areas of Southeast Asia like Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand. In fact, Rajendra Chola I was the first Indian king to take his armies overseas and make conquests of these territories, even though there is epigraphical evidence of Pallava presence in these very areas, but it is not known that and Indo-China were subordinate to them, as they were under Rajendra and his successors up to Kulothunga Chola I.

After his successful campaign to Ganges he got the title Gangaikonda Chola (The Chola who took the Ganges), he also built a Shiva temple at his new capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram, similar in design to the Tanjore Brihadisvara temple built by his father Rajaraja Chola and expanded the Pathirakali Amman Temple and Koneswaram temples of Trincomalee. Rajendra Chola created at his capital a vast artificial lake, sixteen miles long and three miles wide which to this day remains one of the largest man-made lakes in India. He inherited from his father the famous title Mummudi Cholan (The Chola with three crown), Mummudi title was used by Tamil kings who ruled the three kingdoms of Chola, Pandya and Chera. He founded a new capital called Gangaikonda Cholapuram.
Ancient- Uttama Chola)
The Chola of the high middle ages was a powerful sea fairing trade civilization of southern India. The Golden age of the Cholan civilization coincided with the reign of the sucessor of Uttama Chola his name was RajaRaja Chola I.At the height of Cholan power the neighboring kingdoms of the Pandya and Chera were under their control and all of south India was under one government for the first time in a 1000 years.
The civilization is remembered for the outrageous ornate temples found all over India. They are known to have staffed hospitals, had a form of organized education and had a high level of literacy. Uttama Chola was known for his compassion, piety, and religious tolerance. The Chola were renowned for ocean fairing navigation, safe harbors on the east and west of India and competitive rates for commodities. The Cholan Empire subjugated and colonized the Singalese Kingdom of Sri Lanka who with the Chola would issue the famous and common "Octopus" coins of the 13th century.

This coin dates to the King preceeded RajaRaja Cholas invasion of Sri Lanka, but it is thought that the coins were continued into RajaRaja's reign, he also called himself Uttama Chola. These coins are from South India's ThamilNadu region, minted in the city of Thanjavur. These coins are found scattered through out the Cholan trade route. The Chola would eventually control huge swaths of the Pacific Eastern Archipelago. These coins are most often found in Sri Lanka.
RajaRaja Chola : 985 - 1014
Copper massa coins
Six different copper massa of selected from the statistically analysed sample of 100 coins of RajaRaja Chola (985-1014) of Thanjavur in TamilNadu. Most of the coins of the lot were of Indian Type with the four balls with a dot in center and cresent above on the right hand side of the standing king. One was of Lanka type with solid ball is probably from the period of Chola occupation of Lanka.

Obverse : Standing king with head to right. Holds an item in left hand which is bent and held up to his face. The right hand is extended outwards and bent downwards over the temple lamp on left to high alter. A group of four spheres on right, surmounted by crescent.

Reverse : Seated king on left facing right holds a conch shell in left hand which is bent and held up to his face. The right hand is extended outwards and bent downwards over knee. Legend beneath on right in 3 lines. Sri Raja Raja in Devanagari script.

Denomination One massa
Alloy :Copper
Type :Struck
Diameter :19.7 mm
Thickness :2.6 mm
Weight :4.22 gms
Shape :Round
Edge :Plain
DieAxis :60°

On obverse Jasmine flower in left hand, alter visible, spheres with dots,

On reverse Ra below Ja.

Denomination :One massa
Alloy :Copper
Type :Struck
Diameter :19.7 mm
Thickness :2.0 mm
Weight :3.69 gms
Shape :Round
Edge :Plain
DieAxis :-120°

On obverse Jasmine bud in left hand, fish facing up hanging from right hand rather than alter, filled spheres,
On reverse Ra level with Ja.

Denomination One massa
Alloy Copper
Type Struck
Diameter 18.0 mm
Thickness 2.6 mm
Weight 4.17 gms
Shape Round
Edge Plain
DieAxis -30°
On obverse Sphere with dot in left hand, spheres with dots,

On reverse Ra lot below Ja.
Denomination One massa
Alloy Copper
Type Struck
Diameter 17.9 mm
Thickness 2.8 mm
Weight 4.58 gms
Shape Round
Edge Plain DieAxis 60°
On obverse five petal flower or banana in left hand, spheres with dots,
With the two fingers of hand appearing as legs it look like a stick human. Could this be a medieval die-cutter's hidden expression of oppression by an evil Raja

On reverse Ra below Ja.
Denomination One massa
Alloy Copper
Type Struck
Diameter 15.9 mm
Thickness 2.9 mm
Weight 3.82 gms
Shape Round
Edge Plain
DieAxis 150°  

On obverse Sun and Moon symbol in left hand, spheres with dots, lamp off flan

On reverse Ra lot below Ja, appears to be double struck.
Denomination One massa
Alloy Copper
Type Struck
Diameter 15.7 mm
Thickness 3.0 mm
Weight 3.72 gms
Shape Round
Edge Plain
DieAxis 0°
On obverse filled sphere in left hand, spheres with dots,

On reverse Ra below Ja.
Each of the coins illustrated above are different varieties of the same basic design, which was later copied by the traditional Lanka type massa.

Except the second from top have text Ra below Ja which was used by Mitchiner. It seems more natural to classify using the item in left hand on the obverse as is used to classify gold kahavanu found in Lanka.

For 30 of the coins the variety based on what is held in the hand was indeterminate, From the remaing 70 coins in which the item held up to face on obverse was visible within the struck flan, 67 was of Jasmine flower type with a dot visible in center of sphere in 19 of the higher grade coins among them. In lower grade/cruder diecut coins the same symbol appeares as a filled sphere or ball. I found only one clear example each of varieties with the interesting five petal flower and with Sun and Moon symbol.

(Special thanks to Mr. Selvam)


Post a Comment