Diameter: 19.000 mm
Weight: 8.300 g
Gift of R. Taylor
Room 33: Asia
Gold dinara coin of Kumaragupta I
Gupta dynasty, about AD 415-50
The king and the god of war
The main purpose behind the choice of Gupta coin designs seems to have been one of political propaganda. The king is always shown in ways that emphasize his status as a great ruler and heroic warrior king. The representations are idealized images that adhere to the strict contemporary artistic concepts of the perfect human form.
The legend of this coin translates 'Victorious by his own merit is Mahendrakumara'. Mahendra is the son of the Hindu god Indra (the ruler of the heavens). Part of the king's own name, Kumara, is itself an alternative name for the god of war, Skanda, also known as Karttikeya. The coin designs take this imagery further. On the back of the coin, Karttikeya is shown seated on his mount, the peacock, making an offering at an altar. On the front, the peacock is being fed by the king, who is thus linked, not only by his name but also by his actions, with the god of war.
A. S. Altekar, 'The coinage of the Gupta Empire' in Corpus of Indian Coins, Vol. IV (Varanasi, 1957)
E. Raven, 'Invention and innovation: royal Gupta gold coins' in A treasury of Indian coins (Bombay, Marg Publications, 1994), pp. 39-56
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)