Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Weight: 10.800 g
Coins and Medals
Silver tanka of the Pyu kings
8th century AD
Indian symbolism reaches Burma
In the eighth century, eastern Burma was ruled by the Pyu peoples, who issued coins with designs derived from those of the kingdom of Arakan to the west. On this example, the obverse (front) of the coin shows a throne tied with royal diadems in the centre and surmounted by flames.
The reverse shows symbols associated with Indian deities and the more ancient Indian Creation myth. The dominant image is the symbol of shrivatsa, representing Shri, the goddess of wealth and good fortune. Inside this symbol is a mountain, representing Shiva, the god of contrasting forces (good and evil; fertility and asceticism). The mountain also represents the earth, rising out of the wavy lines of the ocean below. Above them, the moon (a circle) and sun (a star shape) signify the heavens. On the left is a thunderbolt, emblem of Indra, god of the heavens, and on the right, the conch shell associated with Vishnu, god of creation and preserver of the cosmic system.
J. Cribb, B. Cook and I. Carradice, The coin atlas (London and Sydney, Macdonald Illustrated, 1990)
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)