ancient indian history

Brahmi Legends


Appearance of Brahmi legend on the coins of a ruler should, for the same reason, indicate his connection with the comparative interior of India. And scholars have hastened to draw such conclusions. On the assumption that the westernmost limit of Brahmi ended somewhere in the east Panjab, they have placed such coins and also the rulers, who issued them in this part of the country. But this assumption as also these conclusions are fallacious. Bramhl script is known to have been in use as far west as the country of the Asvakas. The Vatasvaka coins attributed to these people invariably carry Brahmi legends. This tribe occupied a large part of western Gandhara including the Swat Valley. Strangely enough, the Indo-Greeks seem to have had a particular antipathy to the Brahmi script. In the whole range of Indo-Greek coinage this script appears only on a type each of Pantaleon” and Agathocles.” These types were minted at Pushkalavati, a city included in the Asvaka country. The two types are exactly similar, except for the names of the two princes, who ruled one after the other for a brief period in the Pushkalavati region as governors of their father, Demetrius.

The appearance of Brahmi legends Pushkalavati Nagara-devata types is, therefore, significant to the Greek How offensive the Brahmi script was, to the greek mind, is revealed by the fact that even Menander, whose dominions possibly extended as far east as Sakala and who embraced Buddhism, did not use this script even once on his coins. On all bilingual coins of the Indo-Greeks, with the exception of the two in question, Kharoshthi script is universally used. Presumably, it was less offensive to the Greek mind, than Brahmi. In fact, all foreign invaders, such as the Sakas, the Pahlavas, the Kushanas and the Hunas, who followed, in the footsteps of the Indo-Greeks, adopted Kharoshthi more readily. The working of the western mind, is also revealed by the attitude of the British rulers of India in recent times, towards the descendants of the Brahmi script. In defiance of the popular sentiments, they gave recognition only to the Persian script.

Hindu rulers on the other hand, rarely if ever, used the Kharoshthi script. Kharoshthi records of Indian citizens can be counted on fingers, and almost always have Buddhist associations. It is obvious that the Brahmi script was more intensely national than Kharoshthi. That explains Greek antipathy to it.

Then, how was it that Pantaleon and Agathocles were constrained to adopt Brahmi, and that too on the obverse of their coins, relegating the Greek legend to the reverse, when on all the other issues, including those for use in the neighbouring Kapisa, they consistently refused to accept Brahmi. The explanation is provided by a significant statement in the Mahabharata to the effect that a certain Yavana prince of Sauvira endeavoured for three years to quell the rebellion of the Gandhara people. The Yavana prince of Sauvira. i.e., Sindh, is described in a subsequent verse by two alternative names, e. g. Sumitra and Dattamitra, obviously Sanskritised versions of Demetrius’ name. The freedom-loving Afghans must have revolted soon after the advance of Demetrius into Sauvira. The event took place before the rise of Eukratides, and before the princes of the Indian ruling house, identified with Arjuna and his brothers in order to fit them in the Mahabharata context, led their retaliatory campaigns into the Panjab and the North-West. 189-187 B.C. seems to be a fair estimate of the date of this revolt. Pantaleon and Agathocles seem to have had a hard time in trying to placate the turbulent Afghans. Adoption of Brahmi was one of the measures taken to satisfy the intensely patriotic feelings of these people. Brahmi was the national script of the Asvakas or Ašvaganas (i. e.. Afghans). The Vatasvaka coins from Swat, issued by one section of the Asvakas, invariably bear Brahmi legends. Pantaleon, whose meagre coinage suggests a brief reign, seems to have been killed in the Afghan revolt. This fits in with the fact that he did not issue any propaganda type. Agathocles succeeded him in Gandhara region and continued to strike his Brahmi types for circulation among the Ašvaganas. Hence no geographical conclusions need be drawn from Brahmi legends. Indo-Greek coins, by and large, are fine specimens of art. The portraits are so life-like that we can easily detect the probable age at which the king was being portrayed.

Youthful portrait of Euthydemus I of Bactria on one set of coins and his appearance as a man of ripe age on another set indicates a long reign. Menander and Strato I both began to issue coins at a very young age; their earliest portraits represent them as boys in their teens. Strato lived up to a ripe old age. His coin-portraits represent him in all stages of life right up to a hoary old age with toothless jaws and sunken cheeks.¹ Detecting similarity in the half-mocking smile portrayed on the faces of Antimachus Theos on one of hissues and Euthydemus on a pedigree coin of Agathokles, Dr. Tarn concluded that those two kings were related in blood. Eukratides’ portrait on some of his coins with drawn spear is reminiscent of his incessant struggles against Demetrius. Elephant scalp as head dress is characteristic of Demetrius I. Whenever it reappears we are inclined to associate the ruler with the family of Demetrius. Equally striking is the portrait of Antimachus Theos in a modern looking causia. Undraped shoulders are characteristic of an epoch, which ended with Demetrius. Eukratides’ busts, with shoulders sometimes draped and sometimes bare, show the transitional stage. This knowledge helps us in assigning obscure rulers to one or the other of these two epochs. Un-diademed head of a certain Heliocles on the jugate types of Eukratides indicates that this Heliocles was a commoner, and hence was the father of Eukratides rather than his son, whose own coins with diademed busts are known.

Adi Parvan.

1. त्रिवर्ष-कृत-यत्नस्तु गांधाराणामुपप्लवे ।। अर्जुनप्रमुखेः पार्थः सौवीरः समरे हुतः ।।

2. दत्तामित्रमिति ख्यातं संग्रामे कृतनिश्चयम् ।सुमित्रं नाम सौवीरमर्जुनोऽदमयच्छर ।

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