What is the Importance of Coins and Inscriptions as Sources for the Writing of Ancient India History?
The importance of coins and inscriptions as a source for history writing is very much. As compare to the literary sources, there are very little chances of manipulating the archaeological sources like coins and inscriptions. Thus the authenticity of the archaeological sources get enhanced. Inscriptions are the most important of all the archaeological sources. Most of the inscriptions of ancient India are found engraved on stone or metal sheets. Due to the engravings on the stone or metal sheet there are almost no chances of manipulation with it. But the problem of dating remains with the inscriptions. The dating is done mainly on the basis of calligraphy of the Inscriptions.
The most ancient inscriptions available to us belong to the period of King Ashoka of Mauryan period. These inscriptions throw right on the theories of Kingship of Ashok and also on his religious ideas. Ashokan inscriptions are mostly in Brahmi script. Some of the inscriptions are also available in Kharoshti and Aramaic script. The inscriptions found after Ashoka can be divided into two groups : Official inscriptions and Individual inscriptions. The official inscriptions are either the eulogies written by the Court Poets or are land charters. At times, there many exaggerations found in these inscriptions. So, they must be used carefully.
The inscriptions engraved on the stones or Pillars give us the idea of the extent of the empire of a particular King. Individual inscriptions are generally found in the temples or are engraved on the idols. The information given on these Idols gives us the idea about their origin. This also throws light on the architecture and sculpture of the period.
The coins are also an important source for the study of history. There are many signs engraved on the ancient coins. There are no other information mentioned on these coins. We don’t know the exact meaning of these signs. These coins were probably issued by the traders, trading guilds etc. These coins do not help the historians much. But when the Greek rulers started ruling over the North-Western parts of India, they started issuing coins on which many information’s were mentioned.
Many a times apart from other information’s, the figures of the rulers was also put on the coins. The findings of coins in bulk from one place indicates that the particular place must have been in under one particular state. The dates mentioned on the coins Indicate the time period of the rulers. The religious figures on the coins give us the idea about the religious conditions. The content of gold gives us the idea about the economic condition.