Warangal Urban: Collection of coins may be a hobby for many people, but for numismatists who are into history and archaeology, it turns into a passion since coins, just as photographs, speak for themselves. They reveal history, culture and sociological conditions of a particular period.
Warangal resident Ragi Vaikunta Chary is one such person who boasts of a treasure trove of 1,000 ancient coins, some dating back to the Satavahana period. Chary, whose passion has taken him across the length and breadth of the country, has coins dating back to the era of some great rulers including Vishnukundins, Guptas, Mauryas, Kakatiyas, Vijayanagara kings, Moghuls, Delhi Sultanate, Mysore kings, British and Nizams to the present day. He also has rare coins and currency notes with errors. And he is also passionate about highlighting Telangana’s rich cultural and historic past.
The 41-year-old avid coin collector, a goldsmith by profession from Yella Bazar, says he began collecting coins from his school days, drawing inspiration from his father Satyanarayana, who was also a numismatist. “I have coins dating back to the Satavahana period to the present day. One of rarest coins that I have belongs to Maharathis, who were feudal rulers,” Chary told ‘Telangana Today.’
“The coinage of the Maharathis can be divided into three groups – those issued during the pre-Satavahana period, Satavahana period and after the Satavahana rule ended. The coin I have is unifaced bearing a lion motif on the obverse. It is made of copper or its alloy which is peculiar since the Maharathi coins were usually made of lead, and it weighs 7.28 grams,” the class 10 dropout said.
Chary paleographically attributed it to around 100 AD which is perhaps during the reign of the Satavahana ruler Vasistiputra Siri Pulumavi. Based on the postulated period of around 100 AD, this Maharathi issue is likely from the second group of coin issue. The coin, in its obverse, shows a maned lion to the right with a small vertical line, a circle and an arrow head symbol on its back. A wavy line with dots is seen below the lion. Brahmi legend around in clockwise direction from 10 O’clock position reads “..RaThiSaPuSaVaRu NaSa”.
“The reverse shows a tree in railing flanked by Nandipada and Triangle standard on the sides. A wavy line with dots is seen below. By reconstructing the missing part of the legend, the entire legend reveals that the name of the ruler on the coin is “PusaVaruna.” This is the Prakrit form with the equivalent Sanskrit rendition likely to be ‘PushyaVarna.’ This new ruler adds to the lesser known rulers of this Maharathi family from Telangana,” he explained.
So, how did he get interested in coin collection? Recalls Chary: “My father used to collect British India and Republic India coins issued on special occasions. But he never focused on collecting ancient coins. I once stole some coins from my father’s collection and bought some snacks and chocolates. On getting to know, my father scolded me and explained the value of the coins. That incident left a deep impact and I started collecting coins.”
When he was 18 years old, Chary once visited the Old City in Hyderabad and found some people selling old coins. He then purchased some coins belonging to the Nizam’s period. “I decided to collect ancient coins as they reveal history. I also visited Kotilingala in Jagitial district, the capital of the great Satavahana rulers, and was able to get some coins from the locals,” he said, adding that he also visited historical places like Phanigiri and Dhulikatta Buddhist sites after developing interest in history and archaeology.
Chary is equally passionate about narrating the rich past of Telangana. “Whenever I visit numismatic exhibitions outside Telangana, collectors from other places always refer to coins collected in Telangana also as ‘Andhra.’ But I explain to them that they belong to Telangana region, as also the rich culture and heritage of Telangana,” he said.
A member of Numismatic Society of India, Chary has displayed his coins at exhibitions in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Tirupati, Vijayawada, Nashik, Nagpur and Goa. He has spent over Rs 5 lakh on the collection and is a regular at numismatic exhibitions. He also displayed his collection at the third international seminar on ‘Empires and Kingdoms of Dakshiṇāpatha with Special Reference to Telangana’ conducted at the Dr MHRD Institute in Hyderabad by Department of Heritage, in 2019.
Interestingly, Chary also has a collection of The Telegraph, The Statesman and some Bengali newspapers from August 1 to 15, 1947, except for one issue – August 4.
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