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Ancient coins => Indian subcontinent: Ancient & Pre-sultanate => Topic started by: mitresh on August 07, 2019, 11:28:18 AM

Title: Gurjara-Pratihara: King Mihir Bhoja I, Adivaraha Dramma......featuring Lion!
Post by: mitresh on August 07, 2019, 11:28:18 AM
Gurjara Pratihara, King Mihira Bhoja I, 836-885 AD, Silver Dramma, 4.02g, Adivaraha type

Mihira Bhoja Pratihara or Bhoja I was a ruler of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty of India. He was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and adopted the title of ‘Srimada Ādivarāha’ which is inscribed on some of his coins.

The Gurjara-Pratiharas as well as the Pratiharas of Mandor used the self-designation "Pratihara". They claimed descent from the legendary hero Lakshmana, who is described as the brother of king Rama in the Sanskrit epic Ramayana. The 837 AD Jodhpur inscription of the Mandor Pratihara ruler Bakuka states that the younger brother of Ramabhadra (Rama) served as a pratihari (door keeper) to his elder brother, because of which his descendants came to be known as Pratihara. The Sagar-Tal (Gwalior) inscription of the Gurjara-Pratihara king Mihira Bhoja says that Saumitri ("son of Sumitra", that is, Lakshmana) acted as a door-keeper for his elder brother as he defeated the enemies in a battle with Meghanada.

K. A. Nilakanta Sastri theorized that the ancestors of the Pratiharas served the Rashtrakutas, and the term "Pratihara" derives from the title of their office in the Rashtrakuta court.

Varaha depicts the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu where he rescues Bhudevi (Mother Earth), fleeing the demon Hiranyaksha, from the depths of the ocean lifting her on his tusks and bringing her to the surface.

Dramma, later Damma and much later shortened by Mughals simply to Dam, is a coin denomination that takes its name from the Greek silver drachm/drachma.

Historians have often wondered why the speedy conquest by Arabs in other parts of the world, post the establishment of Islam in ealry 6th Century AD, was not achieved in India. Arab chroniclers have recorded the might of the Gurjara Pratiharas army and cavalry considering them the ‘biggest enemies of Islam’ as they continuously thwarted any attempts of inroads into mainland India by repeatedly defeating the Arabs in numerous battles between the 7-10th Century AD. It was only post the decline of the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire that Mahmud Ghazni was able to conquer Kanauj in 1018 AD thus paving the way for future Muslim conquest of India by Mohd Ghori in the 12th Century AD.

In fact, the lacchana (dynastic crest or emblem) of the Gurjara Pratihara, which was a snarling ferocious varaha (boar) with upturned teeth, caused so much fear into the Arabs that they started hating and loathing the mere sight of a wild boar. This may perhaps be one of the underlying plausible reason why Muslims hate the boar/pig to this day, other than its cleanliness and religious aspects!

King Bhoja was a very capable ruler and administrator. The best examples of his architecture can be seen in the Central Indian cities of Bhopal and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. The Gurjara Pratiharas were in numerous conflict with adjoining powers for control of Kanauj, chief amongst them being the Rastrakutas.

The coin has a most interesting motif depicted on the Obverse. It shows Lord Vishnu as Varaha uplifting Bhudevi by his tusks and elbow where Bhudevi is represented as a small sphere/circle. There is a chakra with dots below with a small Lion at the bottom whom Varaha is shown trampling, perhaps a symbolic representation of Gurjara Pratihara superiority over the Rastrakutas who had Lion as an emblem. Most coins of this type do not depict the Lion as it is almost always off flan due to the coin die being larger than the flan.

The Reverse has the legend in Sharda / Sarada script that reads in 2 lines from top to bottom “Srimada Adivaraha” with a Fire altar and attendants, inspired from the Indo-Sassanian motifs and usually off flan on these types.


1)The magnificent Varaha Panel of the 5th Century AD Udayagiri caves near Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, built by the Gupta King Chandragupta II. The Guptas were followers of Lord Vishnu, as evidenced on their coins, and as also depicted by the colossal Varaha sculptor of Lord Vishnu rescuing Bhudevi, the same motif that inspired the design of Bhoja's 'Adivaraha' coin four centuries later.

2) Statue of Raja Bhoja in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

3) Modern Adivaraha !
Title: Re: Gurjara-Pratihara: King Mihir Bhoja I, Adivaraha Dramma......featuring Lion!
Post by: THCoins on August 07, 2019, 05:15:23 PM
Thanks for this write-up and the context text and pictures with this coin !
Title: Re: Gurjara-Pratihara: King Mihir Bhoja I, Adivaraha Dramma......featuring Lion!
Post by: Figleaf on August 08, 2019, 11:43:10 AM
Your explanation of the iconography on the coin is exemplary, Mitresh! I especially liked your picture of the Udayagiri caves. The boar trampling the lion is an interesting symbolism of pride in conquest, quite unlike the legalistic attempts on later coins to show a right to rule by family succession (the sultan, son of the sultan). Rule by might over rule by right. Highly enjoyable.

BTW, there is nothing heroic about killing an old lion from a very long distance with a machine. It's more tasteless, if not outright disgusting.

Title: Re: Gurjara-Pratihara: King Mihir Bhoja I, Adivaraha Dramma......featuring Lion!
Post by: mitresh on August 09, 2019, 06:39:01 AM
Thanks Peter & Anthony.