Whenever we talk about Central Asian numismatics, two coins stand out prominently – the first one is the Sassanian Drachm modelled upon the ransom paid by the Sassanid Emperor Peroz

and the second is the Bulland Horseman motif, the bull actually being Lord Siva’s Mount, Nandi.

Hindu Shahi's: Bull & Horseman type, Billon Drachms

While Peroz’s Dracham made it’s mark on the Indian side, we would see that the Bull and Horseman motif made it’s mark everywhere. This very prominent coin of the pre-Hulagu Islamic was issued by almost everyone and slowly died away after the end of Khwarezm and Baghdad and destruction of Asian Islamic power.

But, what is their origin? These coins are traced to Kabul Shahis who held fort between 650 AD and 1025 AD and stopped Islam in it’s tracks for 350 long years, an episode unseen in the world history. The oldest coins are dated to Spalapati Deva around the time power was transferred from Kabul to Udabhandapura, modern Hund and depicted Nandi on one side and a horseman on the other side.

One would see that these coins were used by the Shahis till the last(no coins are known of Anandapala and his successors – possibly because of the loss of mints near Kapisa). A rare specimen is Bhimadeva’s Gold Jital.

May be because the Shahis controlled the major trade routes and may because of the reason that the Muslim Empires of Central Asia, just like their Hunnic predecessors didn’t have the technology to mint their own coins or may be because this coin was prominently used and was more publicly acceptable, one would see that these coins were adopted by everyone. Even contemporareous to the Shahis, Yaqub bin Laith(sold by Spink Auctions) already started using these coins. It would be curious to note that Yaqub was the first Muslim ruler to capture a Shahi mint(Panjshir) and these coins may be a consequence of that.

Once the coin set foot in the Islamic world, Nandi became a random bull and the coin made it’s mark everywhere.

Ghaznavids(Masud I)

Ghurids(Muhammad bin Ghori)

Delhi Sultanate(Iltutmish)

The closeness of the design including the dots and other embellishments make one wonder if the coin got a fresh lease of life in India based on the coins of Chauhans and Tomaras. The below one is from Prithviraj Chauhan.

The design used  by Anangapala Tomara further confirms the continuum from Shahis.

On the other hand, the design persisted in Khwarezm(Alauddin Muhammad) till the last days.

Another important takeaway is the overwhelming domination of Sarada script in these coins. All names, be it Hindu or Muslim were depicted only in Sarada script and at a very later date, Arabic.

As a parallel strain, the bull stayed but the horseman gave way to Shahada and other Islamic words and later, the bull also disappeared.


Khwarezm(Alauddin Muhammad)

And sometimes, the bull disappeared.

Delhi Sultanate (Raziya Sultana)

By the time of Khiljis, the name Jital stayed and the bull disappeared as well.

And there in Persia? The Mongols simply replaced Khwarezmian coins with Arab. There was an attempt to monkey balance(in this coin, it refers to the distant Caliph and not Khwarezm Shah)

But they ultimately switched to Arab style coins as early as under Hulagu.

The design survived in India even into 1600s. In this coin from Kangra, you would see the horse motif, the bull disappeared.

It looks like Kangra always used this coin, further hinting at the location of Kira.

One can ultimately attribute the demise of this coin in India to Mughals as the ones who minted these coins were only under the geographical range of Delhi Sultanates and had to give in to the diktats of the Emperor in Delhi. Any recalcitrant like Harichandra of Kangra was hunted down and killed.

One can find a good gallery of the Bull and Horseman type coins in the below discussion.


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