Ikshvaku-era coins unearthed at Telangana’s Buddhist heritage site

News Excerpt:

Telangana’s Department of Heritage has recently unearthed a coin hoard at Phanigiri, a renowned Buddhist heritage site located 110 km away from the state capital of Hyderabad.

More about the discovery:

  • The lead coins were found in an earthen pot during the ongoing excavations in Telangana’s Suryapet district. 
  • The coins numbering 3,730 bore an elephant symbol on the obverse and a Ujjain symbol on the reverse.
  • Studies concluded that the coins belonged to the Ikshvaku period.
  • Many other valuable cultural antiquities and structural remains, including beads of stone and glass, shell bangle fragments, stucco motifs, broken limestone sculptures, toy cartwheels, iron nails, and pottery, were also unearthed during the excavation.

About Phanigiri:

  • Phanigiri (meaning hillock of snake hood) in Suryapet district is a small village about 150 km from Hyderabad.  
    • The word Phani in Sanskrit means snake and Giri means hillock.
  • Studies suggest that the village had a vibrant life from 1000 BC to 18th century AD.
  • Phanigiri is believed to be one of the important Buddhist monasteries strategically located on the hilltop, on the ancient trade route (Dakshinapatha) connecting the west and the east coast of the Deccan.

Earlier excavations at Phanigiri:

  • Various stages of earlier excavations here discovered Mahastupa, apsidal Chaityagrihas, Votive stupas, pillared congregation halls, Viharas, platforms with staircases at various levels, octagonal stupa chaitya, 24-pillared mandapam, circular chaitya, and cultural materials that included terracotta beads, semi-precious beads, iron objects, Brahmi label inscriptions and holy relic casket. 
  • All the cultural material is datable from the 1st century BCE to the 4th century AD.
  • The Phanigiri Gutta, where most of the discoveries of the early Buddhist era were made, is considered a narrative-changing find.
  • The thoranas discovered at Phanigiri are very important as they are among the first ones found south of Sanchi. 
    • The same thorana has a panel that shows both Mahayana and Hinayana schools of thought, which shows that despite philosophical differences, both sects co-existed in Phanigiri.
  • There is evidence from Phanigiri that shows the deification of Buddha, and the change can be dated. 
    • From a historical and spiritual identity, there is a transition to canonisation and ritual.

The Ikshvaku dynasty:

  • The Ikshvaku dynasty (c. 225-340 A.D) was a feudatory under the patronage of the Satavahana Empire.
  • They ruled over the delta of the Krishna and Godavari rivers on the east coast of the Andhra region.
  • Their capital was situated at Dharanikota (present-day Amravati).
  • The Ikshvakus inscriptions obtained from Nagarjunakonda, Jaggayyapetta, Amravati and bhattiprolu record their activities such as donation, construction, etc. 
  • The Puranas also record the existence of Ikshvakus as Andhrabhrtyas (servants of the Andhras) and as Sriparvatiyas.

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