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18thC Travancore India Avatar Varaha Boar Shardula Hindu Lion Demon 21kt Pendant $89.99 - SOLD


18th Century Indian Coin, 21kt Gold Fanam from Indian Princely State of Travancore.

CLASSIFICATION: Circulated Gold Coin, India, 18th century. Struck in the Princely State Travancore during the Reign of the Varma Dynasty. Obverse Depicts a Shardula, A Horned, Lion-Headed Hindu Demon. Reverse Depicts Varaha, an Avatar Boar (or Half-Boar, Half-Man) Manifestation, also of Lord Vishnu. We can also mount a PAIR of these coins as earrings; see here and here.

ATTRIBUTION: Travancore, India, 18th century.

SIZE/DIMENSIONS:

Diameter: 8 1/2 millimeters.

Weight: 0.40 grams.

CONDITION: Lightly circulated, otherwise pristine.

NOTE: Coin is mounted free of charge into your choice of pendant settings, and includes free chain as well (details below or click here ). Default mounting is the bezel wrap mounting shown in 14kt gold fill (5% gold over 95% sterling silver); and an 18” gold-tone chain. Coin can be reversed in mounting upon request. Many other chains available upon request, including both 14kt gold fill and solid 14kt gold in lengths from 16” to 30”. We can also mount a PAIR of these coins as earrings; see here and here.

DETAIL: This is a genuine gold fanam issued by the ancient Indian Princely City-State of Travancore during the reign of the Varma Dynasty. The greater region which included Cochin and Mysore, were fabled homes to some of India’s greatest dynasties, were known as centers of great wealth, and minted a wide variety of coinage in precious metals. Some of the most collectible were the gold fanams of the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries, truly works of art. Averaging about 21kt gold (21/24th’s pure gold), this specimen here is in rather good condition, only lightly circulated. Please note that the image here is a 500% enlargement. The size and weight of this specimen is indicated above.

The stylized depiction on one side of the coin is that of a boar, ears and tail pointing upwards. The opposite side of the coin is a stylized depiction of a “Shardula”. Shardulas were demons in the Hindu pantheon, an anthropoid often with a horned lion head, typically depicted with wide-open jaws revealing, bared teeth and a long flattened muzzle. However rather than a lion a Shardula could also be in the form (with the head of) a tiger, a boar, an elephant, or even a dragon. There’s a little bit more information about Shardulas here, and there’s a collection of ancient depictions of various Shardula forms here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The boar is an Avatar or manifestation of Lord Vishnu known as “Varaha”. In Hindu Mythology Varaha appeared in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Lord Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to have lasted for a thousand years. When Lord Varaha finally prevailed he carried the Earth out of the ocean between his tusks and restored it to its place in the universe.

Varaha is depicted in art as either purely animal or as being anthropomorphic, having a boar's head on a man's body. In the latter form he has four arms, two of which hold the wheel and conch-shell while the other two hold a mace, sword or lotus or make a gesture (or "mudra") of blessing. The Earth is held between the boar's tusks. The avatar symbolizes the resurrection of the Earth from a pralaya (deluge) and the establishment of a new kalpa (cosmic cycle). There are a couple of nice depictions of Varaha here,here,here, and here; as well as some additional information here here and here and here.

This type of fanam was struck in the princely state of Travancore, which is now part of the Indian State of Kerala. Travancore was a princely state in India with its capital at Trivandrum, comprising most of what is present-day south Kerala and the Nagercoil and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu. The region was ruled by the Ay Dynasty from about 300 B.C. through 600 A.D., and was the scene of many battles between the Kulashekaras and the Cholas during the period between 850 and 1400 A.D. when Vizhinjam, the capital, was sacked by the Cholas. The modern history of Travancore begins with Marthanda Varma who inherited the kingdom of Venad, and expanded it into Travancore during his reign from 1729–1758.

Varma signed a treaty with the British East India company and with their help overwhelmed the local feudal land lords absorbing their kingdoms right up to Cochin. He succeeded in defeating the Dutch East India Company during the Travancore–Dutch war, the most decisive engagement of which was the 1741 Battle of Colachel in which the Dutch Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy was captured. Eventually Lannoy assisted Varma in modernizing the Travancore army by introducing firearms and artillery. After signing a peace treaty with the Dutch in 1753, in 1754 he defeated a coalition composed of the deposed kings and the Raja of Cochin. Thus in 1757 a treaty was concluded between Travancore and Cochin, ensuring peace and stability on the Northern border. He organised the tax system and constructed many irrigation works.

Varma’s successor, popularly known as Dharma Raja, ruled over what is considered as a golden age in the history of Travancore. He not only retained the territorial gains of his predecessor Marthanda Varma, but also improved and encouraged social developments. During his reign, Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore attacked Travancore in 1791. The Travancore forces withstood the Sultan for six months, defeating him twice, and then the Maharajah appealed to the British East India Company for aid, starting a precedent which led to the installation of a British resident in the country. The British resident, Colonel Macaulay, managed to engage the ruler in treaties which effectively made the state a protectorate of the East India Company and ended its autonomy.

Upon Dharma’s death in 1798, Balarama Varma took over at the age of sixteen. Balarama’s minister, Velu Thampi, and the minister of Cochin, Paliath Achan, organized an ill-fated revolt against the British in 809. The British defeated Velu Thampi at battles near Nagercoil and Kollam, and Velu Thampi committed suicide to avoid capture by the British soldiers. Paliath Achan surrendered to the British and was exiled to Madras and later to Benaras. After the revolt most of the armed forces of Travancore were disarmed and disbanded.

The last ruler of Travancore was Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (1931–1949). When the British decided to grant independence to India, the minister declared that Travancore would remain as an independent country. The tension between the Indian National Congress and the minister led to revolts in various places of the country. In one such revolt in Punnapara-Vayalar in 1946, the Communists established their own government in the area. This was brutally crushed by the Travancore army and navy leading to hundreds of deaths. After continuing unrest, the Maharajah of Travancore finally agreed to join India and Travancore was absorbed into the Indian union.

Your purchase includes, upon request, mounting of this coin in either pendant style “a” or “b” as shown here. Pendant style “a” is a clear, airtight acrylic capsule designed to afford your ancient coin maximum protection from both impact damage and degradation. It is the most “politically correct” mounting. Style “b” is a bezel wrap mount in either sterling silver or 14kt gold fill. Both pendant styles include a split ring for mounting your pendant onto a silver tone or gold tone chain, also included in the cost of your purchase. Upon request, there are also an almost infinite variety of other pendants which might well suit both you and your ancient coin pendant, and include both sterling silver and solid 14kt gold mountings, including those shown here. As well, upon request, we can also make available a huge variety of chains in lengths from 16 to 30 inches, in metals including sterling silver, 14kt gold fill, and solid 14kt gold. Please note, you must request and specify how you wish your coin mounted, as absent specific instructions to the contrary, the default shipment method is setting “b” and an 18” gold tone chain. We can also mount a PAIR of these coins as earrings; see here and here.

HISTORY: The cities of Northern India’s Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world, date back at least 5,000, probably 10,000 years. Aryan tribes from the northwest invaded about 1500 B.C.; their merger with the earlier inhabitants created classical Indian culture. Arab incursions starting in the 8th century and Turkish in 12th were followed by European traders beginning in the late 15th century. Although the world's first coins were Greek coins made in Lydia about 640 BC, is seems clear that India and China both invented coins independently within a few centuries of the Lydians, although India officially insists that its first coinage (punch marked issues) were struck in the 8th century B.C. The earliest Indian coins were silver, and it was not until about 100 A.D. that the Kushans, influenced by the Romans, introduced the first Indian gold coin, which was a gold dinar bearing the image of Shiva.

Previously India’s “unit of exchange” had been a full grown cow. Coinage presumably developed to make change, something of fractional value which was easier to carry in a pocket. The Suvarna, a gold coin similar to the Persian Daric and Greek Stater substituted the cow in value. Dinara was an Indian gold coin adopted from Roman Dinarius. Silver and bronze metals served for lower value coinage. From the earliest times, the iconography of Northern India’s coinage was influenced by other classical cultures including Roman, Greek/Hellenic, and even Alexandrian (Ptolemaic). From the very beginning classical Greek coinage circulated alongside India’s earliest punched coinage. India’s coinage gained many classical characteristics as a result of the influence of Northern India’s Bactrian Greek and early Hellenistic Indo-Greek cultures. Also contributing to the iconography of Indian coin were the Indo-Persian Scythians, Parthians, and Sassianians.

Many Indian states issued small gold coins called Fanams from about the 12th century A.D. onward, peaking in production between about 1700 and 1830 A.D. The later examples, exquisite miniature gold works of art of the 18th and 19th centuries, were struck in various Indian states, where traders preferred gold over silver. Their designs originally had depicted goddesses, animals and artifacts, but were simplified over the centuries to semi-abstract forms. Fanams were the smallest gold coins issued by any of the Indian States. The first references to the fanam are found in Ceylon, in reference to 12th century coinage from the present day Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The most prolific issues of the fanam occurred in Ceylon; and in India, in Mysore and neighboring Cochin. Historically the most significant of these are from Mysore, the only princely kingdom to defy and defeat the fabled British Army during India’s pre-colonial history.

HISTORY OF GOLD: From the earliest of times, gold was often held in awe as the symbol of divinity and was therefore the material of choice for religious objects. Gold was among the first metals to be mined because it commonly occurs in pure form (not combined with other elements), because it is beautiful and imperishable, and because exquisite objects can be made from it. Since gold is found uncombined in nature, early goldsmiths would collect small nuggets of gold from stream beds etc., and then weld them together by hammering. It was oftentimes discovered alloyed with 10%-20% silver, the mixture known as “electrum”. Gold was "discovered" well before 6,000 B.C., most likely in Mesopotamia, though some of the oldest gold objects made by mankind were discovered by archaeologists in present-day Bulgaria (ancient Thrace) and in the Balkans, such as at the Varna Necropolis. In ancient Egypt all gold was the property of the pharaoh. Artifacts and jewelry of gold over 5,000 years old have been uncovered by archaeologists in Egyptian tombs. Around 3,600 B.C. Egyptian goldsmiths carried out the first smelting of ores using blowpipes made from fire-resistant clay to heat the smelting furnace. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs describe gold as the brilliance of the sun.

In the Near East, by 2,500 B.C., Sumerian goldsmiths were using sophisticated metalworking techniques; cold hammering, casting, soldering, cloisonné, and particularly filigree (fine-wire ornamentation) and granulation (the use of minute drops of gold). The tomb of the Sumerian Queen Puabi, from the city of Ur in about the 26th century B.C., was one of the richest tombs ever uncovered by archaeologists. Queen Puabi was buried with five soldiers and thirteen "ladies in waiting" who had apparently poisoned themselves (or been poisoned) to serve their mistress in the next world. The grave goods she was buried with included a magnificent, heavy, gold headdress made of golden leaves, rings, and plates; a superb lyre complete with a gold and lapis-lazuli encrusted bearded bulls head; a profusion of gold tablewear; cylindrical beads of gold, carnelian, and lapis lazuli woven into extravagant necklaces and belts; a chariot adorned with lioness' heads in silver, and an abundance of silver, lapis lazuli, and gold rings and bracelets.

Another of the most famous tombs uncovered by archaeologists was that of 14th century B.C. Tutankhamun. The pharaohs of Egypt insisted on being buried in gold, which they believed was the "flesh of the gods." The boy-king Tutankhamun was enshrined in three gold coffins. The third and final coffin was made of 243 pounds (110 kilograms) of solid gold. As well, gold artifacts and jewelry abounded, including the solid gold mask which weighed 10 kilos (24 pounds). It’s worth noting that Tutankhamun was a minor, almost unknown and forgotten pharaoh. One can only imagine the wealth of gold some of ancient Egypt’s more significant pharaohs (such as Ramses the Great) must have been buried with.

The art of fashioning gold jewelry reached the Mediterranean island of Crete (the ancient Minoans) about 2400 B.C. Diadems, hair ornaments, beads, bracelets, and complex chains have been found in Minoan tombs. Near Eastern techniques of filigree and granulation were introduced to Crete about 2000 B.C., and evidence also indicates that Egyptian styles influenced Minoan jewelry. Minoan culture and its jewelry styles spread to the mainland of Greece, then dominated by the city-state of Mycenea, about 1550 B.C. The graves of nobles at the ancient Citadel of Mycenae discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 likewise yielded a great variety of gold figurines, masks, cups, diadems, and jewelry, plus hundreds of decorated beads and buttons. These elegant works of art were created by skilled craftsmen more than 3,500 years ago.

Metalworking techniques reached northern Europe by about 2000 B.C., and the earliest jewelry found there dates from between 1800 and 1400 B.C. These artifacts include lunulae (spectacular, crescent-shaped neck ornaments of beaten gold), most of which were found in graves in Ireland, where gold was once plentiful. There is evidence that the Celtic and early British people were trading with the Eastern Mediterranean races by this time, exchanging gold for faience beads. By 1200 B.C. jewelry making was flourishing in Central and Western Europe, where bronze as well as gold was frequently used to make jewelry, and the spiral was the most common motif of decoration. The fibula-brooch seems to have been invented at about this time. Twisted gold torcs, modeled on Scandinavian bronze prototypes, were made in the British Isles and northern France from the fifth to the first century B.C. These massive circlets for the necks and arms were the characteristic ornaments of the chiefs of the Celtic race, and were symbols of wealth, power and courage across Celtic Europe. Celtic craftsmen also used enamel and inlay to decorate jewelry.

By the seventh century B.C. the Etruscans of Central Italy were also making fine gold jewelry. These people may have migrated from Anatolia (present-day Turkey), from where their metalworking skills seem to have been derived. The Etruscans brought to perfection the difficult technique of granulation, whereby the surface of the metal is covered with tiny gold grains. Gold was plentiful in Greece during the Hellenistic Age (323-30 B.C.), and Greek jewelry of this period is characterized by its great variety of forms and fine workmanship. Naturalistic wreaths and diadems were made for the head, and a variety of miniature human, animal, and plant forms were made up into necklaces and earrings. The so-called Heracles-knot, of amuletic origin, was introduced, and remained a popular motif into Roman times.

The ancient civilizations appear to have obtained most their supplies of gold from various deposits in the Middle East, as well as gold which came through the Middle East from Southern Africa, and perhaps a minor amount from the Ural Mountains of present-day Russia. Mines in the region of the Upper Nile (south of Egypt) near the Red Sea and in the Nubian Desert area supplied much of the gold used by the Egyptian Pharaohs (the area was known to the ancient Egyptians as “Punt”, and to the ancient Christians as “Sheba” or “Saba”). When these mines could no longer meet Egypt’s demand for gold, deposits elsewhere were exploited, likely including deposits thousands of miles away in Southern Africa. Archaeological evidence indicates that most of the gold in Ancient Egypt and even in the ancient Mediterranean from perhaps 1700 B.C. onwards came from the Himyarites in present-day Yemen (across the Red Sea from Nubia), who in addition to their own deposits, may in turn have obtained much of it from present day Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.

In fact the Himyarites likely controlled most of the east coast of Africa, including Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, and is most likely the area referred to as Monomotapa in ancient texts (known also as the Biblical city of Ophir, from which the Bible records that King Solomon received shipments of gold, silver, ivory, gemstones, and peacocks). Artisans in Mesopotamia and Palestine probably obtained their supplies either directly from the Himyarites or indirectly through (middleman) Egypt. As well, recent studies of the ancient mines in the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (directly to the north of Yemen) reveal that gold, silver, and copper were recovered from the Red Sea region, across the Red Sea from the Nubian deposits, during the reign of King Solomon (961-922 B.C.).

Around 1500 B.C. artisans of the ancient world developed the “lost wax” method of producing jewelry, allowing for the “mass production” of gold jewelry. At the same time, gold had already become the recognized medium of exchange for international trade. The sixth century B.C. saw the first use of gold in dentistry by the ancient Egyptians, and the introduction of the first gold coinage in Asia Minor by King Croesus of Lydia. By this time, much of the gold in the Classical Mediterranean cultures came from Spain, where extensive deposits of gold and silver were mined and then acquired by the ancient Phoenicians in trade, and then brought from the Western Mediterranean and traded through the ancient Mediterranean world. Eventually the Phoenician colony of Carthage became the leading power of the Eastern Mediterranean, and gained control over these valuable deposits. In turn the Carthaginians engaged the Romans in three wars before Spain was lost to the Romans. Spanish gold and silver to a great extent allowed the Romans to expand their empire. The “other” great power of the Classical Mediterranean were the Hellenic Greeks, who by 325 B.C. were mining gold from Gibraltar to Asia Minor.

When the gold in Spain began to play out, the Romans turned their attention toward the gold mines in Dacia (modern Romania). The Dacians had historically traded this gold to the Greeks for pottery and to the Scythians for amber. About 100 A.D. the Roman Emperor Trajan conquered Dacia, mainly in order to gain control of these gold mines. The Romans also exploited smaller gold deposits found in the British Isles. The Romans used very sophisticated extraction and mining techniques as detailed by the first-century historian and naturalist Pliny the Elder. The Romans were also the first to mass-produce coinage on a massive scale, the first truly monetized society. Between the second and fourth centuries A.D., the Romans produced millions of gold aureus coins, and billions of silver and bronze coins. At the height of the Roman Empire, there were over 400 mints producing coinage in locations scattered through their dominion.

Gold was fashioned into Greek style jewelry during the early Roman Empire, when the chief centers of production were Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome, to which Greek craftsmen had migrated. There was an increasing emphasis on the decorative use of stones, at first garnets, chalcedonies, and carnelians, but later uncut but polished hard gemstones such as diamonds, sapphires, and, notably, emeralds from “Cleopatra’s Mines” in Egypt. Colorful gemstone jewelry was common during the Early Middle Ages in the centuries immediately following the collapse of the Roman Empire. Mediterranean goldsmiths continued to produce jewelry of great refinement, but the jewelry of the European Celtic tribes dominated this period. They produced abstract styles of great splendor which were worked in enamels and inlaid stones. The fibula-brooch reached extremes of size and elaboration. During the High Middle Ages the technique of cloisonné enameling on gold was widespread, the finest pieces emanating from the workshops at Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

After the creation of Charlemagne's empire in 800 A.D. and the Holy Roman Empire in 962 A.D., a fusion of northern and Mediterranean cultures occurred. The principal patrons of the arts became the emperor and the church, and jewelers worked in courts and monasteries. Jewelry design was based on the setting in gold of precious stones and pearls in colorful patterns. Gold was used widely for crosses, altars, doors, chalices, and reliquaries. This association with divinity naturally developed into an association with royalty. Even in modern times the accoutrements of royalty are predominantly gold. However there was a critical shortage of gold which developed in the High Middle Ages. During the years 1370-1420 A.D. as various major mines around Europe become completely exhausted. Mining and production of gold declined sharply throughout the region in a period known as 'The Great Bullion Famine'. However by about 1433 A.D. this spurred the Portuguese to start sailing to Ghana in Western Africa and thus enabling them to trade for gold without having to cross the Sahara Desert into Muslim northern Africa. By 1471 A.D., the Portuguese were even calling West Africa the "Gold Coast", and a reliable source of gold was again available to Western Europe.

In the “New World”, archaeologists believe that the gold in the Aztec and Inca treasuries of Mexico and Peru came from Colombia, although some undoubtedly was obtained from other sources. The Aztecs regarded gold as literally the product of the gods, calling it "god excrement". The Conquistadores plundered the treasuries of these civilizations during their explorations of the New World, and many gold and silver objects were melted and cast into coins and bars, destroying the priceless artifacts of these MesoAmerican cultures.

Gold is widely dispersed through the earth's crust (and even in seawater) and is found in two types of deposits; lode deposits, which are found in solid rock and are mined using conventional mining techniques, and placer deposits which are gravelly deposits found in stream beds and are the products of eroding lode deposits. The largest gold nugget ever found was in 19th century Australia weighing over 70 kilograms (150 pounds). Gold is quite unique in its malleability. No other metal compares with it. A single ounce can be stretched into a wire 60 kilometers long (40 miles), or pounded into a sheet of 300 square feet (the size of two typical suburban bedrooms). Because of its chemical inertness, gold retains its brilliant color even after centuries of exposure to corrosive elements. The most workable of all metals, gold has been forged, chased, embossed, engraved, inlayed, cast, and in the form of gold leaf, used to gild metals, woods, leather, and parchment. Gold wire has found wide uses in brocades and ornamentation of other materials. Throughout at least five millennia of recorded history it has been used to fashion sculpture, vessels, jewelry, ornamentation, and coinage.

Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world, gold was regarded to symbolize power, strength, wealth, warmth, happiness, love, hope, optimism, intelligence, justice, balance, perfection, summer, harvest and the sun. Gold was also believed to possess curative and “magical” properties. During the Middle Ages it was believed that something as rare and beautiful as gold could not be anything but healthy, so gold was regarded as beneficial for health and was not only worn but also ingested. In fact, some gold salts do have anti-inflammatory properties, and in modern times, injectable gold has been proven to help to reduce the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis. The isotope gold-198 is also used in some cancer treatments and for treating other diseases. Gold flake was used by the nobility in Medieval Europe as a decoration in food and drinks, in the form of leaf, flakes or dust, either to demonstrate the host's wealth or in the belief that something that valuable and rare must be beneficial for one's health. Even today gold leaf, flake or dust is used on and in some gourmet foods, notably sweets (particularly in India and the Middle East) and drinks as decorative ingredient.

SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.

Our order fulfillment center near Seattle, Washington will ship your purchase within one business day of receipt of your personal check or money order. If you wish to pay electronically, we accept both PayPal and BidPay. However we ask that you PLEASE WAIT before remitting until we have mutually agreed upon method of shipment and shipping charges and you understand our PayPal limitations and policies (stated here). We will ship within one business day of our receipt of your electronic remittance.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. We prefer your personal check or money order over any other form of payment - and we will ship immediately upon receipt of your check (no "holds"). Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."