Old coins narrate Sino-Tamil story

CHENNAI : Post Independence Sino-Indian diplomatic relations may be only a few decades old. However, China and ancient Tamils shared a trade relationship that dates back hundreds of years.

Published: 22nd May 2012 10:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd June 2012 10:29 PM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI : Post Independence Sino-Indian diplomatic relations may be only a few decades old. However, China and ancient Tamils shared a trade relationship that dates back hundreds of years.

This is amply demonstrated by an expo on ‘Select Coinage of Tamil Nadu’ at the Centenary Exhibition Hall of the Government Museum in Egmore.

“An identified coin is a piece of history,” says N Sundrarajan, curator, numismatic section of the Museum, summing up its import. The Museum in Egmore has a collection of three coin hoards from China discovered in Tamil Nadu.

Sundararajan said, “The first hoard of Chinese coins the Museum received was in 1943 from Pattukottai Taluk in then Thanjavur district. It had a collection of 20 square-holed coins dated between 1073 CE to 1237 CE.”

Around 1,822 coins were discovered in 1944 form the second hoard of Chinese coins from Thallikottai, Mannarkudi Taluk in Thanjavur district dated between 713 CE to 1265 CE.

In the third lot are 323 coins discovered in 1962 at Olakkunnatham in Pattukottai Taluk. These coins are dated between 126 BCE to 1241 CE.

He mentioned the presence of a bi-lingual inscription, now in China, dated 1203 CE, perhaps done during the period of the last of the Cholas.

The inscription talk about a person named Samudhara Perumal who made an offering at the Seeru Kanniswaran Udaiyar Kovil for the well-being of a Chinese Emporer named Che-ka-cai-kan.

Some Chinese annals refer to Raja Raja Chola as Lo-t-sa- Lo-t-sa Chu-lien, added the numismatics curator.

These coins give the viewer a sense of the history the ancient Tamil Kingdom shared with the Chinese. Sundarajan said, “Coins are considered the metallic rearview mirrors which reflect our hoary past.”

Other coins on display are some from the Sangam period, Roman coins and coins of the ancient Tamil Kingdoms of the Cheras, Cholas and Pandiyas. The expo is open to the public from 10 am to 4.30 pm till May 24.

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