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Ancient Indians were the earliest issuers of coins in the world, along with the Chinese and Lydians (from the Middle East). The first Indian coins – punch marked coins called Puranas, Karshapanas or Pana – were minted in the 6th century BC by the Mahajanapadas (republic kingdoms) of ancient India. These included Gandhara, Kuntala, Kuru, Panchala, Shakya, Surasena, and Saurashtra.

Then came the Mauryas who punch marked their coins with a royal standard. Chanakya, prime minister to the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya, mentions the minting of coins such as rupyarupa (silver),  suvarnarupa (gold), tamararupa (copper) and sisarupa (lead) in his Arthashastra treatise. The Indo-Greek Kushan kings who came next introduced the Greek custom of engraving portrait heads on coins.

Their example was followed for eight centuries. The extensive coinage of the Kushan empire also influenced a large number of tribes, dynasties, and kingdoms, which began issuing their own coins.

The Gupta Empire produced large numbers of gold coins depicting the Gupta kings performing various rituals. This tradition of intricately engraved coins continued till the arrival of the Turkish Sultanate in North India.