Posted on: 10 July 2013

Gold coin - Gandabherunda with elephant in each of its beaks and another two elephants underfoot.
Ruler: Achyutaraya
Date : 1530-1542
Minted in: Vijayanagara
Weight: 1.57 grammes Diameter: 10 millimetres

Inscription Transliteration:
Shri Pra-tapa Achyutaraya

© Trustees of the British Museum

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The State Emblem of Mysore.

What is exactly a 'Gandabherunda' ?

Gandabherunda is a mythological bird with two heads.

very nice...jk


Ancient myth. Not necessarily Indian. Simurgh ( Peacock tailed & elephant snatching) appears in Persian literature/myth including Firdausi's Shahnama. Also many similarities with double-headed eagle symbol. Again an ancient symbol made famous by Romanovs & Austro-Hungarian royals, but actually of a much earlier ( 2000 BC+) descent. Incidentally, the gandabherunda/simurgh also makes an appearance on the earliest carpets of the mughals. There are many persian influences in the architecture at Hampi too. The Apadana staircase of Persepolis is replicated at Hampi with Vaishnava iconography.

Doesn't it go back to the Sumerians? And interestingly, I think Russian ruble coins still have this symbol on them!

yes, this icon is still all around you in russia & central europe ( all slav & german speaking lands, for sure). some strange affinity with indoeuropean speaking lands - hittites (turkey), persians etc. An icon that perhaps co-exists with the swastik, all along.

In Indian numismatics though, do note that this was NOT the first coin of a King named Achyut. The last king of the Panchalas ( defeated by Samudragupta) was also called Achyut. The Panchala kings coins are from circa 800 BC to Achyut's time - circa 3rd century AD. We know almost nothing (apart from their brahmi script coins) about the nearly 50 kings whose coins have surfaced from ancient sites of the doab. See the other Achyut king coin here, with its dharmachakra/wheel ( )

The double headed eagle was also the royal insignia of Kadambas of Banavasi (Kannada: ಕದಂಬರು) (345 – 525 CE) of Karnataka. From then on it continued to be the royal insignia of many other rulers including the Vijayanagar rulers and Wadiyars of Mysore. A beautiful carving of a similar double headed eagle holding elephants is seen in the interior ceiling of Keladi temple and also in some Hoysala temples.

A shift from a double-headed peacock/murgh to a double-headed eagle - european colonial era impact perhaps ....