1000 Gold Coins Prize Scheme from Vedic Days!


Research paper written by London Swaminathan
Research article No.1333; Dated 7th October 2014.

(This is part of my research article series on Mahavamsa)

Giving thousand gold coins as prizes has been in practice from the Vedic days. It shows that Hindus were the inventors of decimal system and they always think high. It also shows the richness of Indians in thought, word and deed. We read about 1000 gold pieces prize from Brihad aranyaka Upanishad to the latest period of Mahavamsa, the Sri Lankan chronicle. Tamil Hindus also followed this 1000 gold coin prize scheme from Sangam Tamil period.

Emperor Janaka of Videha Kingdom, performed a sacrifice – Yaga—in which he proposed to give one thousand cows, with gold attached to the horns, to the most erudite Vedic scholar. An assembly of scholars from Punjab, Sind in Pakistan, Gandhar in Afghanistan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and several other regions were sitting in the Vedic assembly. Yajnavalkya took all the cows and the gold. This is one of the earliest references to 1000 gold pieces.

In the Rajasuya sacrifice where the Dasapreya rites are performed, Hotr priests (Rig Vedic pundits) get a circular ornament of gold as dakshina/fees, where as Adhvaryu (Yajur Vedic Pundits) get two ornaments, Udgatr (Sama Vedics) a garland of flower and Brahmins a horse etc. This is in addition to regular dakshinas (fees). Like Yudhistra of Mahabharata, Tamil Cholza King Peru Nar Killi also performed Rajasuya where the other two kings of Chera and Pandya Kingdoms were present. The Brahmins would have received these presents in Choza kingdom.

cash at home2

Tamil Sangam period also had a story of 1000 gold coins. King Shenpaka Pandya announced that he would give 1000 gold coins for a poem on a particular theme. A poor Brahmin brought someone else’s poem, supposed to be written by Lord Shiva himself. A learned poet by name Nakkiran challenged them. Here also we come across a prize of 1000 coins.

1800 years ago, a Brahmin by name Parasara won lot of gifts through Yagas and Yajnas and was returning home. He took rest in a village called Tankal. He challenged the young Brahmin boys playing on the road to repeat Vedas after him. One child took the challenge and repeated Vedas after him. Amazed at his skill the selfless Brahmin gave him all the gold he won. But the jealous Brahmins of the town told the king that his father stole the money from the royal treasury. Immediately he was arrested and detained in the prison. His wife Kartika fought his case and won. Here the point to be noted is that his enormous prizes won through Yahas and Yajnas. He was carrying a white parasol. Brahmins who do Soma yaga will get such special gifts. Apart from kings only learned Brahmins can hold white umbrella. Others will be beheaded if they pretend to be kings (source Katturai Katai: Tamil Epic Silappdikaram).

File photo of Swiss Francs five cent coins heaped in a pile in the old vault  of the former Schweizerische Volksbank in Basel

Four Million Gold Coins!!

Pathitrupathu (Ten Decad) is a collection of old poems on Sangam age Chera Kings. Foreword to each decad describes what the poet got from the Chera king as a gift for composing that poem.

Kumattur Kannanar, a Brahmin poet, got 500 villages for composing a decad on Imayavaramban Neduncheralathan,
Palai Gauthama, another Brahmin poet, composed poem on Selkezu Kuttuvan, and went straight to heaven with his wife (in short mysteriously disappeared). That was the prize he actually asked from the king.

Kappiyatru Kappianar, another Brahmin poet, received four million gold coins from Nar Mudi Cheral. He belonged to Kavya Gotra like Tol Kappiyanar, author of the oldest Tamil book.
Paranar, a great Brahmin poet of Sangam age, got Umbarkadu area as a gift from Senguttuvan.

Kakaipadini Narchellai, a poetess, received one hundred thousand gold coins and Gold bars weighing nine Tulas.

Kapilar, the greatest Brahmin poet of Sangam age, who was praised as a Brahmin of spotless character by many, received 100,000 gold coins and the lands whatever he could see from the hill! Selva Kadungo Vaziyathan gave him this.

Arisil Kizar received 900 000 gold coins from Peruncheral Irumporai and a throne was offered to him. But he refused to take it.
cash at home

Perumkundrur kizar got 32,000 gold coins and some plots and houses.
(All these gold coins may not be heavy, may be weighing fraction of a gram )

Mahavamsa Coins

Mahavamsa, the Sri Lankan chronicle, has got many references to 1000 Panas (Scholars believe that the English word Money came from Pana, which is derived from the Phoenicians called Panis in Vedic days).

Mahavamsa Chapter 6: During fifth century BCE, a Bengal king announced 1000 coins as prize money to catch a lion which was threatening the villagers. He sent the bundle of coins on an elephant around the town. Even today we see Americans announcing prize money on the heads of terrorists!

Chapter 7: When the Pandya Princess from Madurai came to Sri Lanka to marry King Vijaya, he begged his first wife Kuvenna who belongs to Yakshini clan to leave him. He says that he will spend 1000 coins for Puja for her.
power of skt, fb

Chapter 9:–Like Kamsa threatened Devaki, a Sri Lankan princess known as Unmatha (mad) Chitra was threatened when she was pregnant. Like Devaki, she also exchanged her male child to a female child just to escape from the wrath of the king. She gave the lady 1000 coins for this exchange. Later, like Krishna, that male child became a king with the name Pandu abhayan.

Chapter 10:– When Pandu Abahaya’s uncles came to know that he is alive they planned to kill him. Immediately his mother gave the foster father another 1000 coins to take him to a safer place.

Chapter 23 : A lazy but a strong youth was given a difficult job by the prince and was asked to see a Brahmin living at a faraway town. He did it and received appreciation of everyone. And the prince gave him 1000 coins.

Chapter 23 : Pusa Devan helped the king Duttagamani to secure an important victory over a Tamil king. The king asked him to bring his arrow and laid it on the ground. He bathed it with coins and donated all to Pusadevan.

Ahapter 35: King Vasaban consulted an astrologer to find how long he would live. It was the days where every king was murdered or killed within a few years of their rule. The astrologer told Vasaban that he would live for another 12 years. Vasaban bribed the astrologer with 1000 coins to keep his mouth shut.

Thus we see 1000 coins from the Vedic days to the latest period of Mahavamsa spreading over 2000 years. Since Hindus were the inventors of modern numerals (1, 2, 3, 4…..), decimal system and zero, it is no surprise to see 1000 coins or four million gold coins in Tamil, Sanskrit and Pali literature.


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1 Comment

  1. Good articles with ancient culture to present social status.
    Requesting as I am belongs to Telugu if possible send all English version .
    Thank you.

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