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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Peeping into the Past via a Silver Dirham of Mahmud Ghaznavi





Sultan Yamin-ud-Daula Abul Qasim Mahmud ibn Sebuktigin of Ghazni (r. 998-1030 C.E.) was a zealous Islamic ruler whose entire reign was spent in expanding the authority of his kingdom on the decadent structure of the Abbasid Caliphate taking over territories captured from his ancestors' suzerains, the Samanids in Central Asia, the Shia' Buyid Empire's remnants in Eastern Iran and the kingdoms south of Hindukush into the Indian sub-continent.
Mahmud almost would have taken over the Abbasid Caliphate but was restrained by the nominal suzerainty he owed to the Abbasid Caliph Al-Qadir Billah (991-1031 C.E.), who ruled the declining caliphate contemporary to Mahmud's period. Caliph Al-Qadir appeased Mahmud by recognizing his rising status in the world of realpolitik and upgrading his title from Amir to Sultan in 992 C.E.
Caliph Al-Qadir's ideological war with the Fatimids Shias of Egypt also gave Mahmud a valid reason to attack both the Ismaili kingdom of Multan as well as the Shia Buyid rulers of Eastern Persia. 

Mahmud was most probably inspired by the 'Golden Age' of Islam which has just passed by his reign. This is evident from his efforts to fashion his capital city, Ghazni in central-east Afghanistan in the mould of Abbasid Baghdad, enriching the capital city with his newfound riches and treasures plundered from kingdoms as far as the Caspian Sea to the Gangetic plains of North India.
As Mahmud's vast plundering raids increased, they brought him enormous riches especially in the form of bullion and coins of these foreign realms. He was thus obliged as a good Islamic ruler to issue coins in the joint name of the Caliph and him in the newly instituted tradition of Sikka (Coinage). Additionally, he was also obliged by Islamic law to distribute these spoils termed as Ghanima among his victorious soldiers after deducting one-fifth of the same as the traditional tax of Khams to be transmitted to the Caliph's treasury, the Bait-ul-Maal at Baghdad, though it is highly likely that in view of the Caliph's weak status Mahmud would have withheld this tribute to the Leader of the Faithful. 
However, like all conquerors before him, the best example being Alexander the Great, Mahmud would have converted the captured treasuries of his opponents into his own coinage thus expanding the volume of Ghaznavid currency exponentially.
Thus, the coin above represents the basic raison d'etre of Ghaznavid currency as well as its propensity to survive the long period that has passed by since Mahmud's era.

If we look at the weight of the coin, it is fashioned on the Greek drachm, thus the name dirham which is not the only Greco-Roman legacy connected to this Islamic currency. The coin's legend begins with the word Adl (Arabic for Justice), which was a term used by Abbasid Caliphs on their coinage as well. The term is philologically similar to the Latin Ideal  (Adl also lends to the term, Adil to describe a just ruler as well as recalls the English description 'ideal and just' ruler) which again points to the use of the phrase inspired from Greco-Roman coinage where the rulers were supposed to dispense Justice. As a further pointer, I have shown a commemorative coin of Livia 'Julia Augusta' with the image/legend 'IUSTITIA' issued by her son, Emperor Tiberius.

Another highlight of the dirham illustrated here is that it gives the major title of Mahmud, Yamin-ud-daula (literally ~ right hand of the realm) which again point to the borrowing of the concept of Satraps of Greco-Roman rulers both in ancient and early medieval times. In fact, Mahmud's kingdom comprised of Eastern Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan and North-West India which matched the ancient Satrapal kingdom of Greco-Bactria which rose by breaking away from the Seleucid Empire just like Mahmud grew on the remains of the Abbasid Caliphate. 

Thus, this single dirham of Mahmud of Ghazna helps us understand the various theoretical underpinnings of his tumultous reign which though controversial and bloody, contributed immensely to the History of the world, adding a new thrust to Islam's growth in the Indian sub-continent.  

I thank Stan Goron, Senior Numismatist and Author of the catalogue, 'COINS OF THE INDIAN SULTANATES' for his help in deciphering this coin especially in view of lack of resources like the Tuebingen Catalogue

A good online catalogue for Ghaznavid coinage can be seen on this link

http://ghaznavid.ancients.info/Mahmud/mahmud.htm 
http://ghaznavid.ancients.info/index.html#Table
Add caption
       Ghaznavid Empire c. 1030 at the end of Mahmud's reign. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/Ghaznavid_Empire_975_-_1187_%28AD%29.PNG



Roman Commemorative  Coin in honor of Livia 'Julia Augusta' with the legend 'Justicia' issued by her son, Emperor Tiberius

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Bull-headed Huna ruler's coin issued in Kabul-Gandhara


The fifth century of the Common Era saw tectonic changes in the fortunes of the Gupta Empire of the Indian sub-continent and the Sassanid Empire of Persia due to the increasing incursions of the White Huns from the North-West border of India. 
Originating like the earlier dynasty of Kushans on the outskirts of China, the Shweta Hunas rose from the Eastern border of Persia and probably  spoke a variant of Eastern Iranian language. They first took over Tokharistan (Central Asia) from the Kidarite Kushans (Later Kushans) soon driving them out of areas around modern day Afghanistan and Pashtun belt of Pakistan. The Hunas soon attacked the outposts of the Gupta dynasty in the second half of the fifth century with a prominent defeat at the hands of  Emperor Skanda Gupta and a later expedition defeated by a coalition of Narasimhagupta (Baaladitya) and King Yashovarman in Central India. 
However, the Hunas overall succeeded in subduing the Later Guptas' chieftains in Northern India under Toramana and his son, Mihirakula forming their major base in Kashmir which became a refuge for them after the defeats and reverses at the hands of local rulers in the mainland. 

According to most experts, the Hunas spoke a variant of Iranian language which is attested by the legends on the coins of the initial rulers whose coins have a monolingual Pehlavi legend followed by later bilingual and trilingual legends. 
The coin on display in this post is a billon drachm issued in the name of 'NAAPKI MALLEKA' inscribed in Pehlavi script, as described by Michael Mitchiner in his book, 'ANCIENT CLASSICAL WORLD' 
The Coin is no doubt inspired by Sassanid drachms of the period in terms of fabric of the coin with the King's bust on the obverse with winged head-dress and the reverse having a fire altar with two attendants. However, the iconography of the Huna ruler, Naapki Malleka has a Bull's head surmounted on the king's head which is quite an unique feature of this series. The Bull's head could be indicative of Tantric worship by the Hunas or merely indicate a cultic practice of sacrificing bulls as indicated by a Chinese Buddhist traveller, Song Yun who visited Hunnic regions in A.D. 540 and states that the Huns "did not recognize the Buddhist religion and they preached pseudo gods, and killed animals for their meat." 

The Nezaka Malleka coinage's period would be guesswork but in view of its use of Pehlavi legend, one is inclined to place it in sixth century C.E. rather than a later period. The preference to Pehlavi over Brahmi legends would also place it in the far northern part of Kabul-Gandhara region. Additionally, the use of Pehlavi also indicates the coin's issue by Iranian dialect speaking people to the later Turkic people who replaced the Huns.

Napki Malleka coins were issued in probably two series, one in pure silver and the second in billon (with more copper than silver); our coin belongs to the latter series which would have been again issued in a later era of lesser prosperity with plateauing of the resources of the Huna Empire. The Napki Malleka series would thus have been issued as a continuum coinage by a series of rulers who could have the title, Napki Malleka (Malleka meaning King) with variant legends seen in the series. 
Thus, the Huna Coinage issued in the interim by Huna rulers represents a transitional coinage between two cultures, Sassanid Persian and Indian where the series was adopted by Huna rulers, Toramana and Mihirkula to transplant the series in the Indian mainland leading to a unique series called Indo-Sassanian. It also represents the power of coinage to convey religious messages by an alien people whose hybrid faith borrowed from other faiths but yet tried to impress its individual features upon posterity      




Pehlavi Legend 'NAAPKI MALEKA'

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Experiential Teaching in Numismatics - CENNUMIS Style

Necessity is the Mother of all invention. I experienced the truth in this adage when I was forced to launch a new institution in the aftermath of losing a prestigious university position in June 2014 in view of no new jobs on the horizon in the rarefied field of Numismatics! 

Today, CENNUMIS is a two-and-a- half-year old institution which though doesn't have its own premises, is always on the move and open to new experiences in conducting courses on Indian Numismatics.
I have been particularly blessed to have an experience of a better part of the last decade in teaching Numismatics with lectures, specialised sessions, etc. in various parts of the country on various fora. 
However, CENNUMIS has been a special forum as we decided to give it a distinct USP of having an actual collection of 'teaching coin specimens' for all its courses with the idea of imparting an authentic experience for the audience. 
The only problem was that I did not possess any coins to begin with as I  was a numismatic researcher and not a collector. However, we worked around the problem by purchasing actual coins from coin dealers in the beginning, then coin auctions always trying to procure the best specimen from the viewpoint of the student. 
Beginning our journey in August 2014, we had our first course called 'Primer Workshop in Numismatics' at a well-wisher's office in Central Mumbai. 
The success of the Workshop (it was full to my surprise!) gave me the confidence to invest more into coins and soon organize a specialized Workshop on the Arabic-Persian Script as seen on Indian Coins in January-February 2015. It was not my first experience at teaching the script but I improvised on my earlier experience by teaching it from the viewpoint of a collector who wanted to decipher a Mughal coin for his own sake. Thus, we did away with the formal teaching by an Arabic teacher and taught each letter as it appeared on Indian coins from Day One. 
Needless to say, the Workshop had its own challenges as it was to teach others the difficult script. We took 4-5 sessions of 4 hours each (a week apart) to give the participants time to practice the script and its variant forms.
The results were amazing as most of the participants who diligently practiced the script learnt it quite well. We also encouraged the participants to make eye copies of important coins during surprise tests conducted during the Workshop. This boosted many a participant's confidence as it led them to know that the script was not as alien and out-of-reach as they had imagined. Thus, CENNUMIS has conducted 3 Arabic-Persian Script Workshops and 4 Primer Workshops and numerous 'Introduction to Numismatics' Workshops all over the country. During our courses, we also take students and participants to actual coin galleries (especially in Mumbai and New Delhi where the RBI Museum and the National Museum have fantastic Numismatic Galleries.
CENNUMIS Coin Collection has burgeoned to numerous coin albums of high quality teaching coins which are taken for lectures on Arabic-Persian, Brahmi, Kharoshti and Greek Script on Indian Coins. Even our simple Introduction to Numismatics have around 20 odd coins from different periods of Indian History to make the participants aware of India's unbroken 2500 year plus numismatic history. We also carry a tool kit to make students aware of the various equipment necessary to examine and record coins as research data viz. digital weighing scale (under 200 grams), vernier calipers, magnifying glass, etc.
The most satisfying part of the CENNUMIS' experience is watching students enthusiastically examine a Gandhara Punch-marked coin or hold a 20 gram plus Mughal paisa with great awe. Watching these students, I feel that my investment on these coins has been paid back to me many times over!

CENNUMIS is a dynamic and active organization which is ready to travel to any part of the country especially if our modest financial conditions are met with equal enthusiasm at the other end. To contact us, write to us on drkalra1@gmail.com



A Group of Mumbai Undergraduate Students visiting RBI Museum with the author

Participants at our 1st Arabic-Persian Script Workshop in Mumbai in January 2015 examining a coin specimen

The right way of holding a coin being taught to participants at a workshop


Coins and other artefacts for a CENNUMIS 'Introduction to Numismatics' Workshop

Eye Copies of Mughal Coins drawn by a participant at CENNUMIS' 2nd Arabic-Persian Script Workshop

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Story of Indian Money - Part XX British India Coinage

The English East India Company (EIC) was established on the last day of the year 1600 A.D. and was just one of the European companies to flock to India to benefit from the spice trade. The EIC soon set up bases in three corners of the Indian sub-continent with one in Eastern India centered on Bengal with headquarters at the new found city of Calcutta, another located in Western India initially centered upon Surat and later Bombay and the last one based in South India centered at Madras. These centres eventually were named Presidencies viz. Bengal Presidency, Bombay Presidency and Madras Presidency after the EIC won a series of wars against European competitors including the Portuguese, the Dutch and lastly the French in the last part of eighteenth century.
After emerging supreme over its European rivals, the EIC began encircling its Indian rivals in a long drawn process stretching from 1755 till 1856 when the Indians put up a combined armed resistance with a coalition of various rival powers. 
The First War of Independence or the Mutiny as it is named failed to dislodge the British army which was far superior in terms of technology, regimental discipline and resources and the movement collapsed in the summer of 1858. However, it did manage to highlight the disaffection of the Indian masses to the British Parliament which resolved to dissolve the EIC with immediate effect in August 1858 and transfer the ruling powers to the British Crown under the Government of India Act 1858.
The British Crown created a new department the India Office in London headed by the Secretary of State to handle the India affairs and the Governor-General was renamed the Viceroy of India.

Importantly the Uniform Coinage introduced by the EIC in 1834 and 1840 was continued with the fixed date of '1862' on the coinage continued for a period of a decade or longer to break the nexus of moneychangers who charged a commission called 'Batta' to exchange older coins at lower value than coins of the current year. 
The coins were minted at the modern machinized mints of Bombay and Calcutta which issued machine-struck coins of uniform weight, fineness and metallic content. The Imperial coinage had the crowned bust of Queen Victoria with a Roman legend on the obverse and the name of the denomination with the name 'INDIA 1862' on the reverse.
 This series had issues in gold, silver and copper replicating the Mughal tri-metallic idiom to a 'T' and was made current throughout the Indian Empire for the entire decade while the two mints recalled old coins for recycling into the imperial currency in a manner akin to the Mughal imperial mints. 
 The gold mohur valued at fifteen silver rupees was issued with the dates of 1862, 1870 and 1875 with fractions valued at ten and five silver rupees also being issued between 1870 and 1879. 
The silver rupee was also issued in a fashion similar to the mohur with the image of the Queen and the fixed date 1862 but with a unique system of dots which was used from 1863 till 1875. These dots occur on the reverse below the date, above the word 'ONE', or in both positions. From 1874, this practice was halted and coins began to be dated continuously. 
The silver rupee had its lower denominations viz. the half rupee, the quarter rupee and 2 Annas.

The copper denominations were issued for the lower denominations with the Half Anna, the Quarter Anna, the Half Pice and the one-twelveth Anna with the Rupee having 12 Annas or 64 pice or 192 pies. The Copper denominations did not have the dotting system in place probably as the Batta was not applied to copper denominations.

Importantly in 1877, Queen Victoria assumed the title 'Empress of India' which was used on the coins from this date for all British sovereigns till 1947 to indicate their imperial status over the sub-continent. The coinage was then issued every year till 1901 when Victoria died and her son, Edward VII ascended the British throne and assumed the title 'King-Emperor' for his reign.
Coins in the name of Edward VII have the king's right profile with the legend 'EDWARD VII KING& EMPEROR' on the obverse and the reverse has a crown on the top with English and Persian legends denoting the denomination flanked by flower stem designs, was followed on his silver coinage whereas the copper coins retained the old pattern of the Indian Victorian era.

The important economic change in relation to British India at the end of the nineteenth century was the shift of Indian currency to the gold exchange standard which led to easy conversion of Indian currency with British standards which only furthered the drain of Indian money abroad. The Indian Rupee was fixed at  one shilling and four pence (1s 4d) Sterling. 

The Coinage of Edward VII adoption of Persian legends was the only unique feature adopted during his reign of less than a decade ending in 1910 with his death as he had ascended the throne at a ripe old age of 60 years (it was ripe old age in the early modern period when modern medicine was yet to make a mark) and had little time for his Indian territories which saw the rise of political movements calling for the end of colonial rule.

His successor, George V on the other hand travelled to India in December 1911 and held a 'Delhi Darbar where he and his royal consort, Queen Mary were presented to an assembly of Indian princes and dignitaries as 'Kaisar-i-Hind'. It was incidentally the 1911 issues of George V which created a major issue which had a portrait of the King-Emperor with an elephant pendant (encircled) which was believed to be a 'pig' and this led to a major row with the Muslim populace taking exception to the portrayal of a taboo animal on the coinage of the Empire. The coins were removed from circulation and most issues melted which has led to their rare status in comparison with other issues of George V.

The reign of George V saw the First World War with its own consequences for the Indian economy. It also saw the introduction of Government of India banknotes towards the end of the Great War with the issue of One Rupee Banknote in 1917 and a Two-and-half Rupee Banknote in 1918. The process of introduction of official coinage and banknotes was shifted from the Government of India to a new authority towards the fag end of George V's reign with the establishment of the Reserve Bank of India on 1 April 1935 just few months before George V's death on 20 January 1936. 
His immediate successor, Edward VIII did not rule long enough to merit a coinage though some Indian Princely States like Kutch enthusiastically issued coinage in his name. Edward's abdication led to the installation of his younger brother on the British throne as George VI. The new king began his reign on 11 December 1936 with the Second World War looming over the horizon which became apparent when the War was declared in 1939. The main impact of the War was seen on British Indian coinage as the silver rupees were melted to match the demand of the war-time economy. Thus, the 1940 Rupee had 50 percent silver and a security edge was introduced to prevent its forgery by the Axis Powers.
The use of half silver continued till 1944 and was totally suspended in 1945 when the use of nickel in place of silver began. George VI's final issue was in 1947 when a Nickel Rupee with the obverse image of the King-Emperor and his titles while the reverse had the image of a lion marching to the left in defiance of the British losses in the War. This issue was continued in circulation of the newly independent states of India and Pakistan which were formed by the partition of the British India till the evolution of the Republic of India's coinage under the new Constitution and President in 1950.

British India Gold Mohur 1962 Image courtesy www.wikipedia.com


British India Queen Victoria Ten Rupee Gold coin Image courtesy www.scintillatingsilver.wordpress.com
British India Quarter Rupee 1862 Image courtesy: www.indiacoin.wordpress.com
Edward VII Silver Rupee 1907 Image courtesy www.icollector.com




George V 1911 'Pig' Rupee

'Two-and-Half' Rupee Banknote issued in 1918 Image courtesy indianbanknote.blogspot.in
George VI Silver Rupee of 1939 Image Courtesy Heritage Auctions

George VI Nickel Rupee of 1947 Image Courtesy: National Museum


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Story of Indian Money - Part XIX - Colonial Coinage

The Indian subcontinent saw a rush of European powers who sent semi-trading agencies which doubled up as military cum naval representatives of their homeland in Asia at the end of the sixteenth century. However, the process began at the beginning of the sixteenth century with the establishment of the Portuguese in Goa in 1510 followed by Diu, Daman and Bassein in Western India. The Portuguese were zealous about their religion and initiated a local base currency with Christian motifs, Roman legends dated in the Christian era in contravention to the existing coinage with Islamic era dating and Persio-Arabic legends.
Thus, the Portuguese were the first colonial power to issue their own coinage on the Indian sub-continent interestingly before the Mughals became supreme rulers of North India.
The other powers arrived later with the English arriving in 1608 and opening its first factory at Masulipatnam in South India in 1611 and Surat on the Western Coast in 1612. 
The other colonial powers competing with the English viz. the Dutch, the French also established their outposts in South India with the Dutch concentrating on the Malabar coast around Cochin and the French in Pondicherry, Mahe and Yanam.
Another smaller colonial power was the Danish who established a small colony cum fort called Dansborg at Tharangambadi called Tranquebar with the support of the local chieftain and survived till 1845 despite almost zero support from its homeland and hostility of the other European powers.
All these European powers were forced to issue baser currencies to support their  soldiery in their exchange with the local populace and hence their initial coinage tended to be hand-struck coins in lead, copper, tin and pewter with European symbols from their national heraldry and few inscriptions. 
The European powers issued higher denominations in the first half of the eighteenth century when the Mughal Empire went into decline testing their currencies and its acceptance against other indigenous currencies. In many instances like the English East India Company with its three Presidencies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras, they were forced to strike copies of prevalent local currencies with some variations like the Star Pagoda at Madras, the Bombay 'Mughal' Rupee in the name of the Mughal Emperors with Zarb Mumbai 'Struck at Mumbai' inscribed on the reverse to denote its origin or the Sicca Rupee at Murshidabad in the name of Shah Alam II. 
The EIC was the only colonial power whose currency went from strength to strength mimicking the tri-metallic currency of the Mughals with the other powers sticking to baser currencies and barely graduating to silver as in the case of the French with their silver fanons and the Portuguese which even survived into the twentieth century adopting machinized coinage for its protectorates.
The acceptance of the colonial currency remains suspect with various sources claiming too high or too poor acceptance; however the small number of surviving specimens of certain currencies and the higher number of others in both private and museum collections tell the facts that the acceptance was majorly dependant on two factors; the market perception of both the power and the metallic purity of the currency decided by local moneychangers called the Shroffs.
The East India Company's currency was the only currency which merged into a centralized Uniform Currency in 1835 which sought to replace all major Indian currencies including the Mughal currency which was the dominant form of currency of the Indian sub-continent. The East India Company implemented this major change in 1835 issuing gold mohurs, rupees and lower denominations in the name of William the Fourth with his portrait and continuing it in 1840 with the ascension of Victoria on the English throne in 1840. This change may have been one of the trigger factors for the rebellion of the Indian feudal class which was tied to the interests of the Mughal Emperors in the subcontinent.
The French colony of Pondicherry also survived and switched to Banknotes as well though issued at Macau by the  Banque de l'Indochine (Bank of Indo-China) with the denomination Roupie adopted in 1871.
In case of the East India Company, its currency was replaced by the British India currency which was issued in the name of Queen Victoria for the first time in 1862 and later the title Empress of India in 1877.
Thus, the colonial currencies form a very important resource of knowledge of Indian History pointing to the presence of various European powers on the Indian mainland as challenge to Indian powers right from their initial stage. The colonial coinage demolishes the oft-repeated and fallacious assumption that the European powers had entered India with the intention of mere trade since the issuing of coinage is almost certainly assumption of sovereignty in all cultures including Asian cultures. 
The colonial currency however is also a pointer to the failure of Indian powers to gauge the threat to their territories from the earliest stage; they also point to the tolerance of Indian traders who saw the currency as a mere tool of trade exchanges with these powers.
Portuguese Lead early issue from Goa mint dated 1777


Indo-Danish 20 Kas issued in 1831 at Tranquebar


Issue by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) with Tamil Inscriptions


Indo-French Copper Doudou issued at Pondicherry with Tamil Inscriptions


Mechanized East India Company Copper Pice for Bombay Presidency issued at Soho Mint, Birmingham 1796

The Balemark of the EIC on reverse with 'cartwheel' design a patented design of Soho Mint used in many English coins



EIC Uniform Currency Silver Rupee with portrait of William IV and EIC's name first issued in 1835 


Indo-French Roupie issued by Bank of Indo-China
Image Courtesy: National Museum, New Delhi and Wikipedia

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Story of Indian Money - XVIII- Princely State Coinage

The Mughal Empire underwent a decline after the death of the last Great Mughal, Aurangzeb 'Alamgir in 1707 because of its overstretch in terms of land mass and incessant succession wars at the death of each emperor between his sons and other royal claimants. The weakening at the centre led to the growth of regional powers of different types like successor states in form of Bengal, Hyderabad and Awadh, resuscitated ancient powers like the Rajputana States, warrior states like the Marathas and Sikhs and more importantly colonial powers like the British, Dutch, Danish, French and the oldest, the Portuguese.
The currency of the regions assumed a sovereign role and soon became independent of the Mughal currency system in a gradual but sure manner. This trend led to a variety of regional currencies which led to difficulties in inter-regional trade caused by inferior types of local currencies.
The regional coins were in many cases issued in the name of the Mughal Emperor who became a titular figure but the right to coin either began to be literally sold 'farmed out' as in the period of the desperate Mughal emperor, Farrukhsiyar or taken as a right since the Emperor could not supervise or resist as in the case of all emperors after Muhammad Shah 'Rangeela' who lost the peacock throne and its attendant prestige to the Persian invader, Nadir Shah in 1739.
The Nadir of Mughal currency was the periods of Shah Alam II and Muhammad Akbar II stretching from 1759 to 1835 when the East India Company began to issue coins in the name of the English monarch formally.
The Princely States were soon goaded into discontinuing the Mughal Emperor's name altogether especially after the Revolt of 1857 which saw a revival of token coins in the name of the founthead of the rebellion, Emperor Bahadur Shah 'Zafar' II who was duly packed off to Rangoon.
However, the decline of the Mughals encouraged the other powers to exercise their right to issue coinage to exhibit their sovereignty and hence the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw an exponential growth in Princely States' Coinage. What began as an imitative currency acquired its own strength through modern innovations of mechanized coin minting which was introduced by the East India Company at its mints in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras Presidencies. The Princely States were offered facilities to mint their own coins or even encouraged to employ English Mint Masters. However, the East India Company and the Imperial Government that followed it after the 1857 Revolt tried to suppress the local mints giving various reasons like the coins gave trouble to local merchants in exchange, encouraged the money lenders to exploit the poor farmers, encouraged counterfeiting of coins, was a loss of revenue to the Government of India or plain that the coins were made by melting the Imperial coinage!
These reasons however did not deter the Native States from continuing their coinage as is apparent by the multitude of coinage of these powers. Additionally, though expected by the Imperial government, several Princely States like Baroda, Hyderabad did not acknowledge the British monarch as their superior though several of their peers took to using titles like Qaiser-i-Hind or Mallika-i-Hind for Victoria the Empress of India to impress the Imperial government of their support to the colonial project. The modernization of Princely State coinage led to improvement in their standards as opposed to their earlier shoddy monitoring of metallic content, design and market exchange value of the coinage. Hence, we come across the most beautiful samples of coinage from states like Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Kutch, Baroda, Gwalior, Travancore and Indore with realistic images of their rulers and state emblems like the Char Minar in the case of Hyderabad.  Even religious images were used in the coinage of smaller states of North India. However, all Princely States' could not survive to the modernization and closed the local mints or restricted  them to ceremonial issues in case of accession or marriages to exercise their nominal power.
Another important aspect of the Princely States' Coinage was the use of English legends along with local languages and script
s on the coins like Tamil in case of Travancore, Urdu in case of Hyderabad and Bahawalpur, Hindi with Devanagari legends in case of Indore, Gwalior and Baroda. Mewar came up with the most innovative Devanagari legend of 'Dosti Landhan (London)' to show its solidarity with the British!
Another important cultural aspect of the Princely States' Coinage was the employment of local calendars or the Hindu Vikrama Samavat dates as earlier only the Islamic Hijri calendar dates were permitted by the Mughals. Some Princes also used the coinages to exhibit important events like the completion of 50 years of rule in the case of Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner
Thus, the Princely States' Coinage represents one of the most colourful chapter in the Numismatic History of the Indian sub-continent which has often been neglected.




 
 
 

 


  

Coin Images (Top to bottom left to right) 1 & 2  Late Mughal Rupee in name of Muhammad Akbar II issued from Delhi (Umbrella symbol may represent a local power
Images 3 & 4 Gold Hun issued by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on his coronation in 1674 with Devanagari legend
Images 5 & 6 Pseudo-Mughal Rupee issued by Marathas with Devanagari 'Shri' as mint marker
Images 7 & 8 Sikh Rupee issued by Maharaja Ranjit Singh with legend praising Guru Gobind Singhji
Images 9 & 10 Machine struck Silver Rupee issued by Baroda State with image of  Maharaja Sayaji Rao III Gaekwad with Devanagari legend/Reverse: State emblem 'Sword' and Vikrama Samavat 1949 (1893 A.D.) in Devanagari
Images 11 & 12 Machine struck Copper denomination issued by Mewar with Devanagari 'Chitrakoot Udaipur/Dosti Landhan V.S. 2000 (1944)
Images 13 & 14 Silver Machine struck Kutchi Kori issued in 1898 in name of Victoria 'Qaisar-i-Hind from Bhuj mint with twin dates of 1898 A.D. (in Persian) and 1954 V.S. in Devanagari
Images 15 & 16 Silver Machine struck Rupee issued by Alwar State with names of Queen Victoria 'Empress' with image/Rev. Persian legend with name of Maharaja Mangal Singh date 1880 A.D. in Persian and English denomination and State name
Images 17& 18 Silver Rupee issued by Hyderabad State with name of Nawab Asaf Jah Nizam ul-Mulk Mir Mahbub Ali Khan (indicated by Persian 'MEEM' in the gate of Char Minar with Hijri dates and reverse circular Mughal 'Sanah Julus' formula
Images Courtesy: National Museum, New Delhi