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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






Sunday, September 1, 2013

Imperial Mughal coinage (1526-1835 A.D.)

The  foundation of the Mughal Empire was by Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur (r.1526-1530) who adopted the central Asian ‘Shahrukhi’ (named after Timur’s son Shahrukh Mirza) as the prototype for his silver currency and minted silver Shahrukhis from Kabul initially and finally from Agra which was captured by him from the last Lodhi Sultan, Ibrahim Lodhi in the first Battle of Panipat on 21 April 1526.
The Shahrukhi standard was adopted by both Humayun and Akbar (in his initial years). The Shahrukhis are thin broad pieces of silver with Kalima and the names of the first four caliphs on obverse and the king’s regnal titles with date and mint place on the reverse. The mint names on the reverse help indicate the extent of each emperor’s actual domains. The Mughal Empire was unsteady in its initial period and Humayun the second Mughal emperor was deposed by Sher Shah Suri in 1540 A.D till he regained his power after 15 years with the Persian ruler, Shah Tahmasp’s help. Humayun’s later issues from Qandahar bear the name of Shah Tahmaspa as a formal acknowledgement along with the Shia Kalima which was a compromise accepted by Humayun to survive at the Shia Safavid Court.
His rival, Sher Shah began his coinage by employing newer weight standards and terms; the silver coin was christened ‘Rupaiya’ a term still current in modern India! He stopped the use of billon and introduced tri-metallic coinage which was adopted by Akbar and the later Mughals. Thus Sher Shah can be considered as a pioneer of Indian monetary system as his system was adopted till the British took charge in 1835 A.D.
Akbar (r.1556-1605) began his reign by adopting the Shahrukhi standard but reformed the Suri standard to issue gold coins called Muhars, silver Rupees and copper coins called Dams; 40 dams were equal to one rupee; 9 silver rupees were equal to 1 Muhar. He also issue heavier Muhars fetching 10 and 12 rupees. His coins were issued in square and polygonal shapes called ‘Mehrabi’ in addition to the circular.  
The coinage of the Mughals can be divided into three phases on the basis of the place of issue and condition of Mughal authority:
v  Wandering or regional phase (1526-1556) Babur and Humayun
v  Classical phase (1556-1707) Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb
v  Decadent phase (1707-1720) late Mughal Emperors beginning with Shah Alam I and his successors ending with the beginning of Muhammad Shah’s reign
v  Quasi-Mughal phase (1720-1835) issuing of ‘Mughal’ coins under regional powers like the erstwhile Nawabs of Awadh, Hyderabad, Rohilkhand, enemy powers like Marathas, Sikhs, Rajputs and European colonial powers like the French, the English, etc.

Babur's Silver Shahrukhi with Kalima on obverse (top image) and name, title of the Emperor along with mint name on reverse (bottom image)



Gold Mihrabi of Akbar from Agra Mint c. A.H. 981 with Kalima on obverse (top image) and Names and titles on reverse (bottom image)

Akbar's Gold Illahi Mohur from Lahore Mint with Illahi credo on obverse (top image) and date Illahi 39 Tir Month on reverse (bottom image)


Jahangir's Libra Gold Mohur issued in A.H. 1033 (1624-25 A.D.) with image of Libra on obverse representing the month 'Dii' in Persian Caledar (top image) and reverse legend with date, mint (Agra) and regnal year 19 (bottom image)


Shah Jahan's Agra Gold Mohur dates A.H. 1042 (1632-33 A.D.)  with Kalima on obverse (top image) and names and title of the Emperor including Sahib-e-Qiran Sani  on reverse (bottom image)


Aurangzeb's Silver Rupee of Itawah mint dated A.H. 1102 (1690--91 A.D.) Regnal Year 34 with poetic legend replacing the Kalima in praise of Aurangzeb on obverse (top image) and formulaic legend containing Mint name, Regnal year, etc. on reverse (bottom image)


Silver Rupee issued by East India Company in the name of Shah Alam II from Murshidabad with Fixed Regnal Year 19 with obverse legend praising Shah Alam II (top image) and date and mint name on reverse (bottom legend)


Akbar initially issued coins with the Kalima till 1585 A.D. but in the thirtieth year of his reign he found the new religious creed ‘Din-i-Illahi’ and issued coins with the Illahi credo ‘Allah hu Akbar Jalla Jalaalah’ (God is great, may His glory be glorified). He also began dating his coins as per his regnal era called Illahi era replacing the earlier Hijri era. He also introduced the practice of issuing coins with Persian verses praising the ruler which was emulated by all his successors.
Akbar’s successor, Jahangir (r.1605-1627) began his reign by issuing commemorative coins with portraits of his father and then issued coins with the image of various zodiac signs to illustrate the date; he resumed the use of Hijri era on his coins. Jahangir also bestowed upon his royal consort, Nur Jahan, the royal privilege of issuing her own coins, making her the first queen after Raziyya Sultan to issue her own coins. Jahangir also issued heavy gold coins as mementos to various dignitaries at his court. One such coin weighing around 1000 tolas (around 12 Kg) has been found making it the heaviest gold coin in the world!  It is currently in the Museum of Islamic Art in Kuwait.
Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658) began his rule by reintroducing the Kalima on his coinage and using the title ‘Sahib-e-Qiran Sani’ (the Second Lord of Fortunate Astronomic Conjunctions) based on an earlier title used by Timur on his coins. Shah Jahan turned to appease the orthodox clergy by ordering the melting of Jehangir’s portrait coins and employed the Kalima almost exclusively on the coinage.
His successor, Aurangzeb (r.1658-1707) forbade the use of Kalima to prevent its defiling as they passed through the hands of men! His coins used poetic verses to praise his rule on the obverse and the reverse had a formula that was copied by all succeeding Mughals including the regnal year of the Emperor along with the name of the minting town.
Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 A.D. began the downward slide of the great Mughal Empire with the emergence of regional and foreign powers who slowly usurped the minting privileges of the Mughal emperor. Farrukhsiyar (r.1713-1719) began the policy of issuing Farmaans for minting rights to interested powers. The East India Company obtained the rights to mint coins in the name of the Mughal Emperor from Bombay in 1717.
The Mughal power further reduced during the reign of Muhammad Shah when Delhi was sacked by the Persian adventurer Nadir Shah in 1739 A.D.  Muhammad Shah’s subordinates like the Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad and Saadat Ali Khan, Nawab of Awadh retreated to their provincial capitals to create their own kingdoms and issue their own coinages. The Mughal power was totally shattered when Shah Alam II (r.1759-1806) lost the Battle of Buxar in 1764 A.D. to the East India Company’s army and became a puppet in the hands of the British when the British entered Delhi in 1803 A.D. The British continued to issue coins in Shah Alam’s name till his death and his successor Muhammad Akbar II (r.1806-1837) forfeited the minting rights in 1835 A.D. when the British East India Rupee became the official currency of the country.
His successor, Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’ (r. 1837-1858) became the central figure of the revolt of 1857 when his coin was issued by the rebel soldiers after crowning him the ‘Emperor of Hindustan’. However, he was finally deposed by the British in September 1857 and exiled to Rangoon.