The Coins of Menander

Menander was a king of the Indo-Greek line who ruled in the north western India during the Mid-2nd century BCE. King Menander is the most famous of the Indo-Greek kings due to a number of reasons although the exact date of his reign and realm could not be ascertained. First and foremost among them is various stories about his patronage of Buddhism recorded in the various Buddhist religious books. One such famous book is Milindapanha which is actually a conversation between the king and the Buddhist sage Nagasena about different philosophical problems. Apart from the literary sources, Menander is also famous for his coins which are found in large numbers in various parts of northern and western India.

Menander was quite popular among his subjects as has been evidenced by the writings of several contemporary chroniclers including Plutarch. His reign saw the growing trade between India and Europe via west Asia. To facilitate trade and commerce Menander issued a large number of coins. These coins were struck in the well established Indo-Greek fashion with elaborate details. Menander was also influenced by the Indian tradition and accommodated the Indian cultural and social elements in his coins. The silver coins of Menander were known as Drachms.

The coins of Menander carried legends in both Greek and Kharosthi. The legends on his coins read the following: ‘Maharaja Tratarasa Menadrasa’. The earlier silver coins of Menander carried a portrait of goddess Athena on the obverse and the figure of an owl on the reverse.

In the later issues of Menander, the coins also carried the portrait of the king on the obverse. The reverse of these later coins carried the figure of Athena Alkidemos throwing a thunderbolt. After this, Athena Alkidemos became the royal standard emblem of several other Indo-Greek kings and rulers.

These above mentioned silver coins of Menander were very light weight. They weigh a little more than 1 gram to a little less than 2.5 gram.

Another series of Menander’s coins were struck in Attic weight standard carrying the portrait of King Menander wearing a helmet and depicting him as throwing a spear in the obverse. The reverse depicted the portrait of goddess Athena. The legend of these coins read ‘Of King Menander, the Saviour’. These coins weighed 13.03 gram each. Probably, these coins were special issues to mark some significant event during the King’s reign. But in our present state of historical knowledge it is not possible to find out the exact reasons or events for the issue of these coins.

There were also a number of bronze coins recovered of Menander. These Bronze coins were of relatively inferior value. But they are important for different reason. These bronze coins of Menander carried the images of several deities of both Greek and Indian pantheon.

The coins of Menander are a rich source of Indian socio-economic as well as political history. The number of Menander’s coins found was greater than any other Indo-Greek rulers. They have been found in widely varied geographical regions such as modern day Afghanistan, Indian state of Kashmir, Punjab, and Gujarat. Even centuries after the conclusion of Menander’s reign, his coins were in much use among the traders of Gujarat. This is evident from the narrative of the ancient text, ‘Periplus of the Erythraean Sea’ where the unknown author of the videos porno stated that coins of Menander were largely used in the trading activities in the great port of Barigaza or modern day Broach situated in the Gujarat coast by the traders hailing from different regions.

The Early Issues of Jahangir

Nuruddin Jahangir, the son of Akbar, was the fourth Mughal Emperor. Akbar died in the year 1605 CE after a long and glorious rule of almost half a century. Jahangir was the worthy successor of Akbar. His reign was also marked by prosperity and thriving economy. One the one hand, agriculture was experiencing one of the most glorious periods. On the other hand, the maritime trade and commerce with European countries was flourishing. The Portuguese, the British, and the Dutch- all were competing with each other to gain more profit from the Indian trade. The ruling Mughal elite class was the main beneficiary of this prosperous economic condition. The flourishing state of the economy is well reflected in the coins of the successive Mughal rulers from Akbar to Aurangzeb. Jahangir’s reign and his issues of coins are also testimonies of this phenomenon.

The coins issued after the sixth regnal year of Jahangir were somewhat different in appearance and thus, we will limit our discussion here to the early issues of Jahangir.

Jahangir’s formal coronation took place some months after the death of Akbar in the year 1606. Between the death of Akbar and the coronation of Jahangir, the mint of Agra continued to issue gold coins in the name of Akbar and marking his regnal year. But at the same time these coins also announced the coming of a new Emperor by inscribing the following words, “By the stamp of Emperor Akbar gold becomes bright; this gold is still brighter with the name of the king Nur, i.e., Nuruddin Jahangir”. Some of these gold coins also carry the portrait of the late Emperor Akbar. However, the silver and bronze coins of this period were issued under the name of Prince Salim, i.e., the new Emperor Jahangir’s actual name.

After the coronation ceremony, Jahangir took some major steps in reforming the Mughal monetary system. The weight of both the gold and silver coins was increased. The new weight of a gold coin became 202 grains and new silver coins weighed 212 grains. In his 4th regnal year, the weight of the coins was again increased. This time the increase was by 5 percent. However, the masses face immense problems in using these heavyweight coins in daily transactions. So, the emperor ordered the devaluation of the coins in his 6th regnal year. The devalued gold coins weighed 170 grains and silver coins 178 grains. This weight standard was maintained throughout the reign of Jahangir.

The coins of Jahangir especially the gold and silver ones are remarkable for their artistic value and sophistication besides their monetary value. Amir-ul-Umra Sharif Khan, a courtier of Jahangir, composed a couplet to be inscribed on the coins. The couplet is in Persian and the English translation read thus, “May the face of money shine with the hue of the sun and the moon. Shah Nuruddin Jahangir, the son of Akbar Badshah”. However, all the coins did not carry this inscription and some simply carry the name of the Badshah on the obverse and the Islamic Kalima on the reverse. The year of the issue was also inscribed on the coins- both in the Hijri era and the regnal year of Jahangir.

Unlike Akbar, the coins of Jahangir were issued from a fewer places. The major mints were all situated in the great Mughal cities- Agra, Delhi, Ajmer, Burhanpur, Ahmadabad, etc. These major mints issued coins of all three metals i.e. in gold, silver, and bronze. There were other smaller mints too in places such as Patna, Lahore, Thatta, Allahabad, Surat, etc. These mints issued coins in either of the three metals.

The later issues of Jahangir

Nuruddin Jahangir, the fourth Mughal Emperor’s reign (1605-27 CE) is remarkable in the history of India as a glorious period in the fields of art and culture, economy and trade, as well as political matters. He was the worthy successor of the Great Mughal Akbar as well as the able predecessor of another great Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal. The economic prosperity during the reign of Jahangir is well evident from the coins he issued. They are one of the best examples of Indian numismatics in terms of sophistication, artistic design and value.

The coins issued by Jahangir before the sixth regnal year is generally considered as his early issues. Here we will concentrate on his later issues, i.e., coins issued after the sixth year of his reign to the end of his reign.

Jahangir continued to issue gold, silver, and bronze coins. The obverse of the coins carries the inscription- Nuruddin Jahangir Shah Akbar Shah. The reverse is marked by the name of the issuing mint, the name of the Persian month, the regnal year of the Emperor and the year in the Hijri era. Though there were little variations over the year and some special issues, these remained the main issues of Jahangir until his 19th regnal year. The special coins included a gold coin issued in a limited number between sixth and ninth regnal years carrying the portrait of the Emperor on the obverse. Some of these coins had a lion inscribed on the obverse. The Emperor is seen as either holding a cup or a rose.

The thirteenth regnal year of Jahangir is remarkable for the issue of the Zodiac coins. Jahangir replaced the name of the Persian months with the Zodiac signs denoting that particular month according to the Persian tradition. These coins are specially revered for their artistic execution.

Jahangir married a beautiful woman, Mehr-un-Nissa in 1611. The new queen is known as Nur Jahan or the light of the world in the Indian history. She is one of the best known figures among the Mughal elites. Nur Jahan, owing to her personality, gradually became the dominant figure in the royal court. She started influencing the state polities to a large extent. After some years of their marriage, the realm was virtually under the control of Nur Jahan. Jahangir became totally dependent on the Empress. And this fact is marked in the field of numismatic too.

By the nineteenth regnal year of Jahangir, there were coins issued which carried the following inscription in Persian-

“Zi Hukm Shah Jahangir zewar

Ba-nam Nurjahan Badshah Begum zar.”

The meaning of this couplet is, By order of Shah Jahangir gold attained a hundred beauties when the name of Nurjahan Badshah Begum was placed on it. This was completely an unprecedented event in the history of the Mughals; and, obviously a rare moment in the history of overtly male dominated Turko-Islamic stae polity. These coins in the name of the Empress were issued from the mints situated all over the Indian subcontinent including Lahore, Allahabad, Ahmadabad, Patna, Surat, Kashmir, Akbarnagar, and Agra.

Apart from the gold coins, there were also silver and bronze coins issued under the reign of Jahangir. They were mainly used by the common people for day to day transactions of small scale. They were relatively simple in style. They carried the name of the issuing Emperor on the obverse and the name of the issuing mint and the year on the reverse.