The Coins of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was one of the most interesting personalities of Medieval Indian history. He ruled from 1324 to 1351 AD. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was interested in Persian poetry, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy and was also noted a philosopher.  He was well-versed in the religious topics and fluent in both Arabic and Persian. From the beginning of his kingship, the countrymen had a huge expectation from him. He took some very bold and strong measures to reform the Sultani administration at the advent of his rule.

He took great steps in revenue reformation. He decided to shift his capital from Delhi to Devagiri, which is now known as Daulatabad. Daulatabad is situated in Central India. Though controversial, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq showed a great sense of pragmatism in this decision. He not only saved his capital from the Mongol raids but also ensured the proper administrative rule in both the northern and southern part of the India.

His rule is also significant for the introduction of token currency.  He understood the importance of currency as a medium of commercial exchange and that is why he took keen interest to circulate gold and silver coins. The gold coin was introduced as Dinar. Tughlaq’s silver coin was named Adl.  However, it was difficult to maintain the supply of gold and silver coins on a large scale. So, Tughlaq replaced those coins and started the circulation of copper and brass coins as the token currency which had the same value of gold or silver coins in 1330-32 CE. He was well aware that the state had to act as a responsible guarantor for the token money by ensuring high degree of security which will prevent others from making fake currencies.

But the administrators failed in maintaining the security measures. These coins totally lacked the artistic design and perfection in finishing and even the administrators of the king took no measure to keep the design secured and protected.  In fact, the coins just had some inscriptions and no royal seals. These loopholes make them easier to copy. Thus, ordinary people easily copied the design and started making coins in their house. Soon the entire market was flooding with the fake coins. The ordinary people started to pay the state revenue with their home made coins and this caused a great problem for the state treasury. Within a very short period of time the state treasury was full of fake coins. Historians have argued that the value of the coins decreased for such wholesale forgery and it became worthless like the stones.

As a result, the trade and commercial activities were heavily disrupted. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was forced to take back all the token currency. He had to exchange them with old gold or silver coins. Thousands of people exchanged their copper coins with silver tankas or gold dinars and the state treasury faced a huge loss. However, the detected forged coins were not exchanged. In 1333 CE, the use of the token coins was stopped. Ibn Batuta, the famous medieval traveler who came to Delhi in 1334 CE wrote an account of contemporary India which had no mention of these token currencies.

Muhammad became very much unpopular among his subjects for his failed administrative reform policies. Soon one by one his provinces started to revolt. He was not able to suppress all those revolts; thus, creating much chaos and confusion everywhere. His failed and ruthless experiments with government policies made him famous in the history textbooks as the “Mad Sultan” of India.

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