Interesting Facts about Ancient Roman Coins

The Roman Empire lasted over a period of about five centuries. Besides keeping back a number of historic wars and other important political events, Rome experienced great economic prosperity under various Emperors. This is evident from the variety of coins they issued throughout the lifespan of the Empire. We have gathered some important facts about the coins of Ancient Rome which you should know.

  1. Roman coins were issued in all the three principal metals- bronze, gold and silver.
  2. These coins were of various sizes. These coins were valued on the basis of their weight. The earliest of the Roman coins discovered was made of bronze and it was issued around 269 BC.
  3. These coins were minted in over 40 different cities. The name of the mint in Rome was Juno Monet and it is from here, that the term ‘money’ came into being.
  4. Similarly, the term ‘coin’ came from the word ‘consecratio’ which was issued by the Emperor in order to pay homage or tribute to their deceased family members.
  5. The ancient Roman gold coins were called Aurei which contained about 95% of pure gold. The silver coins were called Denarius, which consisted of 85% silver.
  6. The copper coins were known as As which was stamped on one side carrying the image of the beak of a ship. Two types of silver coins were Denarius Sestertius and Denarius Victoriatus. Some other notable silver coins were Smebella, Teruncius and Libella. Libella has the same value as that of the As. The principal gold coin was Aureus Denarius.
  7. Roman coins bear the name of the issuing emperor. We find a lot of emperors issuing coins in their names. Some of the famous emperors were Constantine, Marcus Antonius, Septimius Severus. Some of the Roman coins also included women in the impressions. These were of Antonia, Valeria Messalina, Cleopatra Selene and also many of the daughters of the ancient Roman leaders.
  8. At first, the portraits of Pagan Gods and Goddesses were used by the Romans in their coins. This idea was copied from the Greeks. Later on, they started to put impressions of buildings on the coins. Symbols like stars and eagles were also used in the coins. In order to make an emperor popular, the images of the kings were also used in the coins.
  9. Rome was one of the most powerful political as well as economic powers of the ancient world. Romans had trading connections with ancient India, Iran, Mediterranean world and northern Africa. Thus, in the archaeological excavations a large number of Roman coins have been unearthed from various parts of the aforementioned areas.
  10. The ancient Roman coins are prized possessions for the modern collectors. Thus, a large number of forged coins are circulated in the market. You can only differentiate between a fake and real ancient Roman coin with the help of a test kit. Some of the important fake symbols of the coins include incorrect marks of the mint, wrong lettering on the coins and variation on the thickness in the coins. You can also detect the fake coins from the original one collected from a reliable source.

Interesting Facts about the British Pound

The pound sterling, as is well known, is the currency of the United Kingdom which covers the area of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. At present, it is the oldest existing currency in the world. The heyday of the British pound was during the 19th century and the early-20th century. With the gradual fall of the British Empire and the rise of the United States of America and its currency US$, the importance of the British pound declined too in the international market. However, the British economy is still one of the largest in the world and pound sterling is a highly valued currency. We have gathered some interesting facts about the British currency which you should know.

  1. The symbol £ is used to denote the pound sterling. The symbol came from the Latin alphabet ‘L’ which stands for Libra- the Latin for pound.
  2. Apart from the United Kingdom, several overseas territories of Britain also used the GBP (£). This included but not limited to Isle of Man, Jersey, and Bailiwicks of Guernsey.
  3. Before 1971, the pound sterling was not a decimalized currency system.
  4. Before 1971, £ 1 was divided into 20 shillings and it was again divided into 12 pennies. Well, this was not the end. A penny was further divided into 4 farthings. The worth of a farthing was so little that it became practically obsolete in 1961.
  5. The pound sterling system was reformed and decimalized on 15th February, 1971. £ 1 was divided into 100 pence. As a result of this most of the old coins were demonetized and ceased to be legal tenders. It also simplified the currency system.
  6. The pound banknotes are printed under the supervision of several authorities. In England, the Bank of England; in Scotland the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Bank of Scotland, and the Clydesdale Bank issue the banknotes. The Bank of England notes are also used in the Wales.
  7. The largely circulated pound sterling notes are of denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50, and £100.
  8. However, there are also Giants and Titans. These are the £1 million pound and £100 million pound notes respectively. They are apparently not for the use of the ordinary masses. The Giants and Titans are held by the note issuing banks of Scotland and Northern Ireland as a guarantee for the notes they issued in pound sterling currency.
  9. The front of the banknotes carries a portrait of the reigning monarch. The back of the notes also carry the images of famous British personalities from the past. So far many famous Britons have adorned the back of the pound sterling notes including William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Arthur Wellesley, Michael Faraday, Charles Dickens, etc.
  10. The pound sterling coins come in several denominations such as 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, and £2.
  11. On several occasions commemorative coins have been issued. A special commemorative 25p coin was issued in 1981 to celebrate the wedding ceremony of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

The Coins of Sher Shah Suri

Jahiruddin Babur defeated the last of the Sultans of Delhi in the Battle of Panipat I in 1526 CE and founded the rule of the Moguls in India. But their position in India was precarious owing to the strong presence of different other video porno all over India including the Rajputs and the Afghans of Bihar. Sher Shah Suri, one such warlord of Afghan descent from Bihar, proved to be the most formidable of them. He defeated Humayun, the Mogul emperor, in 1540 CE and established the rule of the Sur dynasty in Delhi. Sher Shah is regarded as one of the most talented rulers in the history of India. The impact of his administrative, economic, and military reforms were so far reaching that they were imitated even by the Moguls who restored their rule in Delhi after the untimely death of Sher Shah in 1545 CE.

Sher Shah was a petty warlord before he ascended to the throne of Delhi. But even in his limited capacity, he issued some silver and copper coins. However, they are not of much significance.

The important phase started when he occupied the throne of Delhi after defeating Humayun in several battles. Sher Shah issued coins in silver and copper. The silver coins were known as Rupiya which is still used in India as a general term for money. The copper coins in which the large numbers of transactions were made by the masses were known as Paisa. The term Paisa is also used in present day India as a term for money of lower denominations. However, issues in gold are not yet known from the reign of the Sur rulers.

The Rupiya of Sher Shah can be used as a rich source of historical facts. The obverse of these silver coins is inscribed with the Islamic Kalima- La ilah-il-illah Muhammad ur Rasool Allah (meaning There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah). The obverse also carried the name of the first four holy Khalifas- Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, and Ali. These inscriptions showed the devotion of the Sur rulers to the cause of Islam. But, by no means, they were bigots. The tolerant nature of the rule of the Sur rulers is evident from various other facts. The obverse of the coins is marked by the full name of the ruler Farid ud Dunia wa din abu al-Muzaffar Sher Shah Sultan, the pious wish “Khald Allah Mulk” (meaning may Allah perpetuate his kingdom), the name of the issuing mint and the year of issue. Some of the Rupiya coins are also marked by a Devanagari inscription which read as follows- Sri SerSahi, indicating them as issues of Sher Shah. Mints were situated all over the realm. Some of the major mints issuing Rupiya coins were Chunar, Agra, Panduah, Delhi, Bhakkar, Kanauj, and Gwalior. Besides these mints, coins were also issued from the camp mints of the Emperor. These issues carried the word- Jahanpanah instead of the name of the issuing mint. The silver coins weigh around 180 grains and became the standard weight throughout most of India and continued to be the standard under later Mughal rulers.

The copper coins or the Paisa of Sher Shah were issued from different mints such as Gwalior, Narnol, Kalpi, Delhi, Hissar, Chunar, etc. The weight standard of the copper coins was, however, not uniform. Some of the Paisa coins issued from Narnol mint weigh around 328-9 grains while the issues from Chunar weigh 304 grains. Most of the copper coins carried the following inscription on obverse- fi ahad al-amir al-hami which means “in the time of commander of the faithful, the protector of the Religion”. The reverse carried the name of the ruler, the issuing year and the name of the mint.

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 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.

The Kushana Coins

The Kushanas established their rule over a vast area of northern India and central Asia during the 1st century C.E. Many significant rulers of early India belonged to this dynasty including Kujula Kadphises, Kanishka, etc. The Kushanas originally belonged to the Yu-Chih tribe. They took the advantage of political instability in the region of northern India during the 1st century C.E. and established their dominance. The empire of the Kushanas experienced much prosperity due to the trading activities of the merchants. They carried out their trade mainly in silk with the Roman Empire. Their commercial activities generated huge amount of wealth; part of which find its way into the Kushana treasury. The prosperity of the Kushana Empire is well reflected in their coins.

The first two Kushana kings, Kujula and Vima issued gold coins. Archaeologists and Numismatists have also found their copper coins. The Kushana coins are excellent examples of artistic excellence and sophistication. The coins were die-struck and produced in large numbers to facilitate growing trade and commerce. They resembled a great similarity to the earlier Indo-Greek coins as these coins also depicted the portrait of the issuing monarch in a great detail. The Kushanas also closely followed the Indo-Greek weight standard in minting their coins. Some of the coins of Vima Kadphises were minted following the Roman aureus. The early gold coins of the Kushanas weigh around 8 gm. We have also some specimens of silver coins issued by Vima. The silver coins were mainly circulated in the area of lower Indus region.

Another main characteristic of the Kushana coins are the depiction of various deities on the reverse of the coins. Various Greek, Iranian, Bactrian and Indian deities were featured in the Kushana coins. We found the Indo-Iranian deities like Mazda, Mao, Athsho, etc. inscribed on the coins of the Kushanas. This is significant because it showed the syncretism nurtured by the Kushana rulers.

Another significant example of the syncretism of the Kushanas is evident from their issue of bilingual coins. The obverse of the coins carries Greek inscriptions and the reverse Kharosthi inscriptions using the Prakrit language which was the lingua franca of northern India during the early centuries of Christian era.

The greatest of the Kushana rulers is Kanishka I. He expanded the Kushana rule to many far flung areas of central and eastern India. He also reformed the currency system and issued new variety of coins. The martial character of the king is well depicted in the coins. He can be seen carrying a spear in his left hand in many of the coins. The Greek and Indian gods and goddesses continued to feature in the Kushana coins. The prominence of the Indian god Shiva in the coins of Kanishka and later Kushanas is regarded by numismatists as a proof of their conversion to Saivism in later days. Buddhism also had a profound effect on the Kushanas. It is well documented in the archaeological remains. Buddha is also represented in various forms in their coins. Buddha is regarded as Boddo and Sakamano Boddo in these coins. These corroborate the literary texts which described the great patronage provided by Kanishka to Buddhism. Kanishka is still much revered as one of the greatest patrons of Buddhism. However, the policies of issuing bilingual coins were discontinued in favor of Greek or Bactrian legends.

The later Kushana rulers such as Vasudeva, Huvishka, etc. continued to issue highly sophisticated gold coins. The portrait of Huvishka in the coins is highly appreciated for its artistic excellence and exact depiction of the.

Due to the abundance of the gold coins of the Kushanas, they are considered as the worthy predecessors of the Guptas by some scholars.

Shivrai: Maratha Copper Coins

The Marathas were a loose group of warrior people residing in the western India. They became politically powerful in the late 17th century under the leadership of Shivaji. Throughout the 18th century, they increased their power at the expense of the Mughals. By the end of the 18th century, they were the most powerful people in the whole of the Indian subcontinent. It was only the vast resources and the superior military forces of the English East India Company which was successful in subduing the Marathas.

The Maratha economy was mainly agrarian. The Maratha coins also lacked high degree of sophistication. The various Maratha kingdoms never issued a uniform series of coin. The currency system was very loosely controlled by the state. The state restrained its duty to the collection of revenues and never beyond it. In this field, the Marathas were much inferior to their contemporary adversaries such as the Mughals or the English who were always keen to maintain proper currency system across the empire.

Even in some cases, the Marathas used the coins issued by the Mughals. During the 18th century, the most common coin in use across the Maratha territory was actually a Mughal currency- the silver Sicca.

However, a notable exception in this field is Shivrai. Shivrai is a copper coin of very low value. It was used extensively by the common folks across western India. The earliest examples of Shivrai came from the reign of Shivaji. It was continued to be used by the people up to late-19th century. Even the English East India Company who became the dominant political force after the Third Anglo-Maratha wars continued to issue Shivrai coins.

The Shivrai coins were mainly round in shape. The obverse of the coins carried the inscription ‘Sri Raja Shiv’ in Devanagari script. The reverse also carried a devanagari inscription- Chhatrapati in honor of the reigning Maratha monarch. The weight of these coins was not uniform. They were valued at 1/74th to 1/79th of a Rupee-the standard unit of currency in the Indian subcontinent.

In 1674, Shivaji’s coronation took place. To assert his rule as a sovereign ruler he minted coins in his own name. The gold coins were known as Shivrai Hon. But they were few in number. Although, Shivrai- the copper coins of low value- were minted in large number for the convenience of the common folk.

After the reign of Shivaji came to an end with his death in 1880, Maratha rule became weak for the next forty years. But the Marathas regained their political prominence under the Peshwas from 1720 onwards. With that we encountered a new series of Maratha copper coins. These new Shivrai coins issued under the Peshwa rule came to be known as Dudandi Shivrai. These new coins, too, carried those same inscriptions in the Devanagari script.

The next series of Shivrai coins were minted when English East India Company subdued the power of the Marathas during the first quarter of the 19th century. These fresh coins were circulated by the Company authority. The Company Shivrai coins carried some additional features. The year of minting in the Fasli era was inscribed on those coins.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the Shivrai coins increasingly became obsolete. They were replaced by newly circulated Company coins whose value was determined as 1/64th of a Rupee. The standard procedure of dividing the Rupee into 64 divisions continued until independent Indian government introduced the decimal system in 1957.

The numismatic society of India

The Indian sub-continent has a long history of trade, commerce and financial activities. Thus, coins and bank notes are very important part of Indian public life from ancient times. This is evident from the archaeological remains of ancient civilizations and cities. As early as in 1790, some Roman coins were discovered in India. The Asiatic Society of Bengal which was situated in Calcutta started to study those coins. From then on, to study the ancient coins in a scientific manner and prepare information for the professional historians, there is a very well organized and learned body of numismatists in India. However, with the expansion of their activities and findings they felt the need of a centralized organization. To fulfil this need they established the Numismatic Society of India on 28th of December, 1910.

There were only six members at the time of the Society’s establishment. It was established in the north Indian town of Allahabad. Among the six founding members, five were British and only one, Framji Thanawala was an Indian Parsi. The then Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Sir John Stanley was its first elected president. R.B.Whitehead took the charge of the secretary and treasurer of the society. The membership fee was decided to be Rs. 5.

The Numismatic Society of India emerged from a coin conference. The conference was held at the house of either Nelson Wright or R. Burn. They decided to form the society to encourage the hobby and scientific study of coins. The society was a spectacular success among the scholars and the enthusiasts. Within one year, the membership of the society increased to 46. This is one of the largest scholarly communities in India today with more than 2000 individual life members and 300 annual members. More than 150 Institutes and Centers of higher learning are also its members.

The organizational structure of the Society has also seen some change over time. In 1947, the post of President was made honorary and the administrative charges were assigned under the newly created post of Chairman. Many eminent historians and scholars have adorned the posts of the society including A.S.Altekar and Prayag Dayal.

The location of the society also changed several times. It found its first permanent office in the premises of the State Museum situated in Lucknow. But later it shifted to the Banaras Hindu University Campus in Varanasi. In 1966, with the assistance from the Central Government of India and State government of Uttar Pradesh, the Society builds its own building. The members of the Society, too, actively contributed in this initiative to have a building of their own. Since then, the Society is housed inside the campus of Banaras Hindu University campus.

The Society maintained a large library of scholarly books and journals in its building. There is also a museum in the building which preserves the old coins found in India and the adjacent countries. 

The scholarly activities of the Society claimed to be mentioned. They supervised the collection and preservation of old coins all over India. The Society also organized annual conferences where scholars came from all over India and even abroad to discuss their findings and new technologies in the field of numismatics. More than 90 such conferences had been taken place till date. The Society also published scholarly books, journals and monographs on numismatics. The most respected and famous journal on India- Journal of the Numismatic Society of India- is regularly published by the Society since 1939. In this way, the Numismatic Society of India upheld the scientific and scholarly study of coins in India in a very good manner.

The coins of Shah Jahan

Shihabuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan Badshah Gazi was the fifth Mughal ruler. He ruled from 1628 C.E. to 1658 C.E. The reign of Shah Jahan is considered by the historians as the most glorious period of the Mughal rule in India. Shah jahan was a great admirer of artistic excellence. The world famous monument Taj Mahal was a creation of this emperor. But at the same time he was a devout Muslim. So, he was against any form of idolatry. Thus, in his we see a great amount of artistic work without depicting any living being which was prevalent in the coins issued by his father and predecessor Jahangir.

After his coronation as the Mughal Badshah, Shah Jahan immediately banned the Zodiac coins issued by Jahangir. The Zodiac coin carried figures of humans as well as animals which was considered by Shah Jahan as un-Islamic.  He also announced death penalty for those found using these coins. All the Zodiac coins were brought from the market and melted. After this, Shah Jahan issued new coins in his name. In course of time, the Zodiac coins issued by Jahangir became one of the rarest coins of India and a much valued possession of the modern numismatists in India.

The new coins issued by Shah Jahan were no less elegant. Coins were issued in gold, silver and copper as well. They were in various shapes such as round, square, and octagonal. Kalima or Islamic religious messages were introduced in the inscriptions of the coins in accordance with the orthodox Islamic belief of the emperor. The Kalimas were inscribed on the obverse. The name of the issuing mint was also inscribed on the obverse. Some famous places where Mughal mints were situated were Agra, Thatta, Surat, etc. The reverse carried the name and the full title of the emperor. The coins were marked with the Hijri date on the obverse which was prevalent among the Islamic dynasties. Apart from the regular coins of gold, silver and copper; Shah Jahan issued special silver coins called Nisar to present them to his favorites and notables. The Nisar can be regarded more as a medallion than a proper coin but it was designed and regarded as a coin.

As idolatry was prohibited according to the religion, the emperor took the refuge of calligraphy to design his coins. The religious messages, the name and title of the emperor- all were inscribed on the small space of the coin in a very beautiful manner and with great precision. The excellence of Persian calligraphy mesmerized the audiences till date.

However, the end of Shah Jahan’s reign was not a happy one. After Shah Jahan fell ill, his four sons engaged in a fratricidal civil war for the throne. Aurangzeb Alamgir emerged victorious in this struggle. He promptly imprisoned his father and declared himself the new emperor. He also started issuing coins in his name as the mark of a sovereign emperor. Aurangzeb was a more orthodox Muslim than his father. The Islamic orthodoxy of Aurangzeb is a different story need not to be narrated here in detail. What is important for us is the story of his redesigning of the Mughal coins according to a more orthodox Islamic fashion. He removed the Kalima from his coins. He feared that whenever such a coin bearing the kalmia fell in the hand of a non-Muslim or Kafir it became polluted which is not desirable in Islam. Apart from this, his coins were more or less the of his father’s.