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.

15 Interesting facts about Indian coins

Coins are integral part of our economic life. They are used in large numbers even in this age of increasing plastic money. Very few among us look at them carefully but the fact is that each and every coin has a separate tale to tell. We have gathered here some interesting facts about the Indian coins.

  • The earliest reference of coins in the Indian context can be found in the Vedas. Nishka was the term used for coins of metals.
  • Cowrie shells were used as medium of economic transactions for a long period of time by a large number of people in ancient India.
  • The reign of Gupta dynasty (4th century CE- mid 6th century CE) is considered as the golden age of Indian coinage due to the numerous findings of gold coins from that era.
  • Sher Shah Suri, a 16th century ruler of Afghan lineage introduced the Rupee. It was a silver currency.  At that moment one rupee was equal to four coins made of copper. The Indian currency is still called Rupee.
  • Rupya was made of silver which weighed almost 11.34 grams at that period. Even during the rule of British emperor the silver coins were circulated in large numbers in the Indian market.
  • In the year of 1862, many new coins were introduced in the Indian market which had depicted Queen Victoria’s image and name on the coin. Queen Victoria was the new Empress of India after the end of East India Company’s rule in 1858.
  • After the independence of India the first coin was issued in the year of 1950. The Government of India removed every sign of British colonial legacy from the coin except the English language and the Roman script.
  • In the year of 1938, Reserve Bank of India first issued the paper currency notes. In fact now-a-days, RBI is the only one who manages all of the currency. It is the Indian equivalent of the Federal Reserve of US.
  • In the year of 1957, the Indian coin got decimalized. In this system the rupee was divided into 100 naya paisa (or new). At 1964, the word ‘naya’ concept was dropped as by that time naya paisas had already grew old.
  • At the time of independence, there was the concept of annas in the Indian currency system. 16 annas were equal to one rupee. The annas were further divided into 12 pies or 4 paisas. Even there were ½ or ¼ paisas as well.
  • After independence, copper-nickel alloy was used to make coins. After that in 1964 aluminum was brought there to make coins. Even the coins made of stainless steel and nickel were introduced after 1988.
  • D. Udaya Kumar introduced the symbol of Indian rupees in the year of 2010. While creating the symbol, the Latin ‘R’ and the Devanagari symbol of ‘Ra’ was used shortly. Even the symbols were given two lines situated parallel to represent the national flag of India.
  • To commemorate special occasions RBI occasionally issued coins of special denomination such as 10, 50, 100 or even 1000. These are the special sets for collectors.
  • The first set of commemorative coins was issued in 1964 in honor of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of the Indian Republic.
  • Indian 5 Rupee coins were occasionally smuggled into Bangladesh. They were melted and used to make razors. This business greatly devalued the coins and harms the economy. Thus, the government had made it illegal to melt coins or destruction of currency notes.

Interesting facts and news about coins and numismatics

Gold and Switzerland
Even for the Egyptians 4000 years ago gold was a symbol of seignory representation. But the Egyptians considered gold also as a symbol of the sun and awarded to it healing and lifegiving power.
«Faszination Gold» is the name of the issue 2000/1 of the magazine «Kunst + Architektur» (that is «Art + Architecture») in Switzerland ( To this magazine you may refer, if you want to know how the Swiss goldwatch has become a status symbol or how rich in gold the Helvetians were. Furthermore it is the question about how the diplomatic effect of English gold was or how the French revolution distributed gold for interior decoration. As well you may read about the healing effect the alchemists accredit to the «aurum potabile», the so-called drinkable gold.

A Case for Brussels?
A report of an archaeological find in Pattensen in the county of Hanover, Germany was covered in the April edition of the magazine Archäologie in Deutschland (Archaeology in Germany): A Roman gold coin was found at a gravesite with the image of the Emperor Valentinian II of Trier (383-392 AD), dating from the time of the migration of the peoples. Because the reverse was undoubtedly struck with a circular harrow, the archaeologists could deduce that the gold coin was actually made of a silver alloy. The worthless counterfeit coin however, showed a remarkable level of forgery excellence. This coin was most probably made by a professional counterfeiter working closely with the imperial mint of Trier (France). Perhaps the Germanic soldiers in service to the Roman rulers were paid with counterfeit money.
Certainly there is no fear of the development of diplomatic tension between Rome and Berlin as a result of this Roman counterfeit money. However, the contemporary critic must pose this question: Just what will we undergo with the minting of the Euro? Brussels will need not only politicians with the gift of gab, but learned and alert technical advisors!
The Treasure Island of the Vikings
Scientific American Discovering Archaeology reports in the September/October, 2000 edition of a new archaeological find of a large hoard of silver coins on the island of Gotland, Sweden.
During the time of the Vikings (8th century AD) this largest island of the Baltic Sea was a significant trade location. Its inhabitants grew affluent over the centuries and buried their hoards in times of emergency. In 1999, archaeologists found a silver hoard weighing 70 kilograms making it the largest silver hoard found up until today. The Gotland coin hoard contains in all, 1,400,000 coins, 70,000 alone originating from Europe (England, Germany, Denmark and Sweden). The other 70,000 coins originated from the Arabian world and prove the long trade routes that the businessmen covered.
The Vikings are known for their grand metal craftwork. Silver was for them the most popular metal used for jewellery – astounding when one realizes that not even one silver mine exists in all of Scandinavia. Silver must have been imported. Acquiring silver coins in order to melt them down to create a new form must have been one of the means of getting the rare and popular metal to the north.
The northern treasure island of Gotland has relinquished many a coin and silver hoard over time. Why these hoards were buried still remains a dark secret.
During the excavation of a fountain vault of the Roman city of Augusta Raurica in Augst, Switzerland, archaeologists came upon an obvious ancient crime scene. The archaeologists found the skeletons of five murdered people along with the indication of counterfeit coins. The excavators came upon the four-meter high subterranean domed room with an artesian well in 1998. The domed construction was fully excavated in 1999. Indications of a violent blow was found on one of the bones. Another surprising find for the archaeologists was the some 6000 terracotta forms in which third century coins were molded: officially authorized or a sign of criminality?
History lives on because man’s imagination is immortal.

Gold Coins and Psychology
«If you bought gold – bars or coins – you have to be able to forget the price you paid.»
This drastic quote coming from a disappointed investor indicates the amount of money invested in gold coins. After a few short upward curves for the price of an ounce of pure gold, to which the price of gold coins closely follows, the price went downwards from a yearly average in 1980 of 700 $ US to the current 280 $ US. Out of the many reasons why, the strongest is the constant threat of the selling off of gold by the central banks. Those who insist on buying gold coins must collect for their ideal worth, timeless beauty and have knowledge of its historical value. In the sense of investing, «worthless» gold coins will gain in individual value by the pure joy of collecting beauty.

Even Money has its Fate
«Banknotes and coins with a value of 16.2 million Deutsch marks have burned, been damaged, discolored or gone rotten in forgotten piggybanks in Germany last year» as reported by the Bundesverband Deutscher Banken (Federal Association of German Banks). The damaged money is certainly not automatically worthless. The Deutsche Bundesbank as a rule will replace the money fast and without cost only on the condition that the owner presents more than half of the banknote or has proof that more than half of the note had been destroyed.
Often the neighborhood bank can help by replacing a slightly damaged note when the note was, say, washed in the washing machine. However, serious damage should be brought to the attention of the state-owned Central Banks. There they have machines that verify its authenticity and worth. Qualified technicians can then further examine the notes and decide the claim.
In special cases, like when only ashes remain after a fire, they should be sent to the department of the directorate of the Central Bank in Frankfurt where thirty experts examine the remains. Through the wonders of modern technology they are often able to determine just how much money they’re dealing with and if it is genuine. Up to 20,000 times a year the Bundesbank experts are called on to help.
Clearance Sale on Current Coins
Many of the estimated 500,000 coin collectors in Germany have specialized in current coins: these are coins that are currently in circulation. Some speculate that the course will go «through the roof because this is the end». For the first time in the history of coin collecting, it’s been known four years in advance when the coins will be taken out of circulation. Other monetary standards were put through in a far shorter time period. Collectors are able to complete an incomplete series – but at the same time this pushes the price for coins of smaller editions way up. Some secretive hobby-archaeologists will probably find themselves searching solemnly through their address books for acquaintances whose piggybanks they’d be allowed to take a peek in.
However, those whose goal is collecting for speculation, will collect uncirculated coins. Almost certainly, only coins in absolute mint condition can be expected to appreciate in value. An uncirculated set (from one pfennig to the 5 mark piece) costs about 140 Deutsch marks, the polished plate twice as much. In any case, pfennigs have not been minted for circulation since 1997.

Interesting facts & discoveries about coins

Finally found: the ancient Heraklion
«Lights of history», that’s how Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, a universal savant from Zurich in the 18th century, called coins. What fingerprints are for criminal investigations, that’s what coins are for historians: a medium for identification, a way to light up unknown and clandestine things.
The information on coins is currently pivotal in a spectacular case. According to recent reports, French aquanaut Frank Goddio has found a sensational trove: the ancient Heraklion. He found this immersed town not off shore from Crete, but more in the south of the Mediterranean, near the Egypt town of Alexandria. Besides a well-preserved and lettered stele, which provides information about its habitat, there have been three broken statues. Two of them can now be identified due to comparisons with coins from the 1st millennium BC.

The Euro – just a holiday love affair?
«Nordic Gold», that’s the name of the alloy the Euro-coins are made of. A cool name for an object heating presently so many minds.
Thus, will the new money ever be loved? Scarcely in this year, as Hans Eichel – at the time Federal Chancellor of the Exchequer of Germany – said. But next year, so he continued, this will change. Then the people will hold the new bills and coins in the hand – and then the people will realize that there is no more need for changing money for a holiday in Europe.
Well, the Chancellor of Exchequer will be right on both accounts. But he forgot that it will also be possible to compare all prices throughout Europe. And then, the holiday love affair may break off in the one or the other case. As it happens so often …

It is always springtime for counterfeiters
Should you plan to travel to one of the Euro-land countries in the months ahead, make sure you take a careful look at all bills and coins you get there. First, those currencies will be redeemed shortly, and secondly, they might be counterfeits!
In fact, counterfeiters don’t need any spring. Their «flowers» always blossom. Especially now, at the time of the biggest exchange of currencies in European history! That will mean that previous counterfeits will become worthless shortly – a good reason for counterfeiters to bring their counterfeits into circulation, especially among the tourists. Which tourist knows exactly how the real bill looks like? But it’s well worth looking carefully.
A currency union is a good way to make life miserable for counterfeiters. But not even the EURO is safe from them. The individual member states are free to design the front side of any euro coin themselves. That guarantees diversity, but also cracks in the security system.
Spectacular findings on the Atlantis-myth
Atlantis was a mythical and lost city even at the times of Plato in ancient Greece. That hasn’t changed up to our days. However, the riddle seems to be solved as a result of the new, spectacular exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany. The thesis worked out by Zurich-based archaeologist Eberhard Zangger: Atlantis is nothing else than Troja at the northern border of today’s Turkey. The probably oldest city tale appears to be lifted, finally.
But is it really? Read more about it in the article «The Battle for Troja» (so far in German only) and Zangger’s home-page – it is a fight among the titans of archaeology on a subject which is thousands of years old.

Garbage money
On the first of January 2002 Euro banknotes and coins will be put into circulation. Until that time 14.5 billion Euro banknotes must be manufactured at a staggering cost of 600 billion Deutsch marks. Ten billion bills need to be exchanged for the old national banknotes.
Starting in 2002 Europeans will finally get their hands on the Euro. One years grace is given to say goodbye to old Deutsch mark and carry it to the grave. But are they really simply going to be buried in the garden? According to plan the Landeszentralbank (State Central Bank) of Munich will not just destroy of 2.8 billion notes. After all, if the notes were laid one on top of the other it would create a tower 323 kilometers high weighing 700,000 tons.
Yet, even though coins can simply be melted and the metal separated, the cotton fibers in paper money make it much more complicated to recycle.