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 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.