Expert lauds museum’s coin collection

GUWAHATI, Feb 13 – The Assam State Museum is preparing a catalogue of the mediaeval coins in its collection. Danish Moin, Senior Research Officer, Indian Institute of Research in Numismatic Studies, Nasik is leading the entire exercise, which started about one year back. The work is in its final stage. Moin is delivering a talk on the Indian and Assam coins at the Museum tomorrow.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, Moin said that the representation of coins found in Assam could be well understood with the help of the coins kept in the Assam State Museum. And as per as the mediaeval coins are concerned, almost all the major dynasties of mediaeval India and all the major rulers are represented in the State Museum collection, he said. The earliest coins of India, that is, the punch marked ones, are also found in Assam. Most of the ancient Indian coins are also found in Assam.

In the mediaeval period, the coins of Bengal became the common coins of Assam too. The capture of Kamata Kamakhya by the Sultans of Bengal is also represented in those coins. During this period, one also comes across the Ahom dynasty, one of the important dynasties of the country, in Assam. They also struck coins. Coins of the Ahoim period are different than those of the Bengal Sultans.

For, these were inscribed in Assamese scripts, not in Arabic and the Ahom rulers had introduced a unique octagonal shape in the coins. The Ahom rulers issued their coins mainly in silver. The coins were very distinct in their style, but, like the Sultans of Delhi, the Ahom rulers also attached importance to the inscriptions on the coins, Moin said.

The coins of the Mughal period, particularly those of Akbars, Jahangir, Sahjahan and Aurangazeb are reported from Assam. The coins of the British period from the Madras Presidency and Bengal Presidency are also found in good number in Assam.

The beginning of the Indian coinage can be traced back to 6th Century BC and the earliest coins of the country are described as punch marked ones. The earliest coins had no inscriptions on them. They simply had some symbols on them and mostly on one side. Punch marked coins were generally made of silver.

Kushana ruler Wima Kadphisis introduced gold coins in India in the 1st Century AD. But during the Gupta period, gold coins became common. Apart from gold and silver, copper, lead and potin coins were also used in ancient India.

In ancient and mediaeval period, the country used to have coinage based on intrinsic value (value of the metal). During those days, foreign trade of India was conducted through gold and silver coins. Purity and weight of these metals were the foremost condition then for acceptability of the coins.

Most of the dynasties ruling India had their own coins since the 6 th Century BC. Ancient Indian coins were primarily issued with the depiction of some symbols or portraits with very limited inscriptions written in Greek, Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts. But of them, Brahmi was the most common script.

Mediaeval Indian coins were primarily issued with inscriptions in Arabic script bearing the names of the rulers, date, mints etc. Iltutmis of the Delhi Sultanate is believed to be the person responsible for the definite shape of the mediaeval Indian coins. Among those who got coins struck during their periods, only some, like Alauddin Mohammad Khalji (who adopted the title of Sikander Sani), Mohammad Bin Tughlaq deserve mention. Tughlaq introduced the token currency.

While the Mughal emperor Akbar had issued coins with the depiction of Rama and Sita , the biggest gold coin of the world was issued by the Mughal emperor Jahangir. The coin weighed around 12 kg. But,unfortunately, the coin is not in India now.

The independent and princely states that emerged after the decline of the Mughal empire, also struck their coins in the name of the Mughal emperors in line with the Mughal coins till 1857. The East India Company had also issued its coins in the name of the Mughal emperors. After 1857, Indian coins were primarily issued in the names of the British monarchs till 1947, said Moin.