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Silver Coin Hoard from Bhalur East Punjab

by Subhash Parihar

B

halur is a small village in Moga district of East Punjab, situated some 25 kilometres southwest of the district headquarter. A month back the local inhabitants planned to build a new Gurdwara in memory of Bhai Des Raj, the founder of the village. As usual, kār-seva or voluntary work-service, started.

A local owner of a mechanical digger volunteered to dig the foundation for the structure
at night.

The very next morning the kār-sevaks were amazed to see some old silver coins in the dug earth. On a careful search 56 coins were found out (one coin has lost since then). A careful study of the coins revealed that eighteen of these belonged to the later Mughal period and the rest to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799–1839).

Each Mughal coin measures 2.7 cm in diameter and weighs about 11 gm. The reed edge of some coins is still intact. The complete legend on each reads thus          (Pl. I ):

Obverse:

Hami din ala Muhammad

Sikka fazal Shah Alam Padshah

[za]d bar haft kishwar

 

(Defender of the divine Faith; money [with the grace of] Shah Alam Badshah [struck] seven climes).

Reverse:

sana 45 julus maimanat manus

zad Farrukhabad

(In the year 45 of his reign of tranquil prosperity; struck [at] Farrukhabad)

 

The emperor Shah Alam (literally meaning "Lord of the Universe") in whose name these coins were issued was the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II (reign 1761-1805), son of the emperor Alamgir II. The original name of this infelicitously styled emperor was Ali Gauhar. In fact he was the emperor in name only but really a pensioner of the British. After the battle of Buxar (1764), he submitted to the English who the next year took over the administration of what remained of his realm. With this, the Company also assumed the right of coinage.

Although Shah Alam lived up to 1806, he had been barbarously blinded in 1788 when a new puppet king Bidar Bakht was put on the throne. But soon the Marahattas deposed the new king and kept Shah Alam under their control until the British General Lord Lake freed him in 1803. He has also left a collection of his Persian and Urdu verse under the title Diwan-i Aftāb (Aftāb was his pen-name).

The mint name is given as Farrukhabad (situated some 150 km E of Agra) which along with Benaras was one of the two chief mints that served the upper country in Bengal . It was founded in 1803 and first issued these "45 Regnal Year" coins corresponding to the year 1218 Hijri or 1803 of the Common Era. However, this mint was closed in 1824. It may be interesting to note that the Benaras mint ceased to issue its own rupees in 1819 and instead struck an issue of Farrukhabad rupees from 1819 till 1830. And after this date, Calcutta and Sagar took up the duty of issuing Farrukhabad rupees.

The remaining 37 coins of the hoard belong to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839). The date is not readable on one of the coins. Of others, the year-wise number of coins is: 1861 (1), 1865(1), 1869(4), 1871(2), 1872(3), 1874(4), 1876(3), 1877(3), 1878(4), 1879(4), 1880(4), 1881(3). All these are Samvat years which converted into Common Era fall in between the years 1804 and 1825.

The weight of each Sikh coin is also 11 grams but their size is a bit smaller, 2.4 or 2.5 cm in diameter. Obviously, the Sikh rulers continued the denominations, or weight and purity standards as established by the Mughal rulers. Even the Persian script, the lingua franca of the educated people from Turkey to Bengal , continued to be used. What they changed was the legend on the coins. The following two types of legends were used on the obverse side of
the coins.

1. Deg tegh o fateh nusrat be-dirang

Yaft az Nanak Guru Gobind Singh

(Abundance, power and victory [and] assistance without delay are the gift of Nanak [and] Guru Gobind Singh)

2. Sikka zad bar har do Alam fazl Sachcha Sahib ast

Fath-i-Gobind Shah-i-Shahan Tegh-i Nanak Wahib ast.

(Coin struck through each of the two worlds by the grace of the true lord. Of the victory of Gobind, King of Kings, Nanak's sword is the provide)

One of the Sikh coins bears on its reverse side along with the date, the mint name as Dar al-Saltanat Lahore (Pl. II) and some other coins as Sri Amritsar (Pl. III).

All the coins bear a leaf mark chosen for unknown reasons. Some scholars identify it as a pipal leaf (Ficus Religiosa) but the variations on the shape of the leaf are so many that it does not belong to a botanically identifiable plant but represents the general idea of a leaf.

The purchasing power of the Sikh coins can be known by comparison only. The historian Bikram Jit Singh Hasrat tells that between 1830 and 1840, in Lahore and Amritsar , one rupee bought on an average: 37.5 kg of wheat, or 76.5 kg of barley, or 46 kg of gram, or 7.7 kg of rice, or 18 kg of gur, or 3.7 kg of cotton. The French Generals Allard and Ventura entered Maharaja Ranjit Singh's service in 1822 at an annual pay of Rs. 30000.

The rupees of Lahore and Amritsar mint were valued at Delhi only at 14 ½ annas. Theoretically they followed the standard of the Shahjahanabad rupee of the Mughals. They were supposed to be pure silver and to weigh 11 mashas and 2 ratis but at Delhi they were only valued at 14 ½ annas, i.e., at about 10% discount rate.

Sardar Gurdev Singh Bhalur, the President of the Gurdwara plans to display these historical coins for public view in the shrine when completed.

[Photographs taken by the author]

E: sparihar48@gmail.com