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Sikh coins depict Khalsa sovereignty
04-26-2011, 12:47 PM
Post: #1
Sikh coins depict Khalsa sovereignty

Sikh coins depict Khalsa sovereignty

Gayatri Rajwade
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 21
Coins have been crucial in deciphering history. In an endeavour to introduce to the public the significance of coins to the writing of history, the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh, has opened a special section on Numismatics.

According to the director of the museum, Mr V.N. Singh, the 350 coins on display are the best of the 4,000 odd coins the museum has in its collection. "They are representative of the evolution of Indian coinage from the earliest times".

Both literary and archaeological evidence confirms that Indians developed coinage sometime in the 5th or the 6th century BC, i.e., well before the Greeks advanced into India (Alexander’s invasion) in the 4th century BC.

The display begins with an explanation of how coinage originated from the barter system of ancient times. There are coins from the earliest silver punch-marked and copper cast coins going back to 500 BC to 250 BC to those minted during the British Raj, including the coins minted by the native Indian states from 1715 to 1947.

On display also are Larins, thin bars of fixed weight bent double and stamped on at one end on both sides. These were issued by two rulers only — Mohammad Adil Shah (1627-1657) and Ali Adil Shah (1657-1672) and were used for mercantile trade. Even commemorative coins (the first one was issued in memory of Jawaharlal Nehru to mark his 75th birthday in 1989) have been put on show so that a visitor has a complete overview of how coinage in India developed.

One of the prized collections of the museum is the display of Sikh coins, which, according to Dr Surinder Singh, a numismatic expert, is a largely neglected subject.

Banda Bahadur, a Sikh chieftan who ruled in the Punjab region for a few years, issued the first coins in the name of the Guru.

For every Sikh the coins were not only a symbol of sovereignty of their rulers but also of their Gurus. This practice was followed right till 1849 when the Sikh Raj was annexed to the British Empire. “No King or Sardar changed the legend that Banda Bahadur created,” avers Dr Singh.

He goes on further to explain that the coin on the obverse read, 'Sibha zad bar har do Alam, Teg-i-Nanak wahib ast, Fateh Gobind Singh Shah-i-Shahan Fazal Sachha Sahib Ast' which means ‘Coins have been struck for both the worlds, under the guarantee of Guru Nanak's sword to protect the coinage and the Sikh sovereignty of the state which these coins represent. The victory of Guru Gobind Singh has been with the grace of God Almighty.'

On the reverse is inscribed, 'Minted at the place of perfect peace, picture of a beautiful city, where the fortunate throne of the Khalsa is located'.

The display racks have been designed by the city's College of Architecture.

"The glass sandwich technique has been used for the first time in an Indian museum. This enables the coins to be seen from both sides. This gives the display a proper perspective and visual impact.

It also preserves coins from atmospheric variations because coins sealed are sealed between two glass wedges', he adds.

Art historian Dr B.N. Goswamy feels that it is important to constitute a section like this because it is only when you are exposed to such objects that you feel for them.
"If you can excite a mind, then it serves a purpose and one never knows what may spark that interest off".

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Various displays of coins exhibited at the newly opened Numismatics Section at the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh. — Tribune photo by Vinay Malik

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04-26-2011, 01:07 PM
Post: #2
RE: Sikh coins depict Khalsa sovereignty

A retired government officer, Surinder Singh should have been counting the savings he had made in service. Instead he began to collect old coins, especially Sikh coinage which were in circulation in Punjab between 1710 and 1856.

He began to search for the tales behind them. Inscribed in the sikka (coin) were new versions of the Sikh story. Fourteen years after he retired from the Indian Defence Accounts, the Chandigarh-based Surinder, is now a path-breaking researcher on Sikh coinage.

The numismatist, who was born in Haripur Hazara, has collected more than 800 rare coins and some new stories to tell. He found that Sikh coins were struck only in the name of the gurus and never carried the personal legend of any ruler-not even the mighty Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

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04-26-2011, 01:11 PM
Post: #3
RE: Sikh coins depict Khalsa sovereignty


Raising the age-old question of whether rare coins (or any artifacts) are better off in museums or private hands, this recent article from India describes a collection of Sikh coins:

"The first Sikh coin came into existence with the founding of a Sikh kingdom by Banda Bahadur, a few years after the last Sikh Guru Gobind Singh's passed away.

Historians say that though all the rulers brought in their new coins as soon as they assumed power, the common factor in each of them is that all the kings released coins in honour of Sikh gurus."

"Researcher and numismatist Surinder Singh, who based his work on empirical evidence, while citing several nuances in the design of the coins to reigns of the kings during the period, said that while most of the coins were shifted off by the British to Bombay and Calcutta, some however remain in the possession of collectors."

"When the British occupied the Punjab, the Sikh coin was of pure silver and the British coin was 95 per cent silver. Where the British rupee was sold of 16 annas in the market, the Sikh coin was sold of 17 annas. The Britishers shifted almost 10 to 20 crores of Sikh coins to Bombay and Calcutta and converted them into British rupees", said Surinder Singh.

Some of these coins are in the hands of a collector. Numismatist Narinder Katwar of Mohali who has some 200 rare coins, related to Sikh history, has refused to hand them over to the museum. He says it is his life's passion, which he will always guard zealously."

"... I personally feel that besides giving my collection to any museum, I can preserve them better. And as its my personal collection I want to keep it with me only".

The Central Sikh Museum in the precincts of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, is home to a large number of the ancient Sikh coins, providing a rare glimpse of the rich Sikh culture to the people."

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04-26-2011, 01:12 PM
Post: #4
RE: Sikh coins depict Khalsa sovereignty
The Sikh Coinage has a number of distinct and unique features vis-a-vis prevailing currencies in India. Almost every Sikh historian, European or Indian who wrote about Sikhs, has commented on Sikh coins, based on earlier accounts with some modification but without any examination of the COINS which were readily available. These accounts have spread disinformation and distortions to such an extent that the few numismatists who examined the Sikh Coins also succumbed to the historical Fiction based on hearsay.

An attempt has been made in this Study to correct various disinformations and distortions, e.g. the incorrect translation of the legends, incorrect nomenclature of Sikh currency, coins alleged to having been struck by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the name of a courtesan, coins struck by Hari Singh Nalwa in his own name, etc. From the evidence collected from detailed examination of historical accounts and meticulous Numismatic investigation, the true perspective has been arrived at about Sikh coinage, in its pristine beauty and as a symbol of Sikh Sovereignty.

Sikh coins were first issued by Banda Bahadur between 1710 and 1713 and after a gap of almost half a century they were again issued from 1765 till 1845. In the field of Indian numismatics, Sikh coins in particular have received scant attention. Scholars and academics have been guilty of neglecting the subject. The present work attempts to fill this gap.

Dr. Surinder Singh, after a short spell as a Research scholar in Delhi University and as a Lecturer in Political Science, Government College, Gurdaspur, was to the Indian Defence Accounts Service, where he served from 1956 to 1987.

After retirement, Surinder Singh took up the Study of Sikh coinage, of which he had collected over a thousand pieces, during the last few years of his service in Punjab.

He has published over thirty research papers in reputed national and international journals and books.

Dr. Singh is at present working on the 'Concept of Sikh Sovereignty' as a Senior Fellow of Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi.

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04-26-2011, 01:13 PM
Post: #5
RE: Sikh coins depict Khalsa sovereignty

Sikh Coinage: Symbol of Sikh Sovereignty

Editors- Surinder Singh
Publisher- Manohar, Delhi
Pages- 283
Price- Rs 995/-

Reviewed by Professor Hardev Singh Virk

The author of Sikh Coinage: Symbol of Sikh Sovereignty, is a retired civil servant who, after retirement, received his Ph D from the Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. The title of his dissertation was Studies in Sikh Coinage. This book is an extended version of his Ph D thesis. In the introduction to the book the author defines his objectives as: (i) to identify the discrepancies and distortions in the existing accounts on Sikh coinage, (ii) to investigate and analyze the reasons for these distortions, (iii) to present the correct picture emerging from the study of relevant Sikh history, and (iv) to highlight the uniqueness of Sikh coins as a symbol of Sikh sovereignty. The author has used both primary and secondary sources to unravel distortions created by historians and numismatists about Sikh coinage. A vast bibliography at the end of the book illustrates the erudition and scholarly labor involved in this venture.

Dr Surinder Singh, the author of Sikh Coinage has published over thirty research papers and is an expert in the field of numismatics. He is working on the concept of Sikh sovereignty as a Senior Fellow of Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, and has combined his historical knowledge, political acumen, and expertise in numismatics with scientific and analytical technique to produce this monumental work.

The study of Sikh coinage has been divided into four periods which comprise the first four chapters of the book. The first chapter deals with the initial Sikh coinage issued under Banda Bahadur's command during his rule in Punjab from 1710 to 1715. The second chapter deals with the coinage of the misl period from 1765-1795, and the third chapter describes the Sikh coinage during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh from 1800-182 AD. The fourth chapter is based on the post Ranjit Singh period from 1839-1849. All these chapters are fully illustrated with plates showing the obverse and reverse faces of Sikh coinage. To remove fallacies and distortions created by European and Indian historians the author critically examines the motifs on the coin.

Sikh coins

Source: Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail

Banda Bahadur made an official seal with the legend Degh, Tegh Fateh O Nusrat Baidarang, Yaft uz Nanak Guru Gobind Singh. This legend was struck on the Sikh coin in AD 1765 to commemorate the occupation of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, by the Sikh armies, and reflects the concept of Sikh sovereignty. It means that free langar, the strength of the sword arm, and the resultant victory were the result of the spontaneous help received from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh.

I appreciate the interpretation by the author of the phrase 'Nanak Guru Gobind Singh' as the entire Sikh Gurudom and not as 'Guru Gobind Singh received from Guru Nanak', which is the the interpretation used by a galaxy of historians. Most historians have written about Sikh coins without actually examining them, and this negligence is in total violation of the requisite norms of numismatic investigation. The author using his critical analysis has exposed a number of such fallacies.

Since coins are the most important and primary symbol of sovereignty, any distortion of their history results in the distortion of the concept of sovereignty. The author has refuted the claim of several eminent historians of Europe and India that coins were struck in the name of Moran (the dancing girl) by Ranjit Singh. How can he carry such a sacrilege like minting coins in the name of a concubine whom he eventually discarded after a few years? He also disagrees that Hari Singh Nalwa issued coins in the capacity of his being a Governor of Kashmir. How could he have taken over the symbol of sovereignty invested with the Khalsa and the Sikh Gurus? He himself was a jealous guardian of Sikh commonwealth created by Ranjit Singh.

The author claims that C. J. Rodgers and his tribe of European historians are responsible for spreading disinformation, whether deliberately or inadvertently, on Sikh coinage which has resulted in the distortion of Sikh history. Many Indian historians including Ganda Singh, Khushwant Singh, J S Grewal et al followed in their footsteps and came to wrong conclusions without concrete numismatic evidence. The author has exposed the plagiarism of some Indian historians and their publishers and extracted an unconditional apology from one such author that is published on page 44 of his book. Indeed a bold step to check this malpractice !

Nanakshahi coins

Source: South Asia Coin Group

What emerges out of this unique study of Sikh coinage is the deep-rooted dedication of the Sikhs to their Gurus and their teachings. Guru Gobind Singh vested his temporal sovereignty in the Khalsa Panth but when the Khalsa became the masters of large areas of Punjab, they struck coins in the name and praise of their Gurus. Although they were the de facto temporal rulers, the de jure temporal sovereignty still vested with the Gurus. Puran Singh calls it the ideal Khalsa commonwealth in his Spirit of the Sikh. Sikh coins are not merely a symbol, but also a mirror image of the concept of Sikh sovereignty. Will the modern day Akali Sikh leadership learn a lesson and follow in the footsteps of Khalsa who once ruled the Punjab?

Numismatic investigations show that the minting of Sikh coins began from the Lahore mint in AD 1765 / 1822 BK Samvat and continued till AD 1849, when Punjab was annexed to the British Empire. Sikh coins were also minted at Amritsar, Multan, Anandpur and some other places by Sikh sardars. The leaf motif on Sikh coins is widely inscribed on the Amritsar coin of AD 1788. The author has given his unique explanation of leaf motifs and exploded the myth of Moran's coins. Sikh coins are generally classified as Nanakshahi and the author rules out Moranshahi or Gobindshahi coins as misnomers. Nanakshahi rupee coins were minted out of pure silver, and were rated higher than other currencies in India.

The learned author has also described the coinage of cis-Satluj states, particularly Nabha and Patiala. While Nabha rulers, following the mainstream, issued Nanakshahi coins, the Patiala dynasty minted Durrani, also called Rajashahi, coins till 1893 and then reverted to British Indian currency. However, they issued Guru Sahib coins only for puja ceremonies and not for treasury. The author has also shown some Mughal coins in Plate III countermarked with the Sikh Khanda ensign. It is presumed that the Sikhs might have counter marked the Mughal coins with Khanda between 1772 and 1833 in order to treat it as Sikh currency.

After, the death of Ranjit Singh the Khalsa state crumbled and the Brahminical influence increased. During this period, Brahminical symbols such as the Trishul, Om, Chhattar, Sat and Shiva started appearing on the Sikh coins. Sikh sovereignty itself was under severe attack both from inside and outside and its symbolic violation appeared on coins. Shiploads of Sikh coins were dispatched to Bombay and Calcutta mints for conversion to British Indian currency after the annexation of Punjab.

The book devotes a full chapter to Sikh coins as a symbol of Sikh Sovereignty, followed by six appendices. The author finds discrepancies in all historical accounts regarding Sikh coinage. I hope some future numismatist will try to find some discrepancy in the author's account also, which is a sign of progress. At the present, I can point only glaring spelling mistakes like Sikkhism (page. 209), spescial (p. 231), Phul Sandhu Jat (p. 260) instead of Sikhism, specially and Phul Sidhu Jat. The price of Rs. 995 may seem high but the two silver (?) coins impregnated on the title page as memento may compensate the readers.

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