Some Rare Coins of the Sikh Kingdoms (1709-1849)

The earliest Sikh coin was issued in 1712 by the first Sikh ruler, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, (1670-1716), who ruled from 1709 to 1716. He was a valiant Sikh General who captured Wazir Khan, the cruel Governor of Sirhind, the capital of Moghuls in the North India. Wazir Khan had bricked alive the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh in 1704 when the brave lads had refused to convert to Islam. The coins were issued in honour of Sikh Gurus and carried the following legends in Persian.                             

(On the Obverse) Sikka Zad bar har do Allam Fazal Sacha Sahib ast

Fateh-i-Gur Gobind Singh Shah-i-Shahan Tigh-e-Nanak Wahib ast

(Coin struck through each of the two worlds – spiritual and temporal- by Grace of the True Lord, Of the victory of Guru Gobind Singh, King of Kings, Nanak’s sword is the Provider.)

(On the Reverse) Zarb Khalsa Mubarak Bakht Ba-Aman Ud-Dahr

Zinat At-Takht Mashawarat Shahr. Sanah 3

(Struck by the Khalsa of Auspicious Fortune at the Refuge of the Age Ornament of the Throne, the City of the Council. Year -3, the third year of conquest of Sirhind in 1709).

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur (1670 -1716) & First Sikh coin (1712)

Coins of Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718 – 1783)

After General Banda Singh Bahadur, the 12 independent Sikh confederations (called Missals) of the North-Western India, came together to form a United Force known as Dal Khalsa.  Their aim was to repulse the repeated attacks of the Moghul dynasty and the Afghan hordes led by Ahmed Shah Abdali. For this purpose, they chose as their army commander Sultan-ul-Kaum, Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718-1783), who was a great Sikh General and an able Chief of the Ahluwalia Missal. In 1761, he captured Lahore from the invaders and restored the Sikh sovereignty.  He set up a Mint there and started issuing Sikh coins in his own name. Later, in 1765, a Mint was established at Amritsar and more  silver coins, called Gobind-Shahi Sikkey, in the name of Guru Gobind Singh, were issued.  Another Mint was established at Multan in 1775 where silver coins in the name of Guru Nanak Dev, called Nanak-Shahi Sikkey, began to be produced. Rupee coins featuring a Katar (and other weapons) were also issued from Amritsar Mint from 1785 onwards.

General Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718 -1783)

(https://www.livehistoryindia.com/forgotten-treasures/2020/08/26/sikh-coins)

  

Gobind-Shahi (Lahore 1765) and Nanak-Shahi (Multan1775) Sikkey

In March 1766, Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia led an army of more than 25,000 Sikh soldiers and defeated Swai Madho Singh of Jaipur. He made the Jaipur King to issue coins in the name of Guru Gobind Singh, with the words “Sat Kartar” (in Hindi) and his pet Eagle (Baaj) on the obverse. Jaipur and the year of issue were mentioned on the reverse.

The Jaipur Coins (en.wikipedia.org)

After Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia’s death in 1783, the Sikh kingdom brought out high denomination Gold Mohurs, weighing about 11 grams, and smaller silver and copper coins of lower denominations from 1786 onwards. Thereafter,  Leaf-motif coins were issued during the 1980-88 period’s drought and famine that struck India, including Punjab. The aim was to focus public attention on protection of green cover and  save the environment. These coins were manufactured till 1849 from Amritsar.

Coins of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Era

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), Chief of Sukerchakia Missal, emerged as a powerful Emperor of North-Western India in 1801. He ruled over the vast Empire extending from Khyber to Ladakh, Tibet, Kashmir and the (undivided) Punjab. He united all 12 Missals into a formidable Sikh Kingdom, established more Mints and issued  hundreds of new gold, silver and copper coins and medals with diiferent motifs. In 1802, a series of Khalsa-motif Coins were issued by him. These were followed in 1804 by coins with military and weapon emblems and a set of Ber-Shahi Coins, reminiscent of the historic (Dukh Bhanjani Sahib) Ber Tree in Darbar Sahib, Amritsar.

Ber-Shahi Coin (1805)  and  Gold Mohur (1806)

Maharaja Ranjit Singh also issued a coin, called Moran-Shahi Sikka, (in 1805) to honour a Kashmiri Muslim court-dancer girl, whom he married. She was named Moran as her dance resembled that of a peacock. These coins were not accepted and a punishment was awarded by Akal Takht to him. He was, however, later forgiven on intercession of Sikh Congregation (Sangat) when he apologized and withdrew the coins. 

General Hari Singh’s Har coin (1820)  ( facebook.com ) Kashmir’s Swastika coin (1822)

General Hari Singh Nalwa (1791-1837) was a commander of the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and conquered Kashmir, Sialkot, Peshawar, Multan and Jamrud. He was later appointed Governor and made many Sikh Forts and established Mints for producing new coins. Many coins issued in the regimes of the secular Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his sons (Kharak Singh, Sher Singh and Duleep Singh), and grandson (Nau Nihal Singh) had Hindu names like Ram, Om, and Shiv) on them.   

             Ram coin (in Persian)          (By Prince Nau Nihal Singh)         Om coin (in Gurmukhi)

Nishan Sahib, the Khalsa Flag, has a great spiritual and temporal significance in Sikhism. It is a marker of Sikh identity and philosophy and is remembered every day in the Sikh prayer (Ardas). Prince Duleep Singh (1838-1893), the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, issued many coins with Nishan Sahib emblems. Rupee coins featuring a checkered weave banner were issued from the Kashmir Mint.

   The Lahore Sikh Museum

A large number of coins and artifacts of the Sikh Kingdoms are preserved in the Sikh Museum at Lahore. These include a gold medal showing an image of Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539).  There are two other very rare gold coins with human figures. In one, there is the figure of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on a medal. In the other, the Maharaja is shown presenting a flower to Guru Nanak Dev. Between them is depicted a Nishan Sahib. It has an outer border (with a decorative pattern on it), enclosing a similar inner segment. These are believed to be minted in France. Lahore Museum (dawn.com) also has some Moranshahi coins.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh himself never put his name or figure on any coin issued during his reign. These coins appear to have been minted probably after the death (in 1839) of the Maharaja, the Lion of Punjab (Sher-e-Punjab). The Sikh Empire (1709-1849) came to an end with the Annexation of Punjab by the British after the last Anglo-Sikh war in 1849.

(Images and some information available from different sources have been included here in an effort to advance understanding and knowledge of this subject, purely in a non-commercial and educational context, without profit or any other motive.)

Acknowledgements

The information obtained from the following sources is acknowledged with thanks.

  1. Aashish Kochhar … Revisiting Sikh History: Tales from the Mints … https://www.livehistoryindia.com/forgotten- treasures/2020/08/26/sikh-coins
  2. Hans Herrali     …    The Coins of the Sikhs

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