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Museum to have a permanent gallery of Indian coins January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Museums.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (more commonly known as the Prince of Wales Museum) at Kala Ghoda is celebrating its 85th anniversary and to commemorate this occasion, the museum will be dedicating a permanent gallery of Indian coins to the city which is known to the world for its trade and economy.

The gallery showcases a varied range of coins from the collection of the museum. It presents the variety of coins from different periods and regions and gives an outline of the origin and development of Indian coinage.

In India the first evidence of coin appeared in 7th-6th century B.C. Before the appearance of coin man used cattle, grain, beads, cowries, shells, feathers etc. as currency for their day-today transactions. A system known as the ‘barter system’.

From the barter system to the invention of the first metal coins and then its transition from its intrinsic metal value to the token money like paper and plastic (credit cards) of today, currency has changed many forms in its history of 2600 years. It is a rare opportunity to witness these coins at one place and travel through the ages.

The Gallery covers two levels of theme, one is the chronological display that starts with the exchange of material through barter, and this gallery traces the chronological development of Indian coins including techniques of minting and the consequent development of coin design, monetary values, trade and prosperity of the kingdom. And the other is the thematic display where the theme of the coin reflects the predilections of the issuing authority usually the king and the message he has for his subjects. The thematic display incorporates subjects such as coins of Maharashtra, portraiture of the kings and leaders, development of Rupee and the techniques of minting coins.

At the chronological display you will find >
Early punch-marked coins >
These tiny silver pieces, punched with various symbols at the first known currency of Indian subcontinent. They were issued by the small republics known as the Janapadas, which came into existence in various parts of India around the 7th-6th century B.C. Amongst the symbols, sun as an identifying symbol for the imperial Magadha coins and is still popular in Indian art.
Indo-Greek Coins > History of India is partly a history of invasions. Among the several foreign invaders, the Greek ruler Alexander The Great was the first to invade India. About a century after Alexander’s invasion of India (326 B.C.) his Greek successors succeeded in extending their kingdom to North West frontier of India and issued their coins. These coins were very artistically executed and showed a bust of king on one side and a depiction of deities on the other. This is the time when the concept of coin designing evolved.
Kushana coins > A nomadic tribe from the Chinese frontier, the Kushana wrested control of the North West part of ancient India. The innovative and creative abilities of the Kushanas are reflected in the art as well as in the coins. They were the first to introduce gold coins in India.
Gupta coins > The Gupta era is known as the Golden Age in Indian history. The coins of Gupta kings are aesthetically appealing. Though the forms of the early Gupta coins were influenced by the Kushana coins, however, the Guptas created their own themes and compositions. The coins were manufactured by die striking.
Mughal coins > Mughals were patrons of art & architecture and lovers of beauty, royalty & extravaganza, an attitude that is reflected through their coins. Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) the most famous of the Mughals appointed his master painter Abd-al-Samad as his mint master. It is therefore no wonder that some of the coin types of the early Mughal emperors are acclaimed for their great artistic quality.
Indo-European coins > The Portuguese were the first to come into India in the late 15th century A.D. The Portuguese traders were soon followed by the Dutch, Danish, French and British. Of all the European traders that came to India, the British succeeded in taking control over India. The early European coins bearing English inscriptions were not accepted by most of the traders as a result of which they started forging Mughal coins.
Coins from the Princely States > After the death of Aurangazeb a large number of Princely States came into being. These States began issuing their own coins, initially bearing the name of the Mughal emperors. After 1858, the English crown did not interfere with the coinage of Princely States, but only 34 States were allowed to issue coins. The coins of the Princely States provide an interesting range of symbols like portraits, flags, swords, umbrellas, canopies and other insignia of royalty.

At the thematic display you will find >
Maharashtra >
The coin history of this region goes back as early as 6th century B.C. Among the important ones are the recently discovered coins from the Vidarbha Janapada, belonging to the 4th century B.C., a large number of Satavahana (1st century B.C.) coins from Deccan, coins from Devgiri and Daulatabad mints between 12th to 14th century A.D. and the Gold & Copper coins issued by Shivaji Maharaj (1627-80 A.D.) who had wrested sovereignty over a major part of Deccan. A particularly interesting and rare gold coins issued by Shivaji is known as ‘Hon’ has also been exhibited in this gallery. The coin bearing the name ‘Chhatrapati’ in Nagari on the obverse and ‘Shri Raja Shiva’ on the reverse.
Portraits > The portraits offered an excellent opportunity to the rulers to remind their subjects about their authority and power by carving self-portraits on the coins issued by them. The kind of portrait they chose gave a glimpse of their personality. Several coins bearing the portraits of important Kings from different dynasties are displayed in the Gallery.
Rupiya > The Gallery also traces the development of the Rupee which is the modern currency in India. Rupiya (Sanskrit – Rupyaka) means a piece of silver. The currency of Rupiya or what we call the Rupee was introduced by Sher Shah Sun around 1540 A.D. He standardised the weight of the Rupee at 180 grains (11 gms) and gave it the name of Rupiya. The Mughal kings continued with the currency of Rupiya along with its lower denomination the ‘Paisa’. It then became the standard currency for the whole of India and was introduced in other principalities during the British rule and the neighbouring South Asian countries. The silver content of the rupee gradually decreased to such an extent that today it has no silver content at all. The present rupee is made of nickel.

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