By Dr. D. Raja Reddy, Historian
Silver was the first metal which was used for making coins in India, this started with punch marked coins around 6th- 7th century BC (Fig.1). Other metals such as copper, lead, gold, potin, billon etc. were used next for the manufacture of coins in ancient India. Medieval Period which also coincided with the arrival of Islamic states witnessed the three tier system of coinage namely that of gold, silver and copper. The usual rate of exchange of these coinages varied but in general 8-10 silver were equivalent to one gold and forty copper were equal to one silver. In Deccan, the Vijayanagar and Bahmani kings in the Medieval Period followed this tradition of coinage though silver coinage was scarce during the rule of Vijayanagar kings. Bahmani rule was followed by Qutb Shahis (1518-1687 AD) in Golconda region. First coins were issued from Hyderabad in 1012 AH by Qutb Shahi ruler Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (1580-1611 AD) bearing the name as Darulsaltanat Haiderabad. Surprisingly, no silver coins are known of Qutb Shahi rulers and they issued mostly copper coins and rarely gold fanams. Mughals had designs over Deccan and Shah Jahan reduced the status of Qutb Shahis to that of a tributary to the Mughal Empire from 1636 AD onwards by a “Treaty of Submission” (inquilab nama) signed by Abdullah Qutb Shah (1626-1672 AD). By this treaty Abdullah Qutb Shah surrendered the privilege of minting coins in his own name. He was also forced to mint Mughal coins made of silver and gold from Golconda mint and the dies for such coinage were provided by the Mughals.
Fig.1: Two punch marked silver coins, one on left belongs to Andhra janapada and the other on the right to Maurya dynasty. These coins have no legends but have only symbols which are punched on them and hence the name.
In 1687AD Aurangzeb defeated and occupied Golconda ending the Qutb Shahi rule, and the direct Mughal rule of Hyderabad region continued till 1724 AD when Asaf Jahis took over. The silver coins of Shah Jahan from Golconda mint were undated and they were not minted regularly. Aurangzeb became emperor in 1659 AD and ordered the coins to be struck in his name from Golconda mint without the Kalima. The basic faith of Muslims the ‘Kalima’ appears on most Islamic coins which reads as ‘La Ilaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasul Allah’, which translates as ‘there is no god but Allah and Muhammad his Prophet’. All Mughal coins before Aurangzeb had Kalima on their coins and this was removed by him fearing that pious words of Quran will be defiled by the touch of infidel non-Muslims (Fig. 2). It appears that the silver coins which were minted from Golconda were used to pay tribute to the Mughals and they were not circulated as currency. Aurangzeb later insisted that the tribute be paid in gold and then the silver coin production from Golconda mint stopped. After 1687 AD the coins minted from Hyderabad and Golconda followed the Mughal pattern with dates and the mint names and this continued till 1724 AD when Asaf Jahi rule began.
Islamic Coins - Mughal Coin with Kalima
Fig.2: Metal: AR; Size: 3 cms: Weight: 11.38 gms; MM: Diestrike; Obv: The Kalima, inside the square 'La Ilaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasul Allah'; Rev: Islam Shah Ibne Sher Shah Sultan Khaladallahu Mulkahu.
Fig.3: Left - Metal: AR; Size: 2.4 cms; Weight: 11.49 gms.; MM: Diestrike; DA: 270o; Obv: Badhsah Aurangzeb Alamgir Sikka Zad Dar Jahan Chu Badr-i-Muneer 1096 AH; Rev: Juloos-i-Maimanath Manoos Zarb Surat - Regnal year 28. Right: Silver coin of Aurangzeb from Golconda mint. Both the coins do not have Kalima.
Asaf Jahi dynasty ruled the erstwhile state of Hyderabad Deccan, which was also known as ‘Nizam’s Dominion’. An Ottoman Turkish nobleman Mir Qamaruddin Khan founded this princely state in 1724 AD with Aurangabad as the capital. He was conferred the title Nizamulmulk by Mughal Emperor Farrukshiar (1713-1719 AD) in 1713 AD. Mughal ruler gave him the ‘subedari’ of the Deccan, which included six provinces of Khandesh, Berar, Telangana, Daulatabad, Ahmadnagar and Arcot. Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah (1719-1748 AD) conferred the Asaf Jah title upon Mir Qamaruddin and he was called Asaf Jah I. Three rulers who succeeded Asaf Jah I namely Nasirjung (1748-1750 AD), Muzaffarjung (1751AD) and Salabatjung (1751-1761 AD) were not conferred the title of Asaf Jah by the Mughal rulers Ahmad Shah (1748-1754 AD), Alamgir II (1754-1759 AD) and Shah Jahan III (1759 AD) respectively and hence they were not included in the chronology of Asaf Jahi rulers. The Fifth ruler Nizam Ali Khan (1761-1803 AD) was given the Asaf Jah title by the Mughal king Shah Alam II (1759-1806 AD). He came to be known as Asaf Jah II and during his rule; the capital was shifted from Aurangabad to Hyderabad. All subsequent rulers called themselves as Asaf Jah rulers and the last ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan is known as Asaf Jah VII. Asaf Jahi rulers remained faithful to the Mughal rulers and used to receive ‘firmans’ of the Delhi court and followed their dictates. At the time of Nader Shah’s invasion of Delhi in 1736 AD, Asaf Jah ruler responded to the call of Muhammad Shah and declared his solidarity with the Mughals. However, it was in the year 1857 AD when East India Company forced Asaf Jahi rulers to severe their allegiance to the Mughals and to stop the issue of coins of the Mughal pattern. The coins issued from then on in the name of Asaf Jahi rulers came to be known as ‘haali sicca’. Asaf Jahi currency continued until 17th September 1948 AD when Hyderabad State was annexed to the Indian Union after police action ending the era of Asaf Jahi coinage. Asaf Jah rulers issued coins of three metals; namely that of gold, silver and copper.
There are three types of Asaf Jahi coins: (A) Mughal coins from the mints in the Deccan ruled by Asaf Jahis. First five Asaf Jahi kings did not issue coins in their own name. The coins in the name of the Mughal rulers minted from the territories held by Asaf Jahi kings belonged to them. For example, Muhammad Shah was the Mughal ruler during the reign of Asaf Jah I and his coins minted from mint towns located in the Deccan territory belonged to Asaf Jahi ruler. It must be true of other four kings also. (B) Next two Asaf Jahi kings put their initials on the coins in the name and pattern of Mughal issues. Coins of Sikandar and Nasiruddaula belong to this category and lastly (C) the last three kings issued coins in the name of Asaf Jahi rulers. Coins of Afzaladdaula, Mahbub Ali and Osman Ali Khan belong to this category.
Mir Qamaruddin-Asaf Jah I ruled between1724-1748 AD. The coins issued in the name of Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah from the Mughal mints in his territory namely 1. Hyderabad (Farkunda Bunyad), 2. Aurangabad (Khujista Bunyad), 3. Burhanpur (Darus Surur), 4. Bidar (Zafarabad), 5. Adoni (Imitiaz Garh), 6. Raichur (Firoznagar), 7. Shorapur, 8. Sholapur, 9. Poona (Mohiabad), 10. Arcot (Muhammadapur), 11. Machilipatnam, 12. Madras (Chinapatnam) and 13. Koilkonda belonged to Asaf Jah I. It may be noted that Mughals issued coins from more than 250 mints. Another practice of those kings was to give honorific epithets to the mint towns. For example, Hyderabad was known as ‘farkunda bunyad’ and Aurangabad as ‘khujista bunyad’, Bijapur as ‘darul zafar’ and so on. Renaming the places was another practice of Muslim rulers. For example, Gulbarga, Orugallu and Arcot were called as Ahsanabad, Sultanpur and Muhammadpur respectively. Muhammad Shah coins from the mints in six subas of Deccan under the control of Asaf Jah I should belong to him. Here is an example of Muhammad Shah coin from Delhi mint (Fig.4).
Coin of Muhammad Shah of Mughal Dynasty from Delhi Mint
Fig.4: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 2.2 cms; Weight - 11.33 gms.
Obverse: Muhammad Shah Badshah Ghazi sahib Qiranesani sikka Mubarak.
Reverse: Juloose Maimanat Manoos Sanh 25.
There were Muhammad Shah’s coins from the Deccan mints such as Elichpur, Bijapur, Aurangabad and Machilipatan and they must belong to Asaf Jah I. There were also reports of Muhammad Shah’s coins from little known mints such as Baramati, Kankurti and Qandhahar, which are in close proximity to Aurangabad. All these coins must belong to Asaf Jahi ruler. During the reign of Asaf Jah I, there was a flourishing trade with other parts of the country. Coins issued in the name of Mughal rulers by kings of other dynasties came to be known as pseudo-Mughal coins and this practice was continued not only by native rulers but also by Europeans such as British and French etc. and an example of such a coin is depicted in Fig.4.
Pseudo-Mughal Coin of Indo-British from Arcot Mint in the name Mohd Alamgir – II
Fig.5: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 2.7 cms; Weight - 11.55 gms;
Obverse: Mohd. Azizuddin Alamgir Badshah Ghazi, Sikka Mubarak, 1172 (Hijri).
Reverse: Juloose Maimanat Manoos Zarb Arcot. This coin is a British Arcot coin with frozen year 1172 and regnal year 6 and is machine made unlike the Mughal, Asaf Jahi and Arcot Nawab coins of that period which were hand made.
Next three Asaf Jahi rulers did not issue any coins on their own names; and coins in the name of Mughal rulers of the era namely Ahmad Shah, Alamgir II, Shah Jahan III (1759) and Shah Alam II ( 1759-1806) from the mints in the Deccan may belong to them. Koilkonda mint coins of Ahmad Shah and Alamgir II are known and this place is close to Hyderabad. British issued coins with frozen date of 1172 Hijri and 6th regnal year of Alamgir II in the name of Arcot mint. They issued these coins over a long period from mints other than Arcot and such coins do not belong to the Asaf Jahi rulers. Arcot Nawabs also issued coins during this period and they can be distinguished from Asaf Jahi coins as most of them do contain Tamil words and some initials of ‘wallaja’ title. It is rewarding to recall that Asaf Jahi rulers had a close relationship including matrimonial with Arcot nawabs and hence they may not have bothered much about the local Tamil coins issued by them.
Next ruler Asaf Jah II continued the Mughal pattern of coins but the number of mints were reduced. Nizam Ali Khan ceded Northern Circar districts to the East India Company. The Mughal ruler during Asaf Jah II rule was Shah Alam II and the coins from Deccan mints belong to the Asaf Jahi king. During this period, various private bodies issued Chalni coins during Nizam Ali Khan’s rule. Private contractors with license from the government manufactured the Chalni coins. Chalni coins were used at a discount as their content of silver was low and their manufacture was not satisfactory. Chalni coins were minted at various private mints at Amraoti, Baiganpally (Kurnool), Gudwal, Gurmatkal (Gulbarga), Gopalpet, Kalvakurthi, Kalyani (Bidar), Kosa, Malkapur, Narayanpet, Nalkhora, Saugar (Wanaparthi Tq.), Tirnamal, Umerchintha and Wabgaon (Near Chandore). These Chalni coins are made of silver in the names and the pattern of Mughal coins with the initials of the local towns. For example, Narayanpet and Gopalpet coins would have their initial ‘na’ and ‘go’ on the obverse. Gopalpet coins were minted at Latur and hence ‘la’ was marked on the reverse side of these coins. Gadwal coins have a date tree mark on the reverse side (Fig.6, 7, 8, 9). During this period, there were many state mints also at Aurangabad, Bidar, Chandore (near Jalna), Dowlatabad, Elichpore (Berar), Hyderabad (Sultan Shahi, Surunagar, Asafnagar, Lalaguda), Indore, Kulbarga and Raichore. Since there were many private and government mints numbering more than forty in those days, there is a need to study these coins in detail with official archives of that era. There were three different types of Chalni coins known as Bhag, Shahar and Hukam and their quality varied based on their silver content and quality of their make.
Three District Types of Chalni Coins
• Bagh Chalni – intended for payments to the palace (garden or palace)
• Shahar Chalni – current in city
• Hukam Chalni – forced tokens for mofussil
• Fineness of these coins varied
• Best were Bagh Chalnies
Two Asaf Jah kings namely Sikandar-Asaf Jah III (1803-1829 AD) and Nasiruddaula-Asaf Jah IV (1829-1857 AD) issued coins in the names of the Mughal rulers with the addition of their initials on the coins. The third Asaf Jahi king Sikander Jah came to throne in 1803 AD. Next fifty years were very difficult times for the state with decline in economic and political power, which also witnessed the ascendancy of East India Company in the country. During this period minting as a trade came into existence, which made enormous profits. There were 40 odd private mints in the state and officials clandestinely patronized some. There were state mints as well as private mints during this period. All the coins were issued in the name of the ruling Mughal king with initials of the private body on obverse or on the reverse side or both sides (Fig.5, 6, 7, 8). Local press of the times such as Madras Spectator and The Englishman noted the malpractice of debased Chalni coinage that resulted in serious loss to the government. This made Salar Jung I to abolish private minting practice in 1857 AD and the government mint became the only authorized institution for minting coins. Chalni coins were banned and majority of them were melted to make new coins. However, these coins are still available in the market.
Fig.6: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 1.8 cms; Weight - 11.03 gms;
Obverse: Shah Alam Badshah Gazi with ‘go’ above Gha.
Reverse: Mostly worn out with ‘la’ word at 7 o’clock. ‘Go’ stands for Gopalpet and ‘la’ for Latur where coins were minted.
Fig.7: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 2.2 cms; Weight - 11.5 gms;
Obverse: Shah Alam Badshah ghazi with 'go' at 10 o’clock;
Reverse: Juloos Maimanat Manoos sanh 1200 Zarb with counter struck mark.
Fig.8: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 2.3 cms; Weight - 11.2 gms;
Obverse: Muhammad Shah Badshah ghazi with two words counter struck;
Reverse: Julus Maimanut Manus 22 with 're’ counter struck.
Fig.9: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 2.3 cms; Weight - 11.21 gms;
Obverse: Shah Alam Badshah Gazi, ‘go’ above Alam. This is a die struck coin and the initial of Gopalpet is incorporated in the die whereas in other coins these symbols are struck separately.
The year 1857AD saw the exit of the Mughal dynasty and hence the coins of Afzaladdaula-Asaf Jah V (1857-1969 AD) marked a change in the pattern of coins of this dynasty. However, there is numismatic evidence that local mints issued coins of lower denomination in the name of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar for two years by Afzaladdaula. The copper coin with arrow mark of the local mint looks similar to the coin depicted in Krause’s manual. The new coins of Afzaladdaula had the following legend: Obverse - 92 Nizamulmulk Asaf Jah Bahadur with the year in Hijri and reverse legend was julus maimanut zarab farkunda bunyad Hyderabad. The initial of the king ‘alif’ for Afzaladdaula was marked on the coins (Fig.9, 10). Two subsequent rulers namely Mahbub Ali Khan and Mir Osman Ali Khan had their initials namely ‘mim’ and ‘ain’ respectively on their coins. These new type of coins were called ‘haali sicca’ meaning current coin and were issued from 1858 AD onwards. It may be noted that all the Asaf Jahi rulers who issued their coins in their names had only marked their initials on them but not the whole name. Hand made coins of Mir Mahbub Ali Khan with the following legend was introduced of one Anna and half Anna denominations in 1303 Hijri (1885 AD). Legend: Obverse -Nizamulmulk Asaf Jah sane juloos 20-92 and ‘mim’ are marked. Reverse: Zarb Hyderabad Farkunda Bunyad San 1303 and denomination ek Anna or nee manna in the circle.
Fig.10: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 2.1 cms; Weight - 11.23 gms;
Obverse: Muhammad Akbar Badshah. ‘Nun’, 1252 AH.
Reverse: Julus Maimanat Manoos Zarb Hyderabad.
Obverse: Muhammad Shah Badshah Gazi with ‘Alif’.
In 1858 AD, the British government permitted 80 princely states to introduce their own currency but it was only Hyderabad State, which minted its own coins whereas the others minted their coins in the Royal mints located at Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. British India currency was named locally as ‘kaldar’ and was used at railway stations, telegraph offices and certain post offices only in the Hyderabad State.
The old manual making of coinage was continued until 1895 when machinery was introduced at Hyderabad mint (Fig.12 & 13). The coins made by machines were known as ‘charki’ coins. The word derived from the Persian word ‘Charkh’ meaning a wheel, implied that they were machine made. These new coins were not very popular and they were replaced with a new design of coins with the ‘Charminar’ mark. However there is evidence that first machine made coins were introduced in 1887/88 (Hijri 1305). There was also discussion about the type of legend that should be present on these coins. Some suggested that the bust of the ruler should be present on the coins. There are only two types of coins of Asaf Jah VI namely Mir Mahbub Ali Khan with his entire name on the coin in the possession of Birmingham mint series. There is no evidence that such coins were issued to the public and hence this piece could have been a trial die prepared by that mint. There are few coins published with the entire name of the king. However, such coins are very rare and the legend is as follows: Obverse - Nizamulmulk Mir Mahbub Ali Khan Asaf Jah Bahadur, 92. Reverse: Maimanat Manoos Julus Farkunda Bunyad Zarb Hyderabad.
Fig.12: Metal - copper; Shape - round; Size - 2.3cms; Weight - 11.37 gms.
Obverse: Asaf Jah Nizamulmulk Bahadur.’mim’.
Reverse: Juloos Maimaat Manoos Farkhunda Bunyad .
Fig.13: Metal - silver; Shape - round; Size - 2.6 cms; Weight - 11.18 gms;
Obverse: 92 Nizamulmulk Asaf Jah Bahadur sanh 128 and last digit absent.
Reverse: Julus Maimanut Manus Zarb Hyderabad Farkunda Bunyad.
The first issue of the Charminar coins of rupee denomination was released on 1st September 1904. Surprisingly, the coin design was by British Inglish, which became very popular. The weight of the rupee was 172.5 grains of silver as against 180 grains of British Indian rupee, the fineness of the coin being 816.8 mille as against 916.6 of the British India rupee. It is interesting to note that the weight of Mughal rupia was also 172.5 grains. Silver four-Anna pieces were struck in July 1905 while silver two-Anna and copper half-Anna coins were first issued in 1906. Half-rupee or eight-Anna coins were issued from 1910 AD onwards. Gold coins known as ashrafi were issued in four denominations - full, half, quarter and one-eighth. The mint was located at Darul-shifa until 1903 when it was shifted to Saifabad where it is located today. Nickel coinage came into vogue in 1919 when one Anna round pieces made its first appearance. This was replaced by quaternary nickel one Anna piece in 1937AD. Till 1911-12 the Hyderabad coinage system was governed by the firmans of the ruler and executive orders of the government. The Hyderabad Currency Act III of 1911-12 AD was the first basic legislation governing the coinage system in Hyderabad State.
Charminar type Asaf Jahi coins designed by T.M. Inglish
Fig.15: Two silver rupees of Mir Mahbub Ali Khan and Mir Osman Ali Khan. Initials of the kings ‘mim’ and ‘ain’ are seen inside Charminar.
It may be interesting to note that in January 1938 AD the Saifabad mint master suggested for the adoption decimal coinage for Hyderabad State and put forward a proposal to that effect. This did not materialize in the country until 1957 AD. It is also true that some trial coins were issued by mint by the machine before 1895 and these pieces keep appearing as curiosities to the numismatists.
Because of the coming into force of the new Constitution of India and the federal financial integration arrangements entered into by the Nizam with the President of India from 1st April 1950, the constitutional and legal authority for the issue and management of currency was transferred from the Hyderabad Government to the Government of India. Government of India demonetized and withdrew the Hyderabad currency in 1952-53 AD. Because of public outcry Asaf Jahi coins were allowed to be exchanged at the State Bank of Hyderabad until June 30th, 1959 AD.
Silver coins issued during the Qutb Shahi, Mughal and Asaf Jahi era were noted for their exceptional calligraphy. The source of silver for making these coins was imported since India never had elemental silver from ancient times and whatever meager amounts of silver that was produced in the country came as a by product while purifying lead, zinc and gold ores. First series of coins issued in India from 6th-7th century BC were mostly made of silver and the likely source was Afghanistan and Persia which had plenty of silver and it is worth recalling that Afghanistan known as Gandhara was part of India. Another source for silver in ancient times was Myanmar. X-ray diffraction studies of ancient coins and ores and estimation of their content of rare earth elements may reveal which ores were used for minting such coins in ancient India.
Month: July 2010.