Friday, May 31, 2013

The Khalsa Panth (Sikh League) and its coinage

A brief Introduction of the Khalsa Panth and its coinage      
by Saran Singh and Dalwinder Singh                      

The years 1716 – 1733 were a period of persecution of the Sikhs by the Mughal rulers. The Sikhs were captured and tortured and many fled into the jungles. Many battles were fought during this period by the Khalsa Panth under the leadership of Kapur Singh (1697 – 1753). Finally in 1733, Zakaria Khan the Governor of Punjab, decided to reconcile with the Sikhs. He offered them a jagir (fief) with an annual revenue of one lakh rupees and the title of Nawab. The Sikhs appointed Kapur Singh as Nawab, settled at Amritsar, their holy city, and began to consolidate their power in Punjab.

In 1734, Nawab Kapur Singh divided the Sikhs  into two sections – the Budda Dal (army of the elderly) and the Taruna Dal (army of the young). The Budda Dal was in charge of all holy places, preaching the Guru’s messages and spreading the Sikh religion. The Taruna Dal was tasked with the training of the Sikhs in martial arts and to fight the enemy when necessary.

      Nawab Kapur Singh
      (1697 – 1753)  

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia
        (1718 – 1783)

(Photos:Central Sikh Museum, Golden Temple complex, Amritsar)

By 1747, the Sikhs had 65 jathas (bands) in the Punjab. On 29th March 1748 (Baisakhi day), the sarbat Khalsa (the General Assembly of the Sikhs) under Kapur Singh gathered in Amritsar, their holy city. The Sikh forces were united into a single fighting force under the control of the Dal Khalsa , the highest religious body of the Sikhs at the Akal Takht   (the throne of the Timeless  One God, Waheguru) at Amritsar. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718 – 1783) was given the supreme command of the Dal Khalsa. The Sikhs were now divided into eleven (11) misls or divisions under the control of a Sikh Chief with his own banner. The eleven sikh misls were :
1.      Ahluwalia Misl, under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia
2.      Faizullapuria  or Singhpuria Misl, under Nawab Kapur Singh
3.      Nishanwalia Misl, under Desaunda Singh
4.      Dallewalia  Misl, under Gulab Singh
5.      Karora Singhia or Punjgarhia Misl, under Karora Singh
6.      Bhangi Misl, under Hari Singh
7.      Ramgarhia Misl, under Jassa Singh Ramgarhia
8.      Kanhayia Misl, under Jai Singh
9.      Nakkai Misl, under Hira Singh
10.  Sukarchakia Misl, under Charhat Singh
11.  Shahid Misl, under Deep Singh 

The Phulkian Misl, under Ala Singh, was not part of the Dal Khalsa. It was mainly active in the Sikh States Of Nabha, Patiala, Jind and Kaithal. It was however aligned to the Dal Khalsa, and used to provide assistance in times of need.

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia established the system of “Rakhi” (protection) in the Punjab around 1756. In return for one-fifth of one’s income to the Sikhs, protection was granted to the people against exploitation by Government officials and robbers. This system ultimately led to the establishment of a national monarchy.
In December 1763, the Dal Khalsa attacked and defeated Zain Khan, the Durrani Governor of Sirhind. Sirhind ( where Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s two youngest sons had been cruelly bricked up alive by the Subedar in  1705).

In April 1765, the leaders of the various misls led by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, passed a Gurmata (decree) to establish the Sikh State of Punjab by declaring their sovereignty and independence. In 1765, under the authority of the Sikh League “Khalsa”, the Bhangi Misl struck 1 Rupee silver coins at the Lahore Mint which came to be known as the “Nanak Shahi Rupiya” (coins of Guru Nanak). These coins were struck between the Vikrama Samvat Years 1822 – 1855 (1765 – 1798). These coins were about 21 mm in diameter and had a weight of approximately 11 gram’s.

Obverse : In Persian “Degh O tegh O fateh nusrat be-dirang, yaft az Nanak Guru
                 Gobind  Singh”
                 (The prosperity, strength by the sword and resultant victory are obtained from
                   Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh)

Reverse : In Persian “Zarb dar as – Sultanat Lahore, sanat ____ julus maimanat
                 (Struck in auspicious and prosperous capital of Lahore , samvat year ____)

1/2 Rupee VS 1847 (1790)
Lahore Mint
D: 19mm,W: 5.35g
1 Rupee VS 1822 (1765)
Lahore Mint
D: 21mm,W: 11.25g
First Coin by the Khalsa

1 Rupee VS 1841 (1784)
Lahore Mint
D: 23mm, W: 11.20g

The “Khalsa” struck 1 rupee silver coins at the Amritsar mint between the Vikram Samvat Years 1832 – 1855 (1775 – 1798). The symbol of the leaf on Sikh coins was included for the first time in VS 1845 (1788).  Nanakshahi rupees were also struck at the Lahore Mint.

Obverse : Similar to the obverse of the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Rupee Year 2 and 3

Reverse : “Zarb Sri Amritsar Jeo. Jalus Maimanat Takht Akal Bakht, Samvat ____
                 (Struck at illustrious Amritsar in the reign of the auspicious and prosperous
                  Akal Takht (seat of the temporal authority of the Khalsa – Sikh Brotherhood),
                  Samvat Year ___)

1 Rupee VS 1833 (1766)
Amritsar Mint
D: 21mm, W: 11.15g
 1 Rupee VS 1845 (1788)
     Amritsar Mint, D: 22mm,W: 11.15g.
     Leaf symbol added for the first time

 The Bhangi Misl, a component of the “Khalsa”, struck 1 rupee silver coins at the Multan Mint, which was under their jurisdiction, between VS1829 – VS 1836 (1772 – 1779).

 1 Rupee VS 1830 (1773)
   Multan Mint, D: 21mm, W: 11.30g.

The “Khalsa” also struck 1 rupee silver coins bearing the name Anandgarh between VS1840 – VS 1846 (1783 – 1789) and VS 1848 – VS 1849 (1791 – 1792). These coins were most probably struck at  Amritsar. 

 1 Rupee VS 1841 (1784) Anandgarh
D: 23mm, W: 11.10g.

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia acted as a permanent leader of the Sikhs and brought them out of political chaos into self Government. He died of old age in 1783.


* The coins of the Sikhs issued since VS 1822 (1765) all bear the Vikram Samvat year date.
   This is 57 years ahead of the English calendar (AD).
++ As the dies for striking the Sikh coins were larger then the planchets, only part of the Persian
     inscriptions appear on the coins.


Baba Banda Singh Bahadur ( 1670 – 1716 ) and the first coins of the Sikhs

A brief Introduction of the first coins of the Sikhs
by Saran Singh & Dalwinder Singh                                                                                               

On 3rd September  1708, Guru Gobind Singh Ji administered the vows and Amrit (blessed necter) to Madho Das, a Hindu Sadhu or ascetic, and gave him a new name,  Banda Singh. At the same time,  he gave Banda Singh a Nagara (war drum), Nishan Sahib (banner) and five arrows from his own quiver as symbols of Authority. Banda Singh was also accompanied by five Sikhs to assist him to build up his forces so as to repel the tyranny of the Mughal Empire.

After the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh Ji* (1666 – 1708), Baba Banda Singh Bahadur took over the leadership of the Khalsa Panth (Sikh League / brotherhood). To counteract against the Mughal rulers atrocities and religious persecution of the Sikhs, he decided to eliminate the rule of the Mughal power itself. Baba Banda Singh made a start towards the creation of an independent Sikh State (Punjab) and assumed political authority. His areas of control stretched from Lahore to Panipat in India. He appointed Sikh administrators to rule over the territories under his control.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s Sikh forces defeated the army of Nawab Wazir Khan, the Subedar of Sirhind on 14th May 1710. Sirhind was the place where on the orders of the cruel Subedar, Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s  two youngest sons, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji, were bricked up alive in December 1705. To commemorate the conquest of Sirhind, a new era was declared by the Sikhs, starting with Samvat  Year 1  (14th May 1710 – 13th May 1711). **

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur
(Photo:Central Sikh Museum, Golden Temple complex, Amritsar)

In 1711, the Khalsa Panth, under the leadership of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, issued the  
first known 1 rupee silver coins bearing the Year 2  at Mukhlispore (renamed Lohgarh) near Sadhaura. A second issue of 1 rupee silver coins bearing the Year 3 were issued in 1712. However , the couplet of these coins is different from the couplet used on the seal of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.

The aforesaid letter bears the seal of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur , in Persian, Deg-o-tegh-o-fateh-o-nusrat-bedrang yaft az Nanak Guru Gobind Singh (Abundance, power, victory and assistance without delay are the gifts of Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh)
Below the seal is the Hukamnama (edict or order) to the Sikhs of Jaunpur by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur on 12th December 1710.

Romanized English version of the Hukamnama

Ek Ongkar Fateh Darshan. Sri sache sahib ji ka hokum hai sarbat Khalsa Jaunpur ka Guru rekhega, guru japna janam savraega, tusi sri akal purakh ji ka khalsa ho, panj hathear banh ke hukam dekhdiya darshan awna. Khalsae di rahet rahena, bhang, tumakoo, hafeem, posthe, dharoo, amal koyee na hi khana, mas masheli paeaj na hi khana, chori jari nahi karni, asa satjug vertaeya hae aap vech pyar karna, mera hukam hae jo khalsae di rahet rahega tesdi Guru bahori kareaga. Methi Poh 12 samvat pahela satrathes.

Translation of the Hukamnama

Ek Ongkar Fateh Darshan. By the order of the true king, all the Khalsa of Jaunpur will be protected by Guru ji, Pray to the Guru for he will improve your life. You are God’s Khalsa, wear the five weapons and on being ordered, present yourself. You must obey the principals of the Khalsa. You are not to consume hemp, tobacco, opium, poppy seeds or alcoholic drinks. You are not to eat meat, fish and onions. You must not steal. We usher in a new era, Satjug – the Age of Truth. Love one another. This is my order, those who should live according to the principals of the Khalsa will be protected by God. Dated 12 Poh samvat pahela 1 (= 12 December 1710)

The significance of the Hukamnama

The interesting thing about this letter is that it has the date in Gurmukhi Poh 12 Samvat Pahela 1 (= 12 December Samvat Year 1, i.e. 1710) on the last line. The new Samvat era date on this letter further confirms that a new era (Samvat Year 1) was declared by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur after his capture of the city of Sirhind on 14th May, 1710.

It is possible  that Baba Banda Singh Bahadur could have issued the 1 Rupee coin bearing the Year 1. Should such a coin be traced in time to come, the two listed coins below would become the 2nd and 3rd issues of his short lived coinage.

 1 Rupee silver, Year 2 (1711)
 Diameter: 28 mm, Weight: 11.96 grammes

1 Rupee silver,Year 3 (1712)
Diameter: 23 mm, Weight: 11.84 grammes   

Obverse: In Persian “Sikka zad bar Har do alam , fazl Saccha Sahib ast , fateh
               tegh-e Gur(u) Gobind (Singh) shah shahan,  Nanak waheb ast”  
               (Coin struck for the two worlds by the grace of the True Lord, Victory of the
               sword of the King of Kings , Guru Gobind (Singh) , Nanak submits (says) that
               Almighty is the provider)

Reverse: In Persian “Zarb Khalsa Mubarak bakht ba-aman ad-dhar zinat al takht
               mashwarat shahr, sanah 2”
               (struck by the Khalsa of auspicious fortune at the refuge of the fate, the
                ornament of the throne (of Akal) the city of the council, year 2).

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was captured near Gurdaspur and taken in chains to Delhi. He was horribly tortured before being executed on 9th June 1716 on the orders of the Mughal ruler, Farrukhsiyar.

*    Guru Gobind Singh Ji left for his heavenly abode on 7th October 1808
** Saran Singh – “The first coins of the Sikhs”, Oriental Numismatic Society Information Sheet
   Number 144 page 7- 8, Spring 1995. Baba Banda Singh’s edict dated 12th December 1710 to the                  
   Sikhs at Jaunpur in Gurmukhi script with the  year 1, published in Desh Pardesh, London, 1991,
   page 49.