Sikh Portrait Rupees during Maharaja Ranjit Singh
by Dalwinder Singh
Two varieties of the portrait silver rupees were struck at the Lahore Mint, bearing the year date VS 1885 (1826) and VS1885/93 (1836). It is believed that these were not made for circulation. These portrait rupees are extremely rare, and only a hand full are known to exist in museums and private collections.
These pieces could be medals, presentation pieces made to commemorate an auspicious occasion, or used during some religious ceremony or purpose. The VS1893 piece for example was believed to be produced as a presentation piece during Prince Nau Nihal Singh's marriage. Its not clear yet what was significant during VS1885, but am expecting more research in this area. Dr. Surinder Singh's article in 1990 is another set of reading material, which focused on this very topic. The depiction of Maharaja Ranjit Singh kneeling to Guru Nanak in homage may be considered auspicious.
On the first variety, the obverse depicts Maharaja Ranjit Singh offering a flower, probably a lotus flower, to Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, Sikhism. The reverse has the usual Gobindshahi inscriptions in Persian (Zarb Lahore) and the fixed year date VS 1885 (1826).
1 Rupee VS 1885 (1828)Lahore Mint, D: 25mm, W: 10.80g.
On the second variety, the obverse depicts Maharaja Ranjit Singh offering a flower to Guru Nanak. In the background is a pennant (flag facing left) with the fixed year date VS 1885 below. The reverse has the usual Gobindshahi legends with the actual year date VS (18)93 (1836).
The one key observation is that the legends side (reverse) of both varieties show the date VS1885 and VS1893, which could be the years when the coins were struck. The obverse of the 2nd variety is showing the frozen year VS1885, which is common to many Sikh coins of later years.
1 Rupee VS 1885 /93 (1836)
(Photo: British Museum Collection)