Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Coinage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 – 1839)


The Coinage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 - 1839) 
by Saran Singh and Dalwinder Singh

Ranjit Singh, later known as the “Lion of the Punjab”, took over the leadership of the Sukerchakia Misl on the death of his famous father, Mahan Singh, in 1790 at the young age of 10 years. In July 1799, Ranjit Singh captured Lahore and drove out the three unpopular Bhangi Misl chiefs, Chet Singh, Sahib Singh and Mohar Singh.
In 1799 (VS 1856), Ranjit Singh established the Sikh State with Lahore as his political capital. In 1800, Ranjit Singh attacked the State of Jammu, which became his feudatory. On Baisakhi day, 12th April 1801 (VS 1858), Ranjit Singh was proclaimed Maharaja of Punjab. Baba Sahib Singh Bedi, a pious Sikh and a direct decendent of Guru Nanak, applied the ceremonial saffron mark to Ranjit Singh’s forehead on this occasion. He then began a policy of expansion, bringing neighbouring territories under his control. In 1802, he established a political alliance with Fateh Singh (1784 – 1836) of the Ahluwalia Misl. In 1802 he captured the holy city of Amritsar from the Bhangi Misl. Ranjit Singh occupied and annexed the territories of the Dallewalia Misl and the Karora Singhia Misl in 1807, the Nakkai Misl in 1810, the Faizullapurias Misl in 1811, the Kanaihyas Misl in 1811/12 and the Ramgarhias Misl in 1816.


Baba Sahib Singh Bedi (1756 – 1834) applying the tilak to the forehead of Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his installation ceremony – 12th April, 1801.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh conquered Kasur in 1807, Kangra in 1809, Multan in 1818, Kashmir in 1819 and Peshawar in 1834. Dera (Dera Ghazi Khan) became a Sikh Protectorate in 1820. The Derajat region and Mankera became Sikh Protectorates in 1821. Chamba was under Sikh rule from 1809 onwards and Najibabad from 1795 – 1830.

At the peak of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule, the boundaries of the State of Punjab extended up to Ladakh and the Sulaiman mountains in the north, the river Sutlej in the south-east and up to Shikarpur in the south-west.

During Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign, Sikh coins were struck between the Vikram Samvat Years VS 1858 – 1896 (1801 – 1839). Copper falus or paisa coins were struck from the mints at Lahore, Amritsar, Jammu, Srinagar, Multan and Peshawar.
  
The 1/16 Rupee, 1/8 Rupee, ¼ Rupee, ½ Rupee and 1 Rupee silver rupees were struck at the Amritsar Mint. The ¼ Rupee, ½ Rupee and 1 Rupee silver coins were struck by the Kashmir Mint at Srinagar. The ½ Rupee and 1 Rupee silver coins were struck at the Lahore Mint and Multan Mint. The Peshawar Mint struck only 1 Rupee coins. These coins all bear the Vikram Samvat year dates and were issued at various dates throughout the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.


    1 Rupee VS 1856 (1799)
    Amritsar Mint
    D: 22.5mm, W: 10.12g.
    (Photo : Dalwinder Singh Collection)


A rupee VS 1856 (1799) exists with the leaf symbol as well as the double sprig with buds/berries. The buds/berries appear to be a secondary symbol on the left side of the leaf. This coin with the berry leaf is likely to be the earliest prototype of the buds/berries design. In subsequent coins, between VS1858 – VS1863, the leaf symbol was removed.

A different variation of the Silver Rupees, with the leaf symbol removed but the double sprig with buds/berries as the principal mark were struck at the Amritsar Mint between the Vikram Samvat years VS 1858 – VS 1863 (1801 – 1806). The buds/berries is most likely a representation of the dukh bhanjani berry (berry tree – the healer of all sorrows) in the vicinity of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Another view is that the buds/berries are the representation of the feathers of a peacock.















The above coins came to be popularly known as the Mora Shahi Rupees in the
bazaar (market place). For the record, Bibi Moran, was a former muslim dancing girl. Maharaja Ranjit Singh fell for her charm and beauty and married her in 1802. She was even conferred the title “Moran Sarkar”. Ranjit Singh’s marriage to Moran was greatly resented by the Sikhs. In 1811, on the orders of the Sikh Panth “Khalsa”, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was called to the Sri Akal Takht in Amritsar by the Jathedar Akali Phula Singh, to explain his undesirable conduct. He was then admonished and sentenced to be flogged publicly. Ranjit Singh accepted the punishment gracefully, but was let off by the payment of a fine of Rs1,25,000.  He also very  reluctantly exiled Bibi Moran to Pathankot.

In VS 1862 (1805) and VS 1863 (1806), a different variety was issued with the symbol of a sprig with two large and two small leaves. These two types of silver rupees were issued only for a short period and were discontinued thereafter.



In VS 1862 (1805) and VS 1863 (1806) , another variety of silver rupees and gold mohurs was struck at the Amritsar Mint with the leaf symbol being replaced with a flower. This flower is most likely a representation of the berry flower. Again, for some unknown reason, these coins came to be known as the Arsiwala shahi Rupees. An arsi is a mirror ring worn as an ornament on the thumb, usually by dancing girls and brides. 
    
                                     
                                                  1 Mohur VS 1863 (1806)
                                                     Arsiwala shahi (gold) 
                                                          Amritsar Mint
                                                            D: 21mm
                                                             (Photo : British Museum Collection)
 
                                 
                                               1/4 Rupee VS 1884/85 (1828)
                                                          Amritsar Mint 
                                                     D: 16mm, W: 2.70g.
  
                                 
                           1/2 Rupee VS 1884/86 (1829)
                         Amritsar Mint
                        D: 19mm, W:5.50g.



                            
                       1 Rupee VS 1858 (1801)
                   Amritsar Mint
                  D: 22mm, W:11.00g


            1 Rupee VS 1862 (1805)
            Mora Shahi Rupee
            D: 21mm, W:11.10g.
            Double sprig with buds
            of the Berry tree



1 Rupee VS 1863 (1806)
Amritsar Mint
  D: 22mm, W:11.10g.
  Sprig with four leaves



1 Rupee VS 1863 (1806)
Arsiwala Shahi Rupee
D: 21mm, W:11.10g.
Berry Flower

Nazarana Rupee VS 1873 (1816)
Amritsar Mint. Dar Jhang
D: 20mm, W:10.42g



  1 Rupee VS 1871 (1817)
Amritsar Mint, Dar Jhang
D: 22mm W:11.10g


2 Paisa VS (18)80 (1823)
Amritsar Mint
D:22mm W:11.60g


1 Paisa (No Date)
Amritsar Mint (Katar – Daggar)
D: 20mm, W:9.10g


1 Paisa VS 1885 (1828)
Amritsar Mint,
D: 22mm,W: 10.8g
(Gurmukhi legends)


1 Rupee VS 1892 (1835) 
Kashmir Mint 
D: 21mm, W: 7.6g
(Gurmukhi Legends)

1 Rupee VS 1884 (1827)

Kashmir Mint
D: 21mm, W: 11.0g

1 Paisa (No Date) 
Kashmir Mint
D: 15mm x 21mm, W: 8.30g


1 Rupee VS 1860 (1803)

Lahore Mint

D: 23mm, W:11.10g.

   1 Paisa VS 1881 (1824)

Lahore Mint
                   D: 21mm, W: 11.30g.

1 Rupee VS 1879 (1822)

Mankera (Sri Akal)
                 D: 22mm, W: 11.10g

   1 Rupee VS 1889 (1832)

   Multan Mint
   D: 22mm, W: 11.10g

1 Rupee VS 1892 (1835)

   Peshawar Mint

D: 22mm, W: 8.45g.


1 Paisa (No Date)

                 Peshawar Mint        
            D: 22.5mm, W: 8.40g.

1 Rupee VS 1884/(18)94 (1837)

                   Dera. Sikh Protectorate          

          D: 22mm, W:11.10g.


   1 Rupee VS 1896 (1839)
     Derajat (Sikh Protectorate)
   D: 18mm, W: 10.80g



   1 Paisa Date off flan

   Derajat (1835)
     D: 20mm, W: 7.50g

1 Rupee AH1221 Year 47 (1806)

                 Najibabad. Sikh Feudatory
                 D: 21mm, W: 10.90g.  


Paisa 1830 PATTERN

                  Mint Unknown. Copper

               D: 27mm, W: 8.20g.



In 1836, two varieties of the portrait silver rupees were struck at the Lahore Mint. On the first variety, the obverse depicts Maharaja Ranjit Singh offering a flower to Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, Sikhism. The reverse has the usual Gobindshahi inscriptions in Persian and the fixed year date VS 1885.

On the second variety, the obverse depicts Maharaja Ranjit Singh offering a flower to Guru Nanak. In the background is a pennant (flag) with the fixed year date VS 1885 below. The reverse has the usual Gobindshahi legends with the actual year date VS (18)93 (1836).



1 Rupee VS 1885 (1828)
    Lahore Mint, D: 25mm, W: 10.80g.

1 Rupee VS 1885 /93 (1836)

Lahore Mint
(Photo : British Museum Collection)




The death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on 27th June 1839 was a great blow to the Sikhs.

His mighty empire barely lasted a decade after his death.

















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