Sunday, March 9, 2014

THE TEMPLE TOKENS OF THE SIKHS - PUNJAB



                               THE TEMPLE TOKENS  OF THE SIKHS - PUNJAB
                                                                                                         
                                                            Copywrite by Saran Singh

SIKH TEMPLE TOKENS

In the 18th and 19th Century, Sikh temple tokens depicting religious motives and designs were widely issued in Punjab. These temple tokens were the creation of private silversmiths and goldsmiths, who struck them in various Sikh religious centers and towns, in India. Some of them include :

  •    Akal Takht-Golden Temple Complex , Amritsar,
  •   Takht Keshgarh Sahib , Anandpur,
  •   Takht Hazur Sahib , Nanded, Maharashtra
  •   Takht Patna Sahib , Bihar
  •   Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda
               (known as Guru Ki Kashi – Guru’s center of learning)

   It had existed during the time of Guru Gobind Singh. It was officially
   recognized as a Takht (highest seat of religious authority) in November 1966 by
   SGPC in Amritsar.

  •   Nankana Sahib Gurdwara in Sheikhupura (now in Pakistan)
  •   Panja Sahib Gurdwara at Hassan Abdal in Attock (now in Pakistan)


These Sikh temple tokens were sold to pilgrims by the silversmiths at the various Sikh Gurdwara Sahibs, to be used as offerings. The Gurdwara authorities would then collect these Sikh tokens and return them to the silver merchants in exchange for cash for the Gurdwara fund. These merchants made a small profit from these transactions. Some of these Sikh pilgrims used to take these tokens home to keep as souvenirs due to the religious depictions in their designs.

The early issues of these Sikh temple tokens are dated Vikram Samvat 1804 (1747). They were issued to commemorate the birth of the Dal Khalsa, the highest religious body of the Sikhs at the Akal Takht in Amritsar. Tokens bearing this fixed date VS 1804, were issued up to the beginning of the 20th Century with numerous variations and die varieties.

Some of the Sikh temple tokens have only the numeral ‘400’ in place of the date. Perhaps the figure ‘400’ could refer to the 400th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, which corresponds to the year 1869. However, this is a pure conjecture and not a fact. There are also many Sikh temple tokens that do not have a date on them.

An interesting variety of Sikh temple tokens were struck in Vikram Samvat 1955 (1898), at the Heaton Mint, Birmingham, England. The obverse depicts Guru Nanak with his two disciples, Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana, seated on a mat under a tree. The reverse has the inscription in Gurmukhi of the ‘Mool Mantar’, which is the first verse in the Sikh Holy scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. These tokens are struck in silver with a diameter of 31.2 m.m. and weigh 12.40 grammes.

A majority of these Sikh temple tokens depict Guru Nanak seated under a tree with his disciples, Bhai Mardana  playing the rebab and Bhai Bala waving a chaur (fly-whisk), on the obverse. The reverse usually has an artistic portrait of Guru Gobind Singh Ji seated on the floor with either a falcon or a hawk perched on a wand. The inscription above his head in Nagari script reads “Sat Kartar” (The True Creater),

On some temple tokens, instead of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, there is a combination of various yantra numbers within a square design that in some cases, comes to a total of 15 or 21. It is believed that these yantra numeral totals have the power to protect oneself from evil.

Most of these Sikh temple tokens were struck in base silver, billion, brass, silver and even in gold. A majority of these tokens have a diameteroly BooHoly Bh of between 28 m.m. to 30 m.m.

These Sikh temple tokens were struck in large quantities over a very long period. Most of these Sikh tokens were melted down over the years. However, it is still possible to obtain these Sikh tokens from the silversmiths and merchants in the bazaars in northern India.


VS 1804 (1747)
 Base Silver
D: 28mm W:10.30g

Obverse: Guru Nanak Sahib Ji seated under a tree with his two disciples, Bhai Mardana
playing the rebab and Bhai Bala waving a chaur (fly-whisk) as a mark of respect.         

Reverse:  Guru Gobind Singh Ji holding a falcon (or on some pieces, a hawk). The inscription above in Nagari script is Sat Kartar” (The True Creator). The year date below is Vikram Samvat 1804 = 1747 A.D.)




VS 1955 (1898)
Silver
 D: 31mm W: 11.25g
Obverse: Guru Nanak Sahib Ji seated under a tree with his two disciples, Bhai Mardana playing the rebab and Bhai Bala waving a chaur (fly-whisk) as a mark of respect.

Reverse: The First verse in Gurmukhi script from the Gurbani in the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ik O’nkar, Sat-naam, Karta-purkh, Nir-bhau, Nir-vair, Akaal-moorat, Ajooni Sai-bhang, Gur-parsaad,  Jap, Aaad sach, Jugaad sach, Hai-bhi sach, Nanak hosi bhi sach. 1.” (There is but One God. Truth is his Name. He is the all pervading Creator. He is without fear. He is without any enmity. He is eternal, timeless. God is unborn, beyond incarnation. The self-existant God is by Himself from Himself. He is attained by the Guru’s grace. Recite. True in the beginning, True before ages began, True at present, Nanak True He shall ever be. 1.) The year date below is Vikram Samvat 1955 (= 1898). 





SIKH TEMPLE TOKENS
    

VS 1804 (1747)
Base Silver, D:28mm, W: 12.10g



VS 1804 (1747)
White Metal, D:29mm, W: 14.20g.



 Ek On’kar Sat Kartar
No Date. Silver, D: 28mm, W: 12.90g


The figure '400'
Brass, D: 27mm, W: 7.60g.

No Date. or inscriptions
 Brass, D: 29mm, W: 11.10g

VS 1804 (1747)
 Brass, D: 29mm ,W: 11.90g.


No Date. Brass, D: 29mm, W: 10.80g.
4, 3, 8, 9, 5, 1, 2, 7, 6
within squares
Total in each line = 15

VS 1804. Brass, D: 28mm, W: 11.50g.
4, 3, 8, 9, 5, 1, 2, 7, 6
within squares
Total in each line = 15
No  Date. Copper
D: 30mm, W: 6.20g.

VS 1923 (1866). Brass
 D: 27mm ,W: 10.60g
No Date. Gold
            D: 27mm, W: 12.45g.

No Date. Gold
              D: 22mm, W: 4.90g.




BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brotman I. F. – “A Guide to the Temple Tokens of India
(Shamrock Press, Los Angeles, California, 1970)

Chhabra G. S. Dr. – “Advanced History of the Punjab, Volume I (1469 – 1799)”
(New Academic Publishing Co., Jullundar, Punjab, 2nd Edition, 1971)

Chhabra G. S. – “Advanced History of the Punjab, Volume II,
Ranjit Singh & post Ranjit Singh period”
(Parkash Brothers, Ludhiana, Punjab, 3rd Edition, 1976)

Hans Herrli – “The coins of the Sikhs”, 2nd Edition
(Published by Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, India)

Jai Prakash Singh – “Observations on Sikh Tokens”
(Numismatics International, U.S.A., Bulletin Volume 16 No.2, December 1982)

Roma Niyogi - “Money of the People – a survey of some 18th and 19th Century Tokens of India
(Published by the Indian Museum, Clacutta, 1989)

Saran Singh – “The Formation of Sikhism and the Coins of the Sikhs 1469 – 1849”
(Published by Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1979)


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

A special word of thanks goes to the following researches of Sikh coinage of Punjab who very kindly checked and updated some of the information in this manuscript “The Coins of the Sikhs – Punjab” .

Jyoti Rai, New Delhi
Dr Surinder Singh, Chandigarh, Punjab
Narindar Pal Singh, Ludhiana, Punjab
Dalwinder Singh, California, USA
Gurprit Singh*, Ludhiana , Punjab
   * (whose translation of the persian inscription on the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur  appears to be the most appropriate to date)



















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