Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sikh Religious Tokens of India - A Detailed Review



Sikh Religious Tokens of India
   By Saran Singh  and  Dalwinder Singh   
May, 2014


Sikh  Religious Tokens, depicting Guru Nanak  (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion  and the tenth and last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), are shown on the obverse and reverse.  Sikh religious tokens first made their appearance in the middle of the 18th Century.  They were based on the Hindu temple tokens which were widely in use in the Hindu temples. The earliest pieces bear the date Vikram Samvat 1804 (= 1747).  This fixed date appeared on most of the Sikh religious tokens until the early years of 20th Century. Sikh religious tokens also exist with the Vikram Samvat year 1723 (=1666).  These pieces commemorate the year of birth of Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1666 in the town of Patna, State of Bihar. Other pieces have the figure “400” which may well refer to the 400th Anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak which occurred in 1869. Many of these tokens were also made without any date on them.  Some exceptional pieces in Silver were struck at the Heaton mint, Birmingham, England bearing the first verse of the Gurbani (Mool Mantra – the first verse in the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Grant Sahib Ji) with the Vikram Samvat date 1955 (=1878).  Other similar pieces exist struck in Austria, made in brass. Some of the Sikh religious tokens also have the yantra (mystical figures) that add up to a total of 15 or 20 in any direction.

Sikh religious tokens were made by various jewelers and merchants in Brass, Billon, Base Silver, Silver, and even in Gold.  They were usually sold outside the entrance to Sikh Gurdwaras by various traders.  The Sikh pilgrims who went to pray at the Gurdwaras, purchased these religious tokens to be placed as an offering during their obeisance (metha tekna) with folded hands to the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib  Ji. The custodians of the Gurdwaras used to collect these Sikh religious token and recycle them back to the merchants, with the bulk of the profits going to the Gurdwara.  One of the reasons these token became popular was because many people felt that it was more auspicious to make an offering of a religious token instead of cash in accordance with the prevailing custom.  However, it must be reiterated that many worshippers used to make their offerings to the Gurdwaras in hard cash according to their means.

It was natural that the Sikhs would purchase some extra pieces of the Sikh religious tokens to be taken away as souvenirs or to be given away as gifts. By the beginning of the 20th Century, the usage of Sikh religious tokens in Gurdwaras became less and less and gradually faded away into oblivion.  By this time the currency, both coins and banknotes, came to be in greater use in the Gurdwaras.

This text is prepared by Saran Singh of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  The photographs and all Sikh religious tokens depicted in this article are from the collection of Dalwinder Singh, California.  The writers would greatly appreciate hearing from fellow Numismatists of any errors, omissions or updates so that this article may be further improved for the benefit of the Numismatic community.

References:


·       1. “Guide to the Temple Tokens of India” by Irwin F. Brotman.  First Edition 1970.208 page
            (Shamrock Press, Los Angeles, California)

     2. "On the dates on Indian Religious Tokens” by Dr. Jai Prakash Singh.  Banaras Hindu University,
          Varanasi, India (Published in Numismatics International Bulletin, Texas, USA, Volume 17 
          Number 7 – July 1983.  Pages 235-238)

“   3. "Observations on Sikh Tokens” by Jai Prakash Singh, Benaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. 
         (Published in Numismatics International Bulletin, Texas, USA, Volume 16 Number 12 – December
         1982, Pages 359-364)

·      4. "Money of the People” – Some 18th and 19th Century Tokens of India” by Roma Niyogi.    
          First Edition 1989. 92 pages and 20 Plates. (Published by Indian Museum, Calcutta)


·      5. Indian Tokens: Popular Religious & Secular Art from the ancient period to the present day” by 
         Michael Mitchiner.  First Edition 1998. 234 pages (Published by Hawkins Publications, 
         London, UK)

     6. The Coins of the Sikhs” by Hans Herrli. 2nd Edition 2004. 301 pages (Published by Munshiram
         Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, India. 

     7. Sikh Religious Tokens” by Surinder Singh, Chandigarh, Punjab. 15 pages. Unpublished manuscript.





Guru Nanak / Guru Gobind Singh VS1804 (=1747)

Type SS1                    












Obverse: Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, seated on a rug against a bolster (cylindrical cushion) under a tree. His wooden sandals (pehooae) in front and water pot (lota) on his side.  His disciples, Bhai Mardana, seated playing the rebab (string musical instruments) and Bahi Bala, seated fanning Guru Nanak with respect with a fly whisk (chauri) which was usually made of peacock feathers.

Reverse: Guru Gobind Singh seated on a rug with a bolster behind and a halo (a circle of light) radiating around his head. A lattice fence is at the back. The Guru is holding a wand on which is perched his hawk (Bajh). Inscription in Nagari above “Sat Kartar” (the True Creator). Year date below in Nagari VS“1804”  = 1747

Edge : Plain , Diameter:28mm , Weight:10.05g , Composition: Brass

Note1: The Vikram Samvat Year 1804 (=1747) lasted from February 1747 to February 1748. The Dal Khalsa, the Supreme Council of the Sikhs in Amritsar, passed a Gurmata (Decree) to consolidate the 65 Sikh Jathas into 12 Misls (confederacies) on 29th March 1748, Baisakhi Day. As such, the year date VS”1804” = 1747 has no connection with the formation of the Dal Khalsa and the 12 Misls on 29th March, 1748. Is it possible that these tokens were actually planned as part of the formation of the Dal Khalsa much earlier, and were supposed to be part of a commemorative issue? As the dates are very close, we leave it to the readers and historians to make their own conclusions.



Guru Nanak / Guru Gobind Singh (No Date)

Type SS2        
 









Obverse: Similar to Type SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana), but with inscription in Gurmukhi “Om Sat Kartar” (The One True Lord/Creator)

Reverse: Similar to Type SS1 (Guru Gobind Singh) but without inscription and year date.
Edge : Plain , Diameter:28mm , Weight:12.06g , Composition: Brass




Guru Nanak / 1st Verse of the Gurbani VS1955 (1898)

Type SS3 





Obverse: Design generally similar to SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana) but without the wooden sandals (pehooae) and water pot (lota), and with tiled floor in front.

Reverse: “Mool Mantar” – The first verse from the Sikh Holy Book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) in Gurmukhi script “Ik O’nkar, Sat-naam, Karta-purkh, Nir-bhau, Nir-vair, Akal-moorat, Ajooni- Sai-bhang, Gur-parsaad, Jap, Aad-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 hate or 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 VS”1955” = 1898

Edge : Plain , Diameter:31mm , Weight:12.5g , Composition: Silver 

Struck at the Heaton Mint, Birmingham, England






Guru Nanak / Guru Gobind Singh VS1723 (1666)

Type SS4 
 









Obverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Gobind Singh) but with the inscription in Gurmukhi “Sat Kartar” (The True Creator) and the year date below in Nagari VS“1723”=1666.  This is the year in which Guru Gobind Singh was born in the town of Patna in the State of Bihar. 

Edge : Plain , Diameter:28.5mm , Weight:12.22g , Composition: Billon 

Note: This is most like to be a commemorative piece dated VS1723 (1666), but issued much later. Guru Gobind Rai who was born on 22nd December, 1666, was given the name Guru Gobind Singh when he was baptized by the Five Beloved Ones (Panj Piarae) on Baisakhi Day on 30th March 1699 at Anandpur, Punjab.






Guru Nanak / 400 (1869)

Type SS5 












Obverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Gobind Singh) without any inscription. The numerals in Nagari script “400”. This may well commemorate the 400th year of the birth of Guru Nanak which fell in 1869. 

Edge : Plain , Diameter:27.5mm , Weight:9.50g , Composition: Brass




 

Guru Nanak / Yantra = 15

Type SS6        








Obverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: The mystical numerals (Yantra) in Nagari which come to a total of 15 in any straight line (Example : 4 3 8 ; 9 5 1 ; 2 7 6 ; 4 9 2 ; 3 5 7 ; 8 1 6 ; 4 5 6 ; 8 5 2). This mystical formation of numbers is believed to protect oneself against evil influences. 

Edge : Plain , Diameter:29mm , Weight:10.11g , Composition: Brass 

Note: Hans Herli states in his book “The Coins of the Sikhs” 2nd Edition, Page 273 that according to the late Surinder Singh of Chandigarh, these tokens with mystical numerals were issued by or for the Udasis, a religious sect founded by Sri Chand, a son of Guru Nanak.







Guru Nanak / Yantra = 20

Type SS7        
 











Obverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: The mystical numerals (Yantra) in Nagari which come to a total of 20 in any formation (Example : 8 7 4 1 ; 2 3 6 9 ; 3 7 1 9 ; 6 4 8 2 ; 3 7 4 6 ; 2 8 1 9). This mystical formation of numbers is believed to protect oneself against evil influences.

Edge : Plain , Diameter:28mm , Weight:10.50g , Composition: Brass 

Note: There is also another Yantra (Mystical Numeral Figure) that totals up to 27. This Yantra does not seem to have been inserted on any religious token, at least to the current knowledge of the writers. The formation of the Yantra numerals in any formation is (10 5 12 ; 11 9 7 ; 6 13 8 ; 10 11 6 ; 5 9 13 ; 12 7 8 ; 10 9 8 ; 12 9 6)


Yantra : Mystical Numeral Figures


10
5
12
11
9
7
6
13
8

Total in each line  = 27 (all directions)





Guru Nanak / Guru Gobind Singh (without any inscription and year date)

Type SS8 












Obverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Gobind Singh) but without any inscription or year date

Edge : Plain , Diameter:29mm , Weight:10.75g , Composition: Billon 





Guru Nanak / Guru Gobind Singh (with inscription on reverse , no year date)

Type SS9 










Obverse: Similar to SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: Guru Gobind Singh with the inscription in Hindi below “Guru Gobind Singh”

Edge : Plain , Diameter:29.5mm , Weight:12.04g , Composition: Brass



Guru Gobind Singh / 1st Verse of the Gurbani

Type SS10 
 






Obverse: Guru Gobind Singh seated on a rug facing right with a bolster behind and a halo (a circle of light) radiating around his head. A lattice fence at the back. The Guru is holding a wand on which is perched his hawk (Bajh) and his other hand holding his sword. Inscription in Gurmukhi above “Guru Gobind Singh”

Reverse: “Mool Mantar” – The first verse from the Sikh Holy Book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) in Gurmukhi script. See type SS3 for the full inscription and translation. Inscription below in Urdu “Raja Darya Mal Devi Dayal of Chonk Darbar, Amritsar / Astria mei bana” (Made in Austria). Without Year Date. 

Edge : Plain , Diameter:27mm , Weight:7.37g , Composition: Gold plated Brass

Note: This piece was made in Austria and was issued by  Raja Darya Mal Devi Dayal of Chonk Darbar, Amritsar. The Chonk Darbar is near the Manji Sahib area of the Harmindir Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple), The issuer of this token must have been a man of great importance.






Guru Hargobind Sahib / 1st Verse of the Gurbani

Type SS11 
 








Obverse: Guru Hargobind (1595 – 1644), the sixth Guru, on his horse with a Hawk in hand and a halo (a circle of light) radiating around his head. An attendant standing behind waving a fly whisk (Chauri) which was usually made with peacock feathers. His hunting dog below. The Gurmukhi inscription “ Guru Hargobind Sahib”

Reverse: “Mool Mantar” – The first verse from the Sikh Holy Book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) in Gurmukhi script. See type SS3 for the full inscription and translation. 

Edge : Plain , Diameter:28mm , Weight:7.85g , Composition: Copper

Note: This is a modern religious token which was made in the 1990’s to serve as a souvenir.




Guru Gobind Singh / 1st Verse of the Gurbani

Type SS12 








Obverse: A variation of type SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: “Mool Mantar” – The first verse from the Sikh Holy Book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) in Gurmukhi script. See type SS3. Incomplete verse, ends with the word “Gur-parsaad

Edge : Plain , Diameter:25mm , Weight:5.50g , Composition: Cupro Nickel

Note: This is a modern religious token which was made in the 1990’s to serve as a souvenir.




Guru Nanak / Gurmukhi Inscription

Type SS13 
 










Obverse: A variation of type SS1 (Guru Nanak, Bala and Mardana)

Reverse: Within a circle surrounded by a 8 cornered pattern, the symbol of the first and most sacred word in the Sikh Holy Book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji), in Gurmukhi script “Ik O’nkar” (There is but One God). In the field, the words “Nanak Naam Jahaj Hai, Cheray Soh Uterae Parh” (The Naam [Gurbani – the words of God] through Guru Nanak, is the savior, by which one can attain salvation)

Edge : Plain , Diameter:26mm , Weight:13.23g , Composition: Silver






Sita, Rama and Hanuman with Gurmukhi Inscription / Kalima

Type SS14 







Obverse: Lord Rama and his consort, Sita, seated on throne. Attendant at left holding the royal umbrella. Hanuman, the monkey god, standing on right with hands folded in respect. The inscription around in Gumukhi script “Sat Naam Ram” above and “Ram Sath” below. 

Reverse: In Arabic script the “Kalima” with the figure 133B3

Edge : Plain , Diameter:24.5mm , Weight:11.25g , Composition: Silver

Note : This is a rather unusual piece where a Hindu religious token has the inscriptions in Gurmukhi script and the reverse has the Islamic “Kalima”. Three different religions are reflect on this token, which is very unusual. The significance of this is unknown, but most probably reflects the composition of the 3 major communities in the Punjab, i.e Sikh’s, Hindu’s and Muslim’s.  It could reflect the state of religious tolerance. However, more research needs to be done on this. On the other hand, this may be a Hindu or Muslim religious token, but it is listed here becaue it has Sikh inscriptions on it as well.



Imitation of Dutch Ducat, “Ram” / 1st verse of the Gurbani

Type SS15 
 








Obverse: A Dutch soldier holding a bundle of seven arrows which represent the seven Protestant Provinces of the Netherlands. The inscription in Gurmukhi script “Ram” (Ram, the True Lord) repeated ten times around the edge.

Reverse: “Mool Mantar” – The first verse from the Sikh Holy Book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) in Gurmukhi script. See type SS3. Incomplete verse, ends with the word “Aad – sach” ---- last 4 word missing, within a square, inscription crude. 

Edge : Reeded , Diameter:22mm , Weight:5.87g , Composition: Silver with a ring attached, used as a jewelry piece.

Note : This crude imitation is based on the Dutch Ducat struck at the Utretch Mint, Netherlands in 1707.



Guru Nanak / “Ik O’nkar”

Type SS16  









Obverse: Guru Nanak, wearing a necklace of prayer beads with a halo (a circle of light) radiating around his head. His right hand raised, with an open palm as a sign of his divine blessings. 

Reverse: The symbol of the first and most sacred word in the Sikh Holy Book (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) in Gurmukhi script “Ik O’nkar” (There is but One God), within a circle of dots. 

Edge : Plain , Diameter:31mm , Weight:10g , Composition: Silver .999 fine

Note: This religious token was acquired in early 2014. It is intended to serve as a gift during auspicious occasions or just to be kept as a keepsake.




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9 comments:

  1. I have one SS1 coin...i want to know what i should do with it..i want to enquire about the collectors

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have one SS1 coin...i want to know what i should do with it..i want to enquire about the collectors

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have SS 5 with me that as per ur blog commemorate 400 yr of Guru Nanak Dev Ji How can O evaluate it and sell it.It belongs to my Dada Ji dadi
    Kindly advice

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have SS 5 with me that as per ur blog commemorate 400 yr of Guru Nanak Dev Ji How can O evaluate it and sell it.It belongs to my Dada Ji dadi
    Kindly advice

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have SS 1 coin its really rear to se i want to sell it is any buyers than contect me manavsuji@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have SS 1 coin its really rear to se i want to sell it is any buyers than contect me manavsuji@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have SS 1 coin its really rear to se i want to sell it is any buyers than contect me manavsuji@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have SS 1 coin its really rear to se i want to sell it is any buyers than contect me manavsuji@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete