Reviewed by Professor Hardev Singh Virk
The author of Sikh Coinage: Symbol of Sikh Sovereignty
, is a retired civil servant who, after retirement, received his Ph D from the Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. The title of his dissertation was Studies in Sikh Coinage
. This book is an extended version of his Ph D thesis. In the introduction to the book the author defines his objectives as: (i) to identify the discrepancies and distortions in the existing accounts on Sikh coinage, (ii) to investigate and analyze the reasons for these distortions, (iii) to present the correct picture emerging from the study of relevant Sikh history, and (iv) to highlight the uniqueness of Sikh coins as a symbol of Sikh sovereignty. The author has used both primary and secondary sources to unravel distortions created by historians and numismatists about Sikh coinage. A vast bibliography at the end of the book illustrates the erudition and scholarly labor involved in this venture.
Dr Surinder Singh, the author of Sikh Coinage
has published over thirty research papers and is an expert in the field of numismatics. He is working on the concept of Sikh sovereignty as a Senior Fellow of Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, and has combined his historical knowledge, political acumen, and expertise in numismatics with scientific and analytical technique to produce this monumental work. Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-coins/26969-sikh-coinage-symbol-of-sikh-sovereignty.html
The study of Sikh coinage has been divided into four periods which comprise the first four chapters of the book. The first chapter deals with the initial Sikh coinage issued under Banda Bahadur's command during his rule in Punjab from 1710 to 1715. The second chapter deals with the coinage of the misl
period from 1765-1795, and the third chapter describes the Sikh coinage during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh from 1800-182 AD. The fourth chapter is based on the post Ranjit Singh period from 1839-1849. All these chapters are fully illustrated with plates showing the obverse and reverse faces of Sikh coinage. To remove fallacies and distortions created by European and Indian historians the author critically examines the motifs on the coin. Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=26969 Sikh coins Source: Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail
Banda Bahadur made an official seal with the legend Degh, Tegh Fateh O Nusrat Baidarang, Yaft uz Nanak Guru Gobind Singh
. This legend was struck on the Sikh coin in AD 1765 to commemorate the occupation of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, by the Sikh armies, and reflects the concept of Sikh sovereignty. It means that free langar
, the strength of the sword arm, and the resultant victory were the result of the spontaneous help received from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh.
I appreciate the interpretation by the author of the phrase 'Nanak Guru Gobind Singh' as the entire Sikh Gurudom and not as 'Guru Gobind Singh received from Guru Nanak', which is the the interpretation used by a galaxy of historians. Most historians have written about Sikh coins without actually examining them, and this negligence is in total violation of the requisite norms of numismatic investigation. The author using his critical analysis has exposed a number of such fallacies.
Since coins are the most important and primary symbol of sovereignty, any distortion of their history results in the distortion of the concept of sovereignty. The author has refuted the claim of several eminent historians of Europe and India that coins were struck in the name of Moran (the dancing girl) by Ranjit Singh. How can he carry such a sacrilege like minting coins in the name of a concubine whom he eventually discarded after a few years? He also disagrees that Hari Singh Nalwa issued coins in the capacity of his being a Governor of Kashmir. How could he have taken over the symbol of sovereignty invested with the Khalsa and the Sikh Gurus? He himself was a jealous guardian of Sikh commonwealth created by Ranjit Singh.
The author claims that C. J. Rodgers and his tribe of European historians are responsible for spreading disinformation, whether deliberately or inadvertently, on Sikh coinage which has resulted in the distortion of Sikh history. Many Indian historians including Ganda Singh, Khushwant Singh, J S Grewal et al
followed in their footsteps and came to wrong conclusions without concrete numismatic evidence. The author has exposed the plagiarism of some Indian historians and their publishers and extracted an unconditional apology from one such author that is published on page 44 of his book. Indeed a bold step to check this malpractice !
Nanakshahi coins Source: South Asia Coin Group
What emerges out of this unique study of Sikh coinage is the deep-rooted dedication of the Sikhs to their Gurus and their teachings. Guru Gobind Singh vested his temporal sovereignty in the Khalsa Panth but when the Khalsa became the masters of large areas of Punjab, they struck coins in the name and praise of their Gurus. Although they were the de facto
temporal rulers, the de jure
temporal sovereignty still vested with the Gurus. Puran Singh calls it the ideal Khalsa commonwealth in his Spirit of the Sikh
. Sikh coins are not merely a symbol, but also a mirror image of the concept of Sikh sovereignty. Will the modern day Akali Sikh leadership learn a lesson and follow in the footsteps of Khalsa who once ruled the Punjab?
Numismatic investigations show that the minting of Sikh coins began from the Lahore mint in AD 1765 / 1822 BK Samvat
and continued till AD 1849, when Punjab was annexed to the British Empire. Sikh coins were also minted at Amritsar, Multan, Anandpur and some other places by Sikh sardars
. The leaf motif on Sikh coins is widely inscribed on the Amritsar coin of AD 1788. The author has given his unique explanation of leaf motifs and exploded the myth of Moran's coins. Sikh coins are generally classified as Nanakshahi and the author rules out Moranshahi or Gobindshahi coins as misnomers. Nanakshahi rupee coins were minted out of pure silver, and were rated higher than other currencies in India.
The learned author has also described the coinage of cis-Satluj states, particularly Nabha and Patiala. While Nabha rulers, following the mainstream, issued Nanakshahi coins, the Patiala dynasty minted Durrani, also called Rajashahi, coins till 1893 and then reverted to British Indian currency. However, they issued Guru Sahib coins only for puja
ceremonies and not for treasury. The author has also shown some Mughal coins in Plate III countermarked with the Sikh Khanda
ensign. It is presumed that the Sikhs might have counter marked the Mughal coins with Khanda
between 1772 and 1833 in order to treat it as Sikh currency.
After, the death of Ranjit Singh the Khalsa state crumbled and the Brahminical influence increased. During this period, Brahminical symbols such as the Trishul, Om, Chhattar, Sat and Shiva started appearing on the Sikh coins. Sikh sovereignty itself was under severe attack both from inside and outside and its symbolic violation appeared on coins. Shiploads of Sikh coins were dispatched to Bombay and Calcutta mints for conversion to British Indian currency after the annexation of Punjab.
The book devotes a full chapter to Sikh coins as a symbol of Sikh Sovereignty
, followed by six appendices. The author finds discrepancies in all historical accounts regarding Sikh coinage. I hope some future numismatist will try to find some discrepancy in the author's account also, which is a sign of progress. At the present, I can point only glaring spelling mistakes like Sikhism (page. 209), spescial (p. 231), Phul Sandhu Jat (p. 260) instead of Sikhism, specially and Phul Sidhu Jat. The price of Rs. 995 may seem high but the two silver (?) coins impregnated on the title page as memento may compensate the readers.