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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Collectors Today’s Focus: The Mughal Empire Coins

The Mughal period in India commenced in 1526 AD when Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi and ended in 1857 AD when the British deposed and exiled Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor after the great uprising. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids and at the height of their power in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, they controlled most of the Indian Subcontinent—extending from Bengal in the east to Balochistan in the west, Kashmir in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south. Its population at that time has been estimated as between 110 and 150 million, over a territory of more than 3.2 million square kilometres (1.2 million square miles).

The Mughal Coins

The Mughals brought about uniformity and consolidation of the system of coinage throughout the empire which was the most significant contribution to the monetary history of the subcontinent. The system lasted long even after the cessation of the Mughal rule in the region.

The system of tri-metalism (use of gold, silver and copper in coins) which characterizes the Mughal coinage was largely the creation of Sher Shah Suri (1540 to 1545 AD), an Afghan, who ruled for a brief time. Sher Shah issued a coin of silver which was termed the Rupiya. This had a weight of 178 grains and was the precursor of the modern rupee. It remained largely unchanged till the early twentieth century. Gold coins called the Mohur (weighing 169 grains) were issued along with the silver Rupiya and the copper coins, called the Dam. Numismatics of the Mughal era reflects originality and innovative skills in the designs and minting techniques of the coins. 

The coin designs gained maturity during the reign of Akbar (1542 to 1605). Innovations like ornamentation of the background of the die with floral scrollwork were introduced. Jehangir (1605 to1627) took a personal interest in his coinage. The surviving gigantic coins are amongst the largest issued in the world. 

The Mughal rule in India brought Muslim design to the coins of India. Since Islam forbade the use of people and animals in artwork, most of the coins of the Mughal Dynasty were decorated with beautiful script such as the example below. The coins with zodiacal signs, portraits, literary verses and the excellent calligraphy took Mughal coinage to new heights.
At Aurangzeb period (1658 to 1707) the format was standardized to incorporate the name of the ruler, the mint and the date of issue.

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