A peep into interesting journey of currency from its initial days....
We don’t know exactly when coins came in to coronate the forehead of civilisation. In search of it, when we trace back, we guess it must be somewhere during the Harappa and Mohenjo-daro civilizations. A few scholars believe the history of coins is related to the discovery of metals. While baking the pottery, gigantic pitchers and terracotta pots did not get broken. They don’t break even if we throw it or toss it, people guessed it is made up of some other material. A few made metallic noise. People understood there is some other material which is rare and distinct. In due course it got its name metal. Then the art of engraving on metals developed.
As a result in the whole world the barter system came in to existence which changed the metal in to weight and thus the coin became a symbol of power. While ascending the throne every monarch launched his own coin. Emperors changed, coins changed, language changed, style changed. Sometimes golden coins, sometimes silver coins, sometimes coin of different other metals.
After Mohenjo-daro the coin of Ashoka are found in abundance. Kublai Khan (1260-1264) the grandson of Genghis Khan had also launched coin in his own name. The greatest turmoil regarding the coins is related to Muhammad bin Tughluq (1324-1351). Tughluq, the lunatic as he is known, came to know about the golden and silver Chinese coins and decided to propagate his own set of coins. His administration started working on introduction of new coins. Due to lack of administrative experience, they faced real shortage of gold. Then Tughluq ordered to switch the material to bronze and copper. He kept its value equivalent to gold and silver coins. This was obviously a stupid move, bereft of any economic sense. Then people of his kingdom started making brass and copper coins at home only. They started exchanging the same with gold and silver coin from the king’s treasury.
First, all these brass and copper coins were sub standard and trumpery. Second, because of this licensed loot, the king’s treasury got exhausted and frauds became rich. This created a big turmoil in the kingdom. Tired with all this chaos in 1333, Tughluq banned its usage.
It is said after being defeated by Sher Shah, Humayun jumped into Ganga. There, a bhisti (water carrier) saved his life. As a reward for his noble deed, he was made king for one day. During this one day itself, he launched leather coins, and between these coins gold plate ware attached. In the short span of one day itself, the bhisti couldn’t refrain himself from launching his own coins, even though the coins were made up of leather.
After this ‘sikka chalana’ became a phrase for the power which is still in vogue. Even today, coins and asharfees (golden coins) are found while digging the old walls, mounds and ruins. But the kind of coins we use now were first launched by Shershah Suri. Their weight was 11.66 gm with the purity of 91.7 percent silver.
In 19th century silver’s supply was reduced and it was not easily available. Now, gold got upper hand and became the standard of economy. In those days rupee got divided, as 11.34 gram silver turned in to 16 aanas or 64 paise and 192 pies. Till now it was in FPS System (British system), later it turned in to CGS system (a variant of metric system). In India and Pakistan this change took place in 1857 whereas in Srilanka it happened in 1869. Now our one silver rupee turned in to 100 paise and not 64 copper paise like eariler.
Each particular empire and princely estates got their own coin. Due to diversity and competition, the value of coins kept changing. All of them were putting efforts to maintain value of their coin. Credit to replace metal coins with paper currency goes to British. For the first time in India, in 1773, General Bank of Bengal and Bihar launched the first paper currency. Later on ‘Bank of Bombay’ and ‘Bank of Madras’ received the right of launching currency in their own circle by a charter.
Bank of Bengal had been established as bank of Calcutta with a capital of 50 lakh rupees in 1806. The value of the notes 100, 250 and 500 including the name of the bank were imprinted on the currency in Urdu, Bangla and Devnagari scripts also. In 1861, Indian Government received its monopoly rights to print its own currencies and notes of presidency banks got null and void. Printing notes was not an easy task. Every process has to be well structured, controlled by disciplined mint master, controller and auditor general. These currencies of British India had the picture of Queen Victoria imprinted on it. These currencies had the value of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000 rupees.
The currencies of Rs 5, 10, 50 and 100 were canceled during 1903 and 1911. Due to the impact of First World War, in 1917, for the first time currency with the face of king was imprinted. Currency of one rupee, two rupees and 8 annas were printed. In 1923, currency notes of 10 rupees were printed.
Colored notes came into existence in 1932 and were printed in Nasik security press. Reserve bank of India launched its office in Calcutta and on first April 1935, opened its branches in Madras, Bombay, Rangoon and Kanpur. In the history of currency, 1938 was a very important year. That year for the first time currencies of rupees 5, 10, 100 and 10,000 were launched with picture of George VI imprinted on it.
During the Second World War different phases war were evolved includes currency also. Lest Japan could launch fake notes, so water mark and security thread were added to the currencies. As our nation got independence the Ashoka’s pillar and its lions replaced British king. Then came Mahatma Gandhi and till date he is dominating our currency, along with it the capitulums of wheat, dams, hydro electric plants or different symbols of development are being imprinted. During 1954 currencies of 1000, 5000, 10,000 were launched, big currencies but again replaced by small.
In the history of coins cockleboat (kaudi) had its basic importance during tenure of time (hundred years ago). The minimum unit cockleboat was the symbol of Goddess Laxmi (the goddess of wealth). So many cockleboat would comprised a paisa. Thus ascending journey of tiny mini coins we would reach the top of rupee. The idea of naming a person , 3 kaudi, 5 kaudi, 6 kaudi was to see him being rich man. In the kid’s girdles and necklaces were equipped with pierced coin and cockleboat. I formed a cockleboat during play
And threw it in to holy Ganges thus the coin found its root in zoology and by the novel purchased with cockleboats (novelist Vimal Mitra) with literature.
Time to time the pictures of Rabindra Nath Tagore(150th birth anniversary) Motilal Nehru, Reserve Bank of India and other memorial signs were imprinted. Queen Victoria was imprinted in 1862. Our first coin after independence came in to existence in 1950.
As much we turn the coins its dimension goes on spilling far and wide. We can say that the coins are the basic points of graph to know the main sources of history, ‘History and Archaeology’ the book of Guacharo Mule and the museum of New Delhi and many more light houses we have. But, still we are far away from reaching the culminating point.
Coins- Time is the only decisive factor whether the coins right or fake, but exception is always there. Usually it has been seen that fake coins have ousted the good coin.
True to speak all have tossed coins, head or tail is their fate.
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