Roman letters| J.H.S on the coins of Maharaja Gulab Singh

These letters are believed to have certain  association with Christianity
Roman letters| J.H.S on the coins of Maharaja Gulab Singh
Representational Pic

While studying the ancient coins of Maharaja Gulab Singh, one comes across few Roman letters on the obverse faces of his silver coins, which have no bearing on the local numismatic traditions. In fact these letters have got a meaning which is related with Christian traditions.

Obviously much has been already written and said about the history of Jammu and Kashmir’s Dogra Empire. This chapter of the Kashmir’s modern history is also very much recorded in the texts of this land. Similarly the life history and achievements of Maharaja Gulab Singh are very much recorded in the monumental book of Gulabnama. But still there are certain interesting features related to Maharaja Gulab Singh and his coins which require further deliberation.

In the scheme of things followed here let us first revive the historical outline of the Dogra Empire. The modern history records that the Sikhs in Kashmir were followed by Dogra Maharajas of Jammu. This dynasty was founded by Maharaja Gulab Singh Jamwal of Jammu in 1846. Gulab Singh was the great grand nephew of Ranjit Dev, the ruler of Jammu. He earlier worked in Sikh government where he was treated as a sincere and faithful servant. In recognition of his good services, he was granted the title of Raja of Jammu and in year 1823, he was given Jammu city as a hereditary possession.

The history further records that the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839 AD brought an end to the glory of Sikh empire. Sikhs became weak and were defeated by British in the war of 1845 AD. Subsequently, the British occupied Lahore. Gulab Singh watched the events from his Jammu seat. Later on he played the role of a mediator between the British and the Sikhs.

This service earned him a great reward. On 16th of March 1846 a treaty was concluded at Amritsar where in Gulab Singh Jamwal was recognized as the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. In turn he agreed to acknowledge the supremacy of the British government and undertook to pay 7500000 Nankshahee Rupees of all lands in Kashmir, besides annual token tribute of one horse, twelve perfect shawl goats, and three pairs of Kashmir shawls.

Subsequently a new empire was born under the leadership of Maharaja Gulab Singh. It was gradually consolidated by the newly appointed Maharaja. This empire spread from the Jammu city and gradually annexed the little hilly principalities of the Jammu province including the states of Basholi, Rajoori, Bhimber, Poonch, Baderwah and Zanskar. It also annexed the major lands of Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan. This entire came to be known as Dogra Empire which lasted for about a century. During the period this empire was ruled by four Maharajas including the most Famous Maharaja Gulab Singh

Maharaja Gulab Singh is learnt to have lost no time in issuing his money. He followed the general style of Sikhs in his coins and retained on the obverse the Pipal leaf which was apparently a national emblem of the Sikhs but changed the mint name as Zarbi Kashmir and in its place inscribed Zarbi Srinagar and Zarbi Jammu as his mint names. Since Gulab Singh was a Hindu, in his silver coinage he followed Sikhs, but instead of placing the names of Sikh Gurus, he preferred to place the names of the gods of his own faith; to promote his faith. The common legends on his coins read Sri Ramji Sahi and Sri Rugnathji Sahie. The legends on his coins are given in Persian and Takri.

The copper coins of Dogra Maharajas are very common while their silver rupee is uncommon. “Hari Singh” rupee and Chilki rupee were most established currency of Dogra Empire.

On several coins of Maharaja Gulab Singh appears three Roman letter JH and S. These letters are believed to have certain association with Christianity.

Basically the Letters JHS are a religious symbol for Jesus Christ. Originating in Medieval Western Europe, JHS is recorded as a Latin acronym for Jesus Hominum Salvator – Jesus Savior of Mankind.

This Christogram is learnt to have been derived from the Latin word for Jesus, “Iesus”. It was first used by Christians in the early centuries of the Church to refer to Jesus Christ. The symbol has been used ever since, and is still popular today among Episcopalians and other Christians. One may in Christen traditions see it on baptismal fonts, altar cloths, and other pieces of church furniture. The Christogram is also sometimes used as a personal symbol by Episcopalians.

Interestingly Maharaja Gulab Singh used it for his coins to attain the Spiritual favors of the Jesus Christ .

A legend states that one Sir W.R. Lawrence (the British resident) was in the court of Maharaja Gulab Singh and in an informal discussion, he was asked by the Maharaja to reveal the logic that was behind the success and prosperity of English nation, England. Sir W. R. Lawrance revealed that it was because that England was a Christian Nation. The Maharaja Gulab Singh who was very eager to make his empire a prosperous one got very much influenced by his words and then asked him for some Christen symbol or sign of Christianity so that he can also adopt it. On the request of the Maharaja, W.R. Lawrence wrote the letters J.H.S which meant “Jesus Holmium Salvatore”. Thereafter, the Maharaja placed these letters on the obverse of his coins. His silver coins bear these Roman letters on the face of his coins.

According to the Roman traditions, the inscription was seen by Emperor Constantine the Great in his sleep before the battle against Maxentius in 312 on the Ponte Milvio. He had a dream in which this cross appeared with the words “In hoc signo vinces” (By this sign you will conquer). This event is considered as one of the most important moments in history, because it led to Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire. Some historians doubt the authenticity of this story, but it is still very inspiring.

In fact, it does not mean that Maharaja Gulab Singh has any inclination towards Christianity; indeed he was influenced by the British policies and by their economic development and he himself was very eager to see his empire prosperous. It was because of this idea that he used the christen Symbol on his silver coinage.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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