Rediscovering the Sultanate Coins

Numismatics has remained a less utilised discipline in terms of the incorporation of its insights into mainstream works
"There has been hardly any effort on institutional level to look for other sources as well."
"There has been hardly any effort on institutional level to look for other sources as well."Author

There is no arrangement in any institution for teaching numismatics and paleography like vital sources of history.   The ancient history of Jammu and Kashmir which is taught in colleges and universities has been relying mostly on the traditional sources of folklore, or on already written records. There has been hardly any effort on institutional level to look for other sources as well.

For example the paleography and numismatic like material sources have not been taken so seriously. ‘If we talk of only coins, these have perhaps been least exploited source and numismatics has remained a rather sequestered discipline in terms of the incorporation of its insights into mainstream works.

In fact  it is with the efforts of few European numismatists and scholars like Rodgers, Lane Pole, Nelson Wright,  Dr McDowell  and Dr. Michel Mitchner others, who  worked on Kashmir  coinages that  certain important information  is  available on the coins of Kashmir.

So far their research is concerned, these numismatists have not come across coins of the earlier five Sultans - Sultan Shams Shah, Jamshid, Alaudin Ali-Sher, Shahab-ud-Din and Qutb-ud-Din.

These Sultans either did not coin their money or their coins were not found. However, Nelson Wright in his catalogue of the coins in Indian Museum, Calcutta has attributed a single silver coin to Shams Shah I.

Dilip Rajgor also in his standard catalogue of Sultanate coins has mentioned single silver coin of the same king but other numismatist have questioned its identity and these experts believe it as the coin of Shams Shah II (941- 42 AH).

In view of these observations the Sultanate numismatic history emerges from the period of Sultan Sikandar who ascended the throne in 788 AH and continued up to 813 AH. In fact the earliest constant type of coinage was the standing Raja and seated goddess type. This type was introduced by a Kushan king named Kanshika in Circa 78 AD.

The Hindu Rajas and Maharajas continued their mints in this type down to the Muslim rule in 1339 AD. It served the money market for about 1261 years. However, in the later stages, the type became so much degraded that it is difficult to say which figure is intended for the standing king and which for sitting goddess on the coins of later Rajas.

This type got replaced by the Al - Sultan Al-Azani type which was introduced by Muslim Sultans in the 14th century AD. Sultans coined money in copper, silver and gold. Few brass coins of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin are also known.

Gold coins

The gold coins are extremely rare, only few pieces have been mentioned by various numismatists,  which included that of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, Haider Shah, Hassan Shah, Humayun, Ibrahim Shah and Mubark Shah. However, few numismatists claim to have also found gold coins of Sultan Sikander, Mohammad Shah, Fateh Shah, Shames Shah II, and Yousuf Shah. These   gold issues weighed 11 grams (175) ratis. In the obverse of these coins is placed Kalima with Arabic legend the translation of which is ‘be safe from destruction.’ The reverses of these coins bear the issuers name with respective titles. Certain variations in reverses have been observed, e.g. there is Naib-i-Amir-ul-Moomineen, Qutb-ud-Din Mujahid, Al Adal, Al Sultan

like titles attached with Zain-ul-Abidins coins. Naib-i-Khalifa Al Rahman Al Sultan on Haider Shah's coins. These two Sultans have declared themselves as the Naib of Khalifa of the time. Similarly, the other Sultans in their gold issues had given place to their respective legends.  Indeed I have seen the photographs of few such coins in the numismatic catalogues but I could myself not come across  any physical evidence of any gold coins. 

Silver coins  

The silver coins are known of all the Sultans who coined money in their name. Their coins are square shaped and weigh between 91 rati 6.1 grams to 6.3 grams. The obverses contain Al Sultan Al Azam and the name of issuer. The reverse carries mint name and date. Zarbi Kashmir is a handsome lozenge, around it the date in Arabic letters. Sometimes date is given in figures but on obverse side of the coin. The Chak Sultans look to have dropped Arabic legends from their reverses instead given way to Persian letters. However, Hussain Shah Chak has also kept few of the reverses of his coins in Arabic legends, although the entire silver coinage of the Sultans is square shaped but  there are few circular shaped coins too. These coins are of Zain-ul-Abidin and Haider Shah. Such coins on obverses carry the title Al Sultan Al Azam and the name of its issuer on their reverse. One Tanka of Zain-ul-Abidin bears the legend Abul Muzaffar Al Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, its reverse reads Naib-i-Ai’nir-ul-Moomineen Gayas-u-Dulah-wa-Din. This type of coin is the proto type of Delhi Sultanate coinage based on Tanka weight standared and weighed 11 grams.

Copper coins

Al - Sultan Al Azam (the supreme sovereign) with bar and knot in centre had been the constant type adopted by kashmiri Sultans for their entire copper coinage for about 250 years. In this type, Al Sultan Al Azam is placed on obverse on below in the name of the issuer. The total legend is bisected by the line, and a knot, a circle or a square in centre. The reverse represents mint name and date is Arabic and Persian words and figures. However, there are few coins issued by Zain-ul -Abidin, Ali Shah, Hassan Shah which do not bear the bar and knot. The rest of the copper coinages of Sultans are somehow in uniform type. Most of the copper coins are very common but few are rare. The Zain-ul-Abidin, Hussain Shah, Haider Yousuf Shah & Akbar Shah's few types are rare. The average copper coin is circular, 8 cm in size and weigh between 3 grams and 7 grams. Excluding the Zainul-Abidin coins, the other issuer have placed / Shah with their name. Zain-ul-Abidin and Haider Shah just like their silver one’s on few copper coins are titled as Naib Amir and Naib Khlalifa. On reverse of some of the coins the mint name Zarbi Kashmir is placed in lonzge.

The Chak Sultans adopted the title of Gazi which is placed with their respective names on the obverses of their coins. Some of their Sultans also inducted Naseer-ud-Din with their names on their coins. Yousuf Shah, on few of his coins bear the legend Salari Azarn instead of Al-Sultan Al-Azam.

Jalal ud Din Akbar who annexed kingdom in AH 995 discontinued Al Sultan Al Azam type and adopted Jalal-ud-Din type. In this type he placed Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar Shah on obverse of his copper coins. However, he could not drop the traditional ‘bar and knot’ of Sultans and hence placed it in more ornamented form. For the reverse of his coins he followed Chaks and maintained the reverses of his coins in Persian letters. Kashrnir fi-Shahur Sanah’

Keeping in view the scope of this subject, the history departments of various colleges and universities of Jammu and Kashmir shall create certain space for numismatics and paleography learnings.

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.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir