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JOURNAL

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ASIATIC SOCIETY.

—♦—

Part I.—HISTORY, LITERATURE, &c.

No. I.—1867.

The Initial Coinage of Bengal.By Ed Ward Thomas, Esq.

[Received December 5th, 1866. Reprinted from the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. ii. p. I. N. S.]

Towards the end of August, 1863, an unusually large hoard of coins, numbering in all no less than 13,500 pieces of silver, was found in the Protected State of Kooch Behar, in Northern Bengal, the contents of which were consigned, in the ordinary payment of revenue, to the Imperial Treasury in Calcutta. Advantage was wisely sought to be taken of the possible archaeological interest of such a discovery, in selections directed to be made from the general bulk to enrich the medal cabinets of the local Mint and the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The task of selection, and with it of inevitably final rejection, was entrusted to Babu Rajendia Lai Mitra—an experienced scholar in many branches of Sanskrit literature, and who, in the absence of more practised Numismatists, courageously encountered the novel study and impromptu exposition of Semitic Palaaography as practically developed in his own native land six centuries ago. The Babu, after having assiduously completed his selections for the Government,* was considerate enough to devote himself to renewed and more critical examinations of this mass of coined metal, with a view to secure for Colonel C. S. Guthrie (late of the Bengal Engineers), any examples of importance that might have escaped his earlier investigations. The result has been that more than a thousand additional specimens have been rescued from the • J. A. S. Bengal, 1664, p. 480.

Presidency Mint crucibles, and now contribute the leading materials for the subjoined monograph.

An autumnal fall of a river bank, not far removed from the traditional capital of Kunteswar Raja, a king of mark in provincial annals,* disclosed to modern eyes the hidden treasure of some credulous mortal who, in olden time, entrusted his wealth to the keeping of an alluvial soil, carefully stored and secured in brass vessels specially constructed for the purpose, but destined to contribute undesignedly to an alien inheritance, and a disentombment at a period much posterior to that contemplated by its depositor. This accumulation, so singular in its numerical amount, is not the less remarkable in the details of its component elements—whether as regards the, so to say, newness and sharpness of outline of the majority of the pieces themselves, the peculiarly local character of the whole collection, or its extremely limited range in point of time. It may be said to embrace compactly the records of ten kings, ten mint cities, and to represent 107 years of the annals of the country. The date of its inhumation may be fixed, almost with precision, towards the end of the eighth century A. H., or the fourteenth century A. D. A very limited proportion of the entire aggregation was contributed by external currencies, and the imperial metropolis of Dehli alone intervenes to disturb the purely indigenous issues, and that merely to the extent of less than 150 out of the 13,500 otherwise unmixed produce of Bengal Mints.t

The exclusively home characteristics of the great majority of the collection are enlivened by the occasional intrusion of mementoes of

* Col. J. C. Haughton.to whom we are mainly indebted for the knowledge of this trouvaille, has been so obliging as to furnish me with some interesting details of the site of discovery and illustrations of the neighbouring localities. Col. Haughton writes :—" The place where the coin was found is about three miles S. W. of Deeuhatta, not far from the Temple of Kunteswaree (or KomitEswaree) on the banks of the river Dhurla. Near to this temple is a place called Gosaiu Moraee, a short distance from which are the ruins of Kuntosnr Raja's capital, called Knnteswaree l'at, consisting of a mound of considerable extent, which has been surrounded with several ditches and walls, which are again protected at the distance of a mile or two by enormous mounds of nearly 100 feet high. The brass vessels, in which the treasure was deposited, were ordinary brass Int-ahs, to which the top or lip had not been fixed, but in lieu thereof the vessels woro covered by canister tops, secured by an iron spike passing from side to Bide."

+ 1 wish to explain the reservations I make in thus stating this total below that given in Rajendra Lai's list of 150 coins of seven Dehli kings (J. A. S. B., imperial re-assertions, and numismatic contributions from other independent sources aid in the casual illustration of the varying political conditions of the province,, and of the relations maintained from time to time between the too-independent governors of a distant principality and tbcir liege suzerains at Dehli.

Muhauiiiiadan writers have incidentally preserved a record of the fact, that on the first entry of their armies into Bengal, they found an exclusive cowrie or shell currency, assisted possibly by bullion in the larger payments, but associated with no coined money of any description ;* a heritage of primitive barter, indeed, which survived undits

Soptember, 1864, p. 481). In the first place, I greatly mistrust the reading of tho sixth king's title; Muhammad bin Tughlak was called Pakhrwl-din. Junah in his yonth only; on his first mission to the Dukhin in 721 A. H., the higher title of Ulwik iCkmi was conferred npon him by his futhor, but from the date of his accession to the throne of Hindustan, he contented himself with the use of his simple name and patronymic; no longer tho "glory of tho faith," he

was the far more humble (3^' > or' ^e conventional

«U| Jk(~> ^Alar^l (Zia-i-Barui., Calcutta edit., p. 196), both of which

were so persistently copied by the indopendent Bengal Saltans. Certainly no

such title as ^JoJl js? occurs on any of the specimens of the Kooch Bahdr

collection, that the Babu has selected for Col. Guthrie, with the exception of those bearing the names of Fakr-ud-din Mubarak Shah.

The second question of tho altogether improbable intrusion of coins of Muhammad Alii Shah (" new type ") 1 must meot in a more direct way, by assiLrning the supposed examples of his money to the potentate from whose mints they really came, that is, Ikhttdr-ud-dm Giuif Shau (no. 7, infra), giving a difference in the ago of the two kings, as far as their epochs affect the probable data of the concealment of this trouvaille, of more than two centuries (753 A.h. against 960 A.h.).<* Tho Baba has himself discovered his early error of making Shams-ud-din Finiz, one of the Dehli Pathdus (as reported in tho local newspapers), and transferred him, in tho printed proceedings in the Asiatic Society of Bengal, to an anomalous position at the end of the Bengal Patliaus (p. 4H3), whiJo omitting to deduct him from the total number of " eight Dohli Patlmns," which reckoning has been allowed to stand at p..480. In tho matter of date, we are not informed why this king should be assigned.to A.d. 1491, instead of to the true 1320 A.d. which history claims for hiuu

• Minhaj-ul-Seraj, who was residont in Lakhnauti in A K. 641, writes

c~~i JL*». (jcyu Hjf J% uftja & y: lyl^a

Tabakat-i-N&siri, p. 149, Calcutta printed edition (1864). Ibn Batutah gives an account of the collection of the cowrie shells in the Mnldivc Islands, from whence they were exported to Bengal in exchange for rice the gradutional qaantities and values are detailed as follows . 100 cowries. JU=70O

« The title of Mohammed bin Toghlak on- the specimens in tho Society's cabinet is *lii| <J-u-~. ^ i>*ls*''l and the coin which was first taken for that of-Adil Shah has on it'lkhtiar mldin Uhdzi Shah.—Ed,

turbed in many of the out-lying districts up to the early part of the present century. The consistent adherence of the people to this simple medium of exchange, goes far to explain an enigma recently adverted to* in my paper on the identity of Krananda as to the general absence of all specimens of money of high antiquity within certain limits northward of the seaboard, and may serve to reconcile the anomaly of conterminous nationalities appearing in such different degrees of advancement when tried by similar isolated tests of local habitudes. For the rest, the arms of Islam clearly brought with them into Bengal what modern civilization deems a fiscal necessity—a scheme of national coinage; and the present enquiry is concerned to determine when and in what form the conquerors applied the theory and practice they themselves as yet but imperfectly realized.

When Muhammad bin Sam had so far consolidated his early successes in India, into a design of permanent occupancy, leaving a viceroy and generalissimo in Dehli, in the person of Kutb-ud-din Aibek, while his own court was still held at Ghazni, the scattered subordinate commanders each sought to extend the frontiers of the faith beyond the limits already acquired; in pursuance of this accepted mission, Muhammad Bakhtiar Khilji, Sipahsdldr in Oude, in A. n. 599, pushed his forces southward, and expelled, with but little effort, the ancient Hindu dynasty of Nuddeah, superseding that city as the capital, and transferring the future metropolis of Bengal to the proximate site of Lakhnauti, where he ruled undisturbed by higher authority, till his own career was prematurely cut short in A. H. 602.

4^=12,000. ji-JzrlOO.OOO, four bustus were estimated as worth one gold

dinar; but the rate of exchange varied considerably, so that occasionally a dinar would purchase as many as twclvo bustus, or twelve lakhs of cowries! (French edit, iv., p. 121. Lee's Translation, p. 178.) Sir Henry Elliot mentions that " in India, in 1740, a rupee exchanged for 2,400 cowries; in 1756, for 2,500 cowries; and (1845) as many as 6,500 could be obtained for a rupee." —Glossary of Indiau Terms, p. 373. They were estimated in the currency scheme of 1833 at 6,K)0 per rupee.—Prinsep's U. T., p. 2. Major Reunell, who was in Silhet in 1767-8, speaking of the cowrie money, remarks: "I found no other currency of any kind in the country; and upon an occasion, when an increase in the revenue of the provinco was enforced, several boat loads (not less than 50 tons each) were collected and sent down the Burrampooter to Dacca." As late as 1801 the revenues of the British district of Silhet "were collected in cowries, which was also the general medium of all pecuniary transactions, and a considerable expense was then incurred by Government in effeefcingtlieir conversion into bullion."—Hamilton's Hindostan, London, 1820, i. p. l'Jo. * J. R. A. S., vol. i., N. S., p. 473-4.

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