Suvarna Mohur: a journey through the numismatic history of India

New Delhi, Jan 13 () A new book traces India's numismatic history through 133 rare coins which are illustrative of the country's antiquity, ethos and traditions. In "Suvarna Mohur: India's Glorious History Illustrated through Rare Coins" by Arun Ramamurthy, Indian history has been divided into 20 epochs. The most dominant theme of each period is denoted with a representative coin and also an appropriate, customised illustration which best describes this motif. According to the author, the book is an attempt to chart 2,500 years of Indian history through the perspective of the country's rare coins, providing light to the dominant themes of the times, while at the same time, maintaining a panoramic view of the country. India is home to some of the oldest coins in the world. Even the Vedas make a mention of gold coins in the form of 'Nishkas' and 'Suvarnas'. The book, published by Notion Press, has a minefield of interesting facts. India's coins were among the first to feature queens as early as the 2nd century BCE. Over time, many Indian coins featured queens and goddesses. In fact, Razia Sultana was the first Muslim queen, anywhere in the world to be featured on a coin minted in Delhi way back in the 13th century. The book says Mughal Emperor Jahangir minted gigantic gold coins with a diameter of 21 cm. These coins weighed about 12 kg and were gifted to visiting foreign dignitaries. In a private auction in Europe, one such gigantic 'Mohur' was sold for a whopping 10 million dollars. The 'fanam' was a small coin used in south India between the 9th and 19th centuries. These small gold coins weighed as little as 0.3 grams and had a diameter of less than a centimetre. India was thus home to some of the largest and smallest gold coins in the world. Coins were first minted in India sometime around 600 BCE. While Indian coinage itself may have been inspired by trade with Persia, the mode of manufacturing of the coins was indigenous. Small ingots of silver with three circular dots represent the earliest forms of coinage, the book says. These were followed by heavy bent bars of silver with a punch on either side. Thousands of what are now known as 'punch-marked' coins have been recovered from number of ancient sites all over India. ZMN RB RB