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Offline Figleaf

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Indian numismatics and its cultural aspects
« on: May 11, 2011, 04:13:14 PM »
Essays on Indian numismatics
May 10, 2011, K. M. SHRIMALI

INDIAN NUMISMATICS AND ITS CULTURAL ASPECTS: A.K. Bhattacharyya; Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 3421-A, II Floor, Narang Colony, Tri Nagar, Delhi-110035. Rs. 2000.

This is a compilation of some already published writings on Indian Numismatics by A.K. Bhattacharyya, who had been the Director of Indian Museum in Kolkata, for almost a decade from 1965. During this period, he had the distinction of bringing a large collection of Indian coins to that Museum from the old Mint where they had been kept in safe custody during the World Wars. Prior to that, he had an opportunity to examine the collection of early Indian coins in the Musee Guimet in Paris in the late 1950s.


Numismatics apart, Bhattacharyya has, during his long career spanning half-a-century and more, written prolifically on such diverse subjects as art and iconography (of the Buddhists, Jains, Vaishnavas, Shaivas and other religious groups), epigraphy, painting, and textiles.

The bunch of 10 essays under review is somewhat disparate, both chronologically and thematically. The chronological spectrum stretches from the earliest coins of India to those of the Mughals. While some chapters are devoted to mere descriptions of individual coins (for example, in chapter III, we read about typological descriptions of stray coins of Kaushambi, Chandragupta II, Shahjahan, and Muhammad Shah and coins of the ‘Turko-Afghans'), some throw interesting light on the cultural aspects of coins (Ch. VII on “Art in Islamic Numismatics of India” and Ch. VIII on “Poems as coin legends in India”).

Some others are useful compendia of important museum collections such as those in the Indian Museum, Kolkata, (Ch.IV) and Musee Guimet (Appendix) — these two represent a major exercise in documentation and as such merit a distinctive place in the historiography of Indian numismatics.

The titles of other chapters are indicative of the contents, nature, scope and orientation of those contributions: “Indian coins — A Succinct Survey”; “Bilingual Coins of Mahmud of Ghazni — A re-study”; ‘Hindu Elements in Early Muslim Coinage in India”; “Coins and their Issuers in Muslim Numismatics of India”; and “A Study of the History of the Yadavas and their Coins”. Of these, the one on coins and their issuers in Muslim numismatics of India is particularly noticeable for its accent on demonstrating the role of coins as markers of sovereignty of the concerned issuers.

Coins of Sultans

Starting with “sporadic issues of Mahmud of Ghazni”,” this chapter discusses coins issued by all the sultans up to the Lodis and the Sayyids and goes on to include the issues of the Mughals. It devotes considerable space to coins of the ‘Provincial Sultanates' of Bengal, Kashmir, Malabar, Jaunpur, Gujarat, Malwa, Golconda, Bijapur, and so on, and concludes with a brief note on Ek pai Sikkah of the East India Company issued under Shah Alam's suzerainty.

What is of major concern in this volume is the kind of vocabulary used to designate the different periods discussed and the various coin types. Much of that smacks strongly of communalised terminology. Witness these: “for purposes of numismatics, medieval Muslim period in India starts with Mahmud of Ghazni” (p.97); “Later Hindu Coinage” for the coinage of the period between c.500 and 1200 CE (p.3); “ Hindu elements in early Muslim Coinage in India” (title of chapter VI); “ Islamic/ Muslim numismatics of India” (pp.68 and 94) [emphasis added]

Apparently, the essays in this collection have been published over a very long period — the year of original publication is not given. Stylistic inconsistencies apart, they are disappointing in that they do not address the economics of numismatics. Surely, by the time these essays were written, D.D. Kosambi's understanding of coins being “stamps of society” was well established. Further, it was well understood that primarily these tiny metal pieces were supposed to serve as a medium of exchange. One looks in vain for any notice thereof.

The production side, including editing, leaves much to be desired, and the price is quite prohibitive, perhaps because of the use art paper for the text too, not just the plates.

Source: The Hindu
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Coinsforever

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Re: Indian numismatics and its cultural aspects
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2011, 11:01:57 PM »
Peter thanks for posting it , nice article.
Cheers ;D
Every experience, good or bad, is a priceless collector's item.