Rare coin unearthed

The discovery of this rare coin has been made by none other than the Principal Secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Archives, Mr Gurjit Singh Cheema.

The year of the minting of the coin is 1123 Hijri, corresponding to 1711 AD, the fifth year of the Emperor Bahadur Shah-I’s reign. It was at this time that Banda Singh Bahadur =97 whose martyrdom anniversary falls on June 19 7 was on the rampage in Punjab, says Mr Cheema.

Banda Bahadur had sacked Sirhind and Sadhaura besides establishing his headquarters in the foothills of the mighty Shivaliks from where he is supposed to have issued coins. Although contemporary historians have described the coin in detail, surprisingly, no specimen of the coin issued by Banda Bahadur have been reported so far.

The present coin was issued from Lahore described as Dar-ul-Sultanat Lahore which was never occupied by Banda Bahadur. This Sikh warrior had only plundered suburbs of Lahore.

"It is undoubtedly an imperial issue, but the peculiar mintmark suggests that the mintmaster must have been a Sikh or a secret sympathiser of the Sikhs," says Mr Cheema, maintaining that all kinds of mintmarks, including trishuls and swastikas, have been noticed on late Mughal coins; but their exact significance is still uncertain, and some were probably the personal marks of the mintmasters."

"But in the peculiar circumstances of 1123 Hijri, when a panic stricken imperial administration had compelled the Emperor to take the field himself against the rebels, placing the Khalsa symbol on the coins was an act of exceptional courage by the unknown mintmaster or die cutter. A frightened administration had even issued an order that all non-Muslims should shave off their beards or else suffer the indignity of being forcibly shaved," Mr Cheema said.

The Principal Secretary disclosed that a major collection of ancient coins of Punjab Museum was lying in sealed bags. t of the coins are unsorted and unidentified.

"We have now launched a drive to classify properly and identify all the coins. And this rare coin is the first significant find so far. Several interesting coins of the Durranis have also been found.

"A coin of this type is listed in the Standard Guide to South Asian Coins. The coin given in the catalogue is dated 1122 Hijri while this specimen coin is dated 1123 Hijri. It seems that this Sikh sympathiser in the Lahore mint was able to survive undetected for quite some time," he added.

Mr Cheema announced that once the drive for classification and identification of coins was complete and the coins had been filled in the coin cabinets, scholars would be able to readily assess them.

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