It is not just about money. Through history, coins were often used as political statements. Take for example one of the most unique ( and very expensive) set of coins, the ‘Ram-Siya’ coins issued by Mughal Emperor Akbar, in 1604-5 CE. A monarch well ahead of his times, the coins iterated Akbar’s tolerant and liberal views and ensured everyone got a chance to appreciate it!
Interestingly, it was Akbar’s long reign of almost 50 years (1556 – 1605 CE) that allowed him to experiment with coinage. According to records, Akbar took personal interest in the designing and minting of his coins and in many senses they reflected his own personality.
The early Mughals, Babur and Humayun, issued silver Shahrukhi coins which were thin broad pieces bearing the Kalima ( two lines from the holy Quran) with the names of the first four Caliphs of Islam on one side and the ruler's name, with the mint name and date, on the other. In the first three years of his reign, Akbar too issued Shahrukhi coins of his own, but then became more experimental with the designs and the metallurgy.
In this context 1584 CE marked a landmark year, as Akbar founded a new religion called ‘Din-i-Ilahi’, amalgamating teachings of different faiths, along with a new Ilahi calendar, that started with the introduction of the new faith. To mark the event, Akbar began issuing coins that came to be called the llahi coins. One unique set of IIahi coin was minted in the last year of his reign, and these were the Ram-Siya coins issued in the year 1604-05. The coins, with the effigy of Rama and Siya (Sita) has a depiction of Lord Rama holding a bow and arrow and Sita holding a lotus in each hand. The top of the coin has Rama Siya written in Devnagari script. On the reverse, is the legend (or inscription) ‘Amardad ( name of the month ) Ilahi 50 (year)’ . The coin is the only one issued by Akbar which features a human figure. The depiction of figures, were generally barred under muslim rule, though there were a few exceptions. (Jahangir’s coins)
Sadly, very few of these unique Ram-Siya coins survive. There are only 3 to be exact. One in gold and two in silver. The issue of Ram- Siya coins were stopped after Akbar’s death.
One of the silver coins, the only one in public, was sold at the Classical Numismatic Group (UK) in 2010 for a whopping $1,40,000!
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