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What is today India was divided into a Hindu south, into a majority of states belonging to the Islamic Mughal empire in a central belt, and a group of territories adjoining in the north. In monetary questions the northern kingdoms seem to have been independent yet influenced by the stable coin of the Mughal empire. The Hindu south, mostly under the sway of the Vijayanagar kingdom, preserved a gold standard with the Pagoda or Hun as the leading currency unit, while the northern Islamic countries had mixed systems privileging silver as the standard.

Several European powers established their own mints on the subcontinent to address the local markets with coins fitting into the regional patterns. Prominent were the Portuguese in Goa; the British issued their variety of southern Indian coins with the beginning of the 1630s at Madras and after 1742 also at Chintadripet. Their expansion into the Mughal Empire beginning in the late 1750s was less peaceful - Calcutta became their base here. The Danes had their base since 1620 at the delta of the Cauvery river, some 10 km north of the French enclave of Karikal and 30 km of Negapatnam on India's Coromandel coast - these powers again offered local varieties of coins especially minted for the trade with India.


Northern Kingdoms of the Subcontinent

Kutch have issued a Kori divisible into 4 Payalo, 8 Dhabu or 24 Dokda.

The Mughal Empire

The Islamic Mughal (other spellings Mogul, Mogol, Moghul) empire was founded in 1526 by Zahir-ud-din Muhammed, "Babur" (Tiger), a chaghatai Turkish ruler of the Tamerlan family, who had invaded India several times before from his capital at Kabul before he managed to defeat Ibrahim Lodi, the last of the Delhi Sultans at the First Battle of Panipat. The list of rulers is up to the troublesome period from 1707-1719 short: Babur (1526-30), Humayun (1530-1556), Akbar (1556-1605), Jahangir (1605-27), Shah Jahan (1628-58), Aurangzeb Alamgir (1658-1707) – the history of the political entity everything but one of peace: Foreign powers posed a continuous threat; internal revolts followed with the spread into hindu kingdoms; religious and political conflicts contested the central power; last but not least: the military invader risked an enormous potential for dynastic strife being hardly able to justify its power within or without. The long and everything but stable reign of Aurangzeb brought the greatest expansion of the Mughal empire and lead into a period of bloodshed among the prospective successors: Bhadur Shah (1707-1712) who succeeded Aurangzeb had to face a Sikh revolt. His successor Jalandhar Shah (1712-1713) was killed by Farruksiyar who ascended the throne in 1713 yet turned out to be under the control of the Sayyid brothers, who had become the secret king makers. Revolts of the Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs marked his short reign till he was murdered in an intrigue instigated by the Sayyid brothers in 1719. He was followed by Muhammad Shah (1719-1798) under whose rule the territorial disintegration got on its way. Hyderabad, Avadh and Bengal established independent kingdoms. 1739 saw a Persian invasion, 1756 the looting of Delhi by an army of Ahmad Shah. The British East India Company defeated a combined Mughal and French force in 1757 and won British supremacy in Bengal (Calcutta and the surrounding area). Britain began to seize power and became India's factual ruler who could finally officially dissolve the Mughal empire in 1857.


Silver Rupee, Emperor Muhamed Aurangzeb Alamgir (1658-1707), AH 1095 = AD 1683, 25 mm, 11.5 g, Islamic inscriptions on both sides.

The politicaly unstable entity produced one of the most stable currencies - mostly since all who minted money enjoyed a greater chance to sell their coins if they adhered to the standard. Gold and silver was minted in Mohar and Rupee coins. The Rupee (from Sanskrit rupya, "silver") had been introduced by Sher Shah Suri during his reign from 1540 to 1545. Babasaheb Ambedkar gave the following table of Rupees minted in different reigns at different places to illustrate the remarkable adherence to the official standard (e-text):

Name of the Rupee grains troy / g  Name of the Rupee grains troy / g 
Akbari of Lahore 175.0 / 11.34 Delhi Sonat 175.0 / 11.34
Akbari of Agra 174.0 / 11.28 Delhi Alamgir 175.0 / 11.34
Jehangiri of Agra 174.6 / 11.31 Old Surat 174.0 / 11.28
Jehangiri of Allahabad 173.6 / 11.23 Murshedabad 175.9 / 11.40
Jehangiri of Kandhar 173.9 / 11.27 Persian Rupee of 1745 174.5 / 11.32
Shehajehani of Agra 175.0 / 11.34 Old Dacca 173.3 / 11.23
Shehajehani of Ahmedabad 174.2 / 11.29 Muhamadshai 170.0 / 11.02
Shehajehani of Delhi 174.2 / 11.23 Ahmadshai 172.8 / 11.20
Shehajehani of Delhi 175.0 / 11.34 Shaha Alam (1772) 175.8 / 11.39
Shehajehani of Lahore 174.0 / 11.28

An official rate between gold and silver coins did not exist. Both coins, gold Mohars and silver Rupees were minted with the same weight, the alloy did not become a matter of discussion - both coins were supposed be minted with the greatest possible fineness. Rupees and Mohars thus effectively stood for the gold/silver ratio as it was to be negotiated from case to case. Numerous monetary systems coexisted under the Rupee according to laws of the principality and place. Most prominent was, however, the Rupee divided into 16 Annas, 64 Pice or 192 Pie. A short note about crores and lakhs might be included since some web pages list them among the monetary units of India: sums given like the following for the building of the Taj Mahal: Rs. 4,18,48,426-7-6, that is Rupees four crore, eighteen lakh, forty eight thousand four hundred twenty six, annas seven and pies six only - use the Indian segmentation of decimal numbers. 1 crore stands for 10 million, 1 lakh for 100,000. The sum mentioned will stay the same if noted as 41848426 Rupees 7 annas and 6 pies, or with western structuring as 41,848,426 Rupees etc.]

Important coins were the gold Mohur, the silver Rupee (divided into 16 Annas) and the Anna (12 Pies). Copper coins were the Pice (of 3 Pies) and the Pie.

The regular conversion rate seems to have been at 10 Rupees against 1 pound sterling or 10 Dutch gulden against 9 Rupees - a rate which can be supported by coin evaluations.

Southern India

In southern India silver as a part of the currency system seems to have been quite unknown. Most of the territories south of the Mughal empire were united under the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom - enjoying full sovereignty in questions of monetary politics. The main currency units were the Pagoda or Hun divided into 36 Fanams, the Fanam divided 4 Faluce or into 80 Cash (copper). The rates do, however, seem to have varied and we have not found accurate information for the 18th century or the modalities of exchange with the northern neighbour.

Money issued by the European Powers

French India

French India, Pondicherry including Mahe, Yanaon, Karikal, and Chandernagore issued from 1700 to Dec. 1871 a rupee fixed at 1 silver French rupee = 1 silver Indian rupee = 10.9g silver. A mint was opened in Pondicherry and operated until 1793; thereafter French rupees were minted in France until 1840. The unit of account and subdivisions were 1 French rupee = 8 fanons = 16 annas. At times the mint also struck gold pagodas.

British Mints in India

In 1639 the Vijayanagar kingdom had granted the East India Company the privilege to mint coins according to its laws. Minting of British gold for purposes of commerce with the region began in the early 1640s. English supervisors run the mint at Fort St. George in Madras from the 1650s onwards. The standard remained the Vijayanagara gold Pagoda or Hun. These became known as the Old Pagodas when the New Pagodas, the Madras Pagodas of lighter weight and less value, came into currency. Fanams (Panam) first in gold alloys were minted as small coinage, initially in gold and from 1688 onwards in silver. From 36 Fanams to a Madras Pagoda, the value changed bit by bit over the years to 32. Also minted were Cash and Doodoos (Kasu and Dhuttu) in copper. A Fanam which first started out at 80 Cash was revalued over the years till it became 60 Cash and the Doodoo changed in value from an original ten to a Cash to eight. These exchange values remained more or less the same till the considerable changes in the early 19th Century.

In 1692, the mint was permitted to issue the silver Rupees of the Mughals. The public were also encouraged to take their own gold to the mint and have it converted into Madras or Arcot (Mughal) currency for a mintage fee. The standard weight was expected to be strictly observed.

A new mint was built in the Fort in 1695, then rebuilt in 1727 in the northwest corner of the Fort, by what became known as the Mint Bastion. In 1742, a second mint was established in Chintadripet. The same year, the Fort mint was permitted to strike the Arcot Rupee and Arcot coins of lower denominations.


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