Silver coin

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Room 68: Money 

Object details

Diameter: 20 mm
Weight: 10.9 grammes
Museum number: 1912,0709.309

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Silver coin of the Sikh Misals with punch dagger symbol

Amritsar, 1785

This coin was issued by the Sikh Misals in 1785 in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar.

During the latter half of the eighteenth century the Mughal Empire was declining rapidly and the regions of Lahore, Multan, Sind, Sirhind and Kashmir became part of the Afghan Durrani dominions. The Sikhs took advantage of this situation and formed a strong army. They divided themselves up into different units or 12 separate divisions, thereby creating a form of government known as the Misals.

The Sikh Misals managed to gain possession of the Punjab through a system of protection called ‘Rakhi’. The Sikhs promised to provide protection to the local people against foreign invaders, local landowners and other external threats. In 1765 they occupied the fort in Lahore and issued their first coin there, the minting of coins in Amritsar followed in 1775.

Weapons such as the punch dagger (kartar) and the sword were respected by the Sikhs as protectors of the faith against injustice and tyranny. The punch dagger symbol formed part of the design on many of the Sikh Misal coins. This important symbol enabled the Sikh Misals to communicate their message of protection to the local people and to remind themselves of their victory against the external powers.

The Misals operated in a distinct way because there was no single leader, yet despite the absence of a chief, the governing of the state remained successful and efficient. The Punjab was occupied by the Sikh Misals until 1801 when Ranjit Singh declared himself the Maharaja.

Although the Misals were united in their aims, the problem of undefined boundaries between their lands caused disruptions between them. Ranjit Singh brought the Sikh Misal leaders under his overall authority and ruled successfully until his death in 1839.

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P. Khera, Catalogue of Sikh Coins in the British Museum (British Museum Research Publication 190, December 2011).