Silver tanka coin of Shiva Simha

Malla dynasty, about AD 1578-1619
From Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal imitates Bengal

The Kingdom of Nepal had strong trade links with north-eastern India at the end of the sixteenth century. This influenced the Nepalese to base their own coinage on the Bengal tanka, the dominant coinage of north-eastern India. The design of this tanka coin of the ruler of Kathmandu, Shiva Simha, imitates that of the Bengal sultan Ghiyas ud-Din Mahmud Shah (reigned 1532-38).

The Arabic inscription is blundered (contains careless errors) and upside-down, but although the Nepalese version is crudely copied, the design is never off flan (that is, the design always fits onto the face of the coin), unlike Muslim coins. A circle with a trident is inserted in the centre. Above is a sword, an emblem of sovereignty, garlanded with flowers. Below is a conch shell, one of the eight asthamangala or ancient Indian symbols of good fortune. The reverse of the coin has 'Shri Shri Shivasim' written in the local Newar script above the central circle, which contains a thunderbolt.

The lack of figural images (that is, of people) on the coinage was probably done deliberately to make the coins acceptable to the Muslim traders from India. In fact the designs do contain religious imagery that would have been instantly understood by the predominantly Buddhist and Hindu people of Nepal. Certain emblems symbolize particular divinities like the Hindu god Shiva (the trident), or the Buddhist bodhisattva Vajrapani (the thunderbolt).

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More information


N. G. Rhodes, K. Gabrisch and C. Valdettaro, The coinage of Nepal from the (London, Royal Numismatic Society, 1989)


Diameter: 32.000 mm
Weight: 10.550 g

Museum number

CM 1989-9-4-1118


Valdetarro Bequest


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