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Currency System of Akbar

Updated on December 17, 2017
Coins during Akbar's reign
Coins during Akbar's reign
square shaped Rupee coin
square shaped Rupee coin

Currency is a generally accepted form of money and money is an officially issued legal tender - an official medium of payment recognised by the law made by government- generally consisting of coins and notes. Money is the circulating medium of exchange, which is used to facilitate the trade, purchase or sale of goods between parties, as defined by a government. So importance of currency in an administrative system of a country or in the reign of a ruler can't be undermined. Here, I am going to tell you how the Mughal emperor Akbar brought changes and improvement in his currency system.

Akbar ascended the throne in 1526 A.D. at the young age of 13, not much experienced. Also, during the early years of his reign Akbar was engaged in his military conquests and expanding his empire. So he didn't introduce new currency system, instead monetary system of Akbar was inspired largely by the innovations of his predecessor Sher Shah Suri. Although Akbar belonged to a rival house, adopted several administrative measures innovated by Sher Shah Suri. Sher Shah first introduced a silver currency called Rupya, weighed 178 grains (11.5342 grams, 1 grain = 64.7989 grams = 0.0647989 mg) and Akbar continued to issue the Rupya with his own name inscribed. Interestingly, the money is still known by the name of Rupya in India.

Initially, Akbar adopted the currency system of his predecessors with certain changes, such as the insertion of his name and titles, the place and year of mintage on his coins etc. His mints were in charge of minor officers, called Chaudharis. There was little coordination between various mints. Later Akbar realised the importance of a sound currency system so he carried out reforms in coinage and currency system too. In 1577, he appointed Khwaja Abdus Samad Shirazi, to be the supervisor and head of the imperial mint at Delhi where the coins of Mughal empire were minted. Now, all the mints at provincial headquarters, were placed under more responsible officers who were required to work under the supervision of Abdus Samad.

The Delhi staff for imperial mint under Abdus Samad consisted of the following functionaries:

  • a darogha (assistant superintendent),
  • a sarafi (assayer) whose duty was to test the quality of metals or ores used in the minting of coins.
  • an amin (assistant to the darogha),
  • a treasurer, a mushrif (accountant),
  • a weigh-man
  • a smelter of ore
  • a plate maker
  • a merchant whose duty was to supply gold, silver, and copper.

Tri-Metallic Currency

Mainly three types of metals were used in coins minting: gold, silver, and copper.

  • Gold coins were known as Mohurs, weighed about 170 grains. Gold coins were mainly used by rich traders for large business deals. Also Mohurs were used by royal family princes, big landlords and top officials like governors for large payments. Akbar introduced Ilahi gold coins. The value of 1 Ilahi was equal to 10 rupees. The largest gold coin was Shahshah. Its weight was around 101 tolas (1 tola = 10 grams approx.). About 26 varieties of gold coins were issued in Akbar's reign. Some popular gold coins were Aftabi, Ilahi, Dhan, Man, Shahanshah, Salimi etc.
  • The silver coin during Akbar's reign, known as rupee or Rupya (introducded by Shershah, Akbar continued it with his own name) was round in shape. The weight of the silver coins was 172 grains ( 1 grain = 64.7989 mg). 9 silver rupees = 1 gold Mohur. Akbar also issued square shaped rupee coins, called Jalali. The rupee, Jalali, had its one-half, one-fourth, one-eighth, one-sixteenth, and one-twentieth pieces. Another type of silver coin issued in his reign were known as Shahrukhi. Shahrukhi was comparatively lighter in weight about 72 grains.
  • Akbar issued copper coins with different weights. Copper coins weighing 330 grains were called "Dam". 40 dams were equal to 1 silver rupee or rupiah. Fractional units of copper coins were of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 denominations. Copper coins in denominations 1/2 were called nasfi, while 1/4 were known as dam and 1/8 were known as damdi or damn. Akbar also issued heavy copper coins called Tankas, weighing 632 - 644 grains. Fractional Tankas in denominations 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 were in vogue. The lowest copper coin was Jital.

Characteristics of coins

All the coins of various metals were in vogue, but the chief characteristics of coins were:

  • purity of metals
  • fullness of weight
  • artistic execution - different designs and calligraphy can be seen in the coins.
  • minute details inscribed in the coins such as issuing year, location of the mint. The coins carried full title of the emperor.

Mihirabi shape of gold coin (obverse)
Mihirabi shape of gold coin (obverse)
Mihirabi shape of gold coin (reverse)
Mihirabi shape of gold coin (reverse)

Other characteristics of coins:

The coins were minted in different shapes like round - even the most common shape today - square, rectangular, and Mihrabi shapes as shown in the images i.e. hexagonal with oblong upper and lower sides while left and right sides of the shapes of domes.

The coins of Akbar also reflect secularism - necessary to maintain an empire full of religious and cultural diversity. The Hindu symbol of Swastika can be seen in many coins of Akbar's reign along with the “Kalima”, Kalima is an Islamic affirmation of faith. Images of Hindu gods and goddesses such as Ram and Sita can be seen in Akbar's coin. Also, the name of Ram and Gobind, The Hindu gods, can be seen.

Akbar is known for placing the currency on sound scientific basis. A sound currency system is also an important factor in bringing uniformity, integrity, and consolidation in a huge empire and its administrative set-up. And Akbar proved his mettle. His coins have been highly spoken of by modern numismatists. He introduced a sound currency system and provided a base to future currency system in different administrative systems of India.

© 2017 sonal

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      shaili 16 months ago

      nice article

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