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Guru Nanak Coin-Sikh Empire

SMI 7: Guru Nanak with Maharajah Ranjit Singh-Sikh Empire Coin
Date: 1828 (VS 1885)
Original Location: Lahore, Pakistan

Issued in 1828 during the Sikh Empire period and during the rule of Maharajah Ranjit Singh. The image depicts Maharaja Ranjit Singh sitting (on his knees) in front of Guru Nanak (seated cross-legged) and offering floral tributes at the feet of the Guru. In the middle is a Sikh flag separating both individuals and signifying Sikh Sovereignty. The coin shows the humility of the Maharajah and subservience to the Guru.

The text in Persian can be translated as: Degh Tegh Fateh, Nusrat Bedrung, Yafat Az, Nanak Guru Gobind Singh. 1885
Abundance, power and victory (and) assistance without delay, are the gifts of Nanak (and) Guru Gobind Singh.1885

This inscription was a common slogan used from the time of Banda Bahadur, during the Sikh Misl period of the eighteenth century and throughout the Sikh Empire period. The second side describes where the Coin was struck, Zarb Lahore-Struck in Lahore. Apart from depictions of Guru Nanak in manuscripts, and frescoes the image of Guru Nanak was also depicted on arms and armour from the eighteenth century.

These coins were minted on two occasions, Naunihal Singh’s wedding and when the Maharaja recovered from illness. These are famously known as the ‘Portrait rupees’. The text Umdat-ut-Twarikh also refers to diecasts to be made ” The legend should be on one side there should be effergies of the Maharaja and Baba[Guru] Nanak in such a way that the Sarkar [Maharaja] be presented with folded hands before Guru Sahib” The Maharaja approved of this suggestion which was considered to be proper and auspicious.”

Coin can be seen in the collections of the British Museum. Museum number: 1936,1017.1 and 1865,0802.69.X as well as being in the collections of private collectors.
Armour containing a depiction of Guru Nanak can be seen in the Wallace Collection, London.
Lecture by Gurinder Singh Mann, Guru Nanak depicted through Sikh relics and artefacts in the UK, International Sikh Studies Conference 3-5 September 2019 at the University of Wolverhampton. “A Journey of 550 years: Sikh Studies in academia”. Coin also cited in Gurinder Singh Mann, The British and the Sikhs: Discovery, Warfare and Friendship

Thanks to Jeevandeep Singh(Numismatist), Ludhiana, Punjab.

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