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  • Tuesday, 13 December 2016

    Currency Reforms of Sher Shah Suri

    The coins and currency reforms of Sher Shah Suri (Sher Khan) are one of his most outstanding achievements. Sher Shah Suri found on his accession that the currency system had practically broken down. There was debasement of the current coins and the absence of a fixed ratio between the coins and various metals. There was another difficulty, namely, that coins of all previous reigns, in fact of all ages, were allowed to circulate as legal tender.

    Sher Shah Suri took steps to issue a large number of new silver coins which, subsequently, became known as dam. Both the silver rupee and copper dam had their halves, quarters, eighths and sixteenths. Next, he abolished all old and mixed metal currency coins. He fixed a rate between the copper and silver coins. His silver rupee coins weighed 180 grains, of which 175 grains were pure silver. This rupee minus its inscription lasted throughout the Mughal period and was retained by the English East India Company up to 1835. V.A. Smith rightly observes: "it is the basis of the existing British currency" (up to 1947).

    Sher Shah's name and title and place of mint were invariably inscribed on the coins in Arabic characters. Some of his coins bore his name in Devanagari script and some had the names of first four Khalifas in addition. Gold coins of pure metal of various weights, such as 166.4 grains, 167 grains and 168.5 grains, were executed. The ratio of exchange between the dam and the rupee was 64 to 1. The ratios between the various gold coins and the silver ones were fixed on a permanent basis.
    These coins and currency reforms of Sher Shah Suri proved very useful and did away with a great deal of inconvenience which was experienced by the general public and particularly by the trading community. These reforms have elicited high praise from modern numismatists.

    "Sher Shah is entitled to the honour of establishing the reformed system of currency which lasted throughout the Mughal period, was maintained by the East India Company down to 1835, and is the basis of the existing British currency. He finally abolished the inconvenient billon coinage of mixed metal, and struck well-executed pieces in gold, silver, and copper, to a fixed standard of both weight and fineness. His silver rupees, which weigh 180 grains, and contain 175 grains of pure silver, being thus practically equal in value to the modern rupee, often have the king's name in Nagari characters in addition to the usual Arabic inscriptions." (V. A. Smith, Imperial Gazetteer of India, ii, pp. 145-6.)

    "His coins also illustrate the rapidity with which he conquered the countries settled under his rule. The land survey, construction of roads, and establishment of mint towns seem to follow almost in the wake of his conquering armies." ( Qanungo, Sher Shah, p. 383.)
    ".........He reformed the coinage, issuing an abundance of silver money, excellent in both fineness and execution. That is a good record for a stormy reign of five years. If Sher Shah had been spared he would have established his dynasty, and the ' Great Mughals ' would not have appeared on the stage of history." (The Oxford History of India, pp. 327-29.)

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