The Maratha Empire is one of the most important factors in Indian history. The Maratha Empire came to the power with the emergence of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, after his coronation in 1674 and ended with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II at the hands of the British East India Company. After the fall of the Kingdom of Yadavas to Allauddin Khilji, they lost their independence but acquired political and military experience, for the next few centuries by serving under various sultanates of Deccan. The coins throw the light on the times of Marathas as well as the contemporary history of India. The history of India is incomplete without the Marathas and their Coins.
Birth of Shivaji Maharaj
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was born to Shahji and Jijabai in the year 1627 at Shivneri. Shahaji gave part of his ‘Jagir’ to his wife and Jijabai and Shivaji Maharaj. Jijabai was a woman of extraordinary intellect and was solely responsible for fashioning Shivaji’s career as the independent King in Mughal dominated Indian scenario.
Establishment of Hindu Swaraj
Shivaji Maharaj, by winning the Torna fort in the year 1645; free his people from the Sultanate of Bijapur. Later, he won many forts and placed the area under his control and established ‘Hindu Swaraj’. He formed the independent Maratha kingdom with Raigad as his capital and successfully fought against the Mughals to defend their kingdom. He was crowned as Chhatrapati, (sovereign) of the new Maratha kingdom in 1674. Later, he also founded an Independent Maratha nation, with Raigad as its capital after exploiting guerrilla warfare with Adilshah of Bijapur and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
During his rule, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj issued coins in two metals gold and copper. The gold coins issued by him are known as Huns and the copper coins issued by him are known as Shivrais. Shivaji Maharaj was the first ruler to start Raj Shaka (Royal Era)
Marathas and their Coins under Under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Maratha Confederacy
The Maratha Coinage evolved from three different paradigms of Coinages prevalent in the Deccan at various periods. The Copper coins issued by the Maratha were inspired by the Bahamani Kingdom and later Ahmadnagar Copper Falus. Silver Coin issued by the Maratha Empire was an imitation of the Mughal Silver rupee and the gold coins issued by the Maratha was inspired by Huns of the Vijayanagar Empire.
The gold huns of Shivaji Maharaj were issued during the coronation of Shivaji Maharaj in the year 1674. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj issued a large number of copper coins popularly known as Shivrai. The Shivarais were minted at various mints even post-humorously and circulated till the middle of the eighteenth century. This was the beginning of the Marathas and their Coins.
Shambhuji and Rajaram
After the death of Shivaji Maharaj, the hold of the Maratha Empire was carried by his two sons Shambhuji and Rajaram. Both Shambhuji and Rajaram ruled Maratha Empire briefly.
In 1681, Sambhaji sat on the throne of Maratha after the death of his father, Shivaji Maharaj. After sitting on the throne of the Maratha Empire, he defeated the Portuguese and Chikka Deva Raya of the Mysore Empire.
Later, Shambhuji fought bravely against Mughal Empire, later he was captured by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and was tortured to death.
Rajaram ruled the Maratha Empire but died soon. After the death of Rajaram, the young son of Shambhuji, Shahu was made to sit on the throne of the Maratha Empire.
Shahu, after sitting on the throne of the Maratha Empire appointed an intelligent Brahmin, Balaji Vishvanath as his Peshwa (Prime Minister) in 1713 CE. One of the major achievements of Balaji Vishvanath, was the conclusion of the Treaty of Lonavala in 1714 CE with Kanhoji Angre, the most powerful naval chief on the Western Coast. Later, he accepted Shahu as Chhatrapati.
The Maratha army marched towards Delhi after defeating Sayyid Hussain Ali, the Mughal governor of Deccan, and depose the Mughal emperor in the year 1917 CE. This was the time when the Maratha army forced the Mughal Empire to be their puppet.
Shahu expanded his kingdom towards the northern side under the control of Peshwa during his rule. The leading Maratha families like Sindhia, Holkar, Bhonsale, and Gaekwad became more independent and extended their conquest in the northern and central parts of India.
The control of Peshwa ended in 1761, with the defeat in the Battle of Panipat, into the hands of Afghans. After the death of young Peshwa Madhav Rao I in 1772, the Maratha state was a confederacy of five chiefs under the nominal leadership of the Peshwa at Poona (now Pune) in western India.
Peshwa of Pune
Shahu turned out to be a smart ruler who appointed an intelligent Brahmin, Balaji Vishwanath as his Peshwa (prime minister). After the death of Shahu, Marathas united under a confederacy and owed nominal allegiance to the adopted son of Shahu and later kings. The Maratha confederacy which built the empire consisted of five families with Peshwas of Pune as major power brokers. The other 4 families were Shindes (Scindhias) of Gwalior, Gaikwars of Baroda, Bhonsale of Nagpur, and Holkars of Indore.
Originally the Peshwa was only Mukhya Pradhan or Prime Minister, his post was not hereditary. But, when Baji Rao, Balaji Vishwanath’s son, became Prime Minister it became hereditary.
Coinage of Peshwa
Marathas and their Coins take a drastic turn during the times of the Peshwas. During the rule of the Peshwa and Maratha Confederacy, a large number of silver rupees were issued. These silver rupees were issued Hindu-style mint marks and Devanagari legends interspaced with Persian legends typical of Mughal coins.
Marathas and their Coins in the 18th century lacked a high degree of sophistication. The monetary system of the Maratha kingdom was loosely controlled and hence the coins issued by them were not uniform.
Denomination of Marathas and their Coins
Marathas and their Coins were versatile though lacked a specific sophistication and are a subject of vast research. They changed their nature according to the changing times. Given below is the list of the denomination of the Marathas and their Coins. Ankush: Elephant Goad representative of Lord Ganapati
Falus: Arabic term for lower currency in copper used in Dakhan Gaani
Fanam: Arabization of South Indian Panam term for a denomination 1/10th of the Hon
Gaani: Dehli Sultanate & Bahamani term for copper coins
Hon: Corruption of Pon, Gold unit issued in South India weighing 3.6 g
Nagphani: Lit snake hood symbol used on coins of Marathas
Nazrana: Gift given in form of Coins on presentation to rulers Nazar
Rupaiya: Mughal silver coin issued continuously from Akbar period at a fixed weight of 178 gr. (11.53 g)
Shivarai: Copper coin issued with Chhatrapati Shivaji issued with his name and titles in Nagari.