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Art on a coin

Friday, October 26, 2018

Coins are a rich repository of art and history, says Ronita Torcato

History enthusiasts believe history outside the confines of a text book is both interesting and worth knowing.  Not to be  missed  then, is the event  titled ‘Art on Coins’ at the Piramal Gallery, NCPA, on October 27, 28 and 29 when numismatists and historians will exhibit ancient coins from their private collections.  The exhibition will also display a model of the historic Vasai Fort, ancient pottery artifacts and rare books. A highlight of the three-day event will be a workshop on the Brahmi script by Mrs Tejaswinee Sachin Pathak, an expert on ancient scripts.

Many of the exhibits are from the Mumbai Coin Society,  the  personal collections of Pascal Roque Lopes, a historian, researcher  and expert on Vasai Fort,  and Sanjay Joshi, a  coin collector.  The exhibition has been organised with  support from Mukesh Parpiani, Head – Photography at the Piramal Gallery and students of Sathye College.

Mohit Kapoor, South Asia Regional Secretary for Oriental Numismatic Society, will inaugurate the exhibition on Saturday, October 27 at 4pm. However, the exhibits will be available for viewing the same day  from 12 noon onwards.  The launch   will be followed by a  guided tour of the exhibits by Mr Lopes,  and a talk by Mr Kapoor  on ‘Art on Coin’. The second day of the program will feature a talk by Sanjay Joshi on ‘Demonetized Notes in Exhibits since 1947’. On Saturday and Sunday, Mrs Pathak will conduct a two-day workshop on the ancient Brahmi script followed by an  awards ceremony where a rare and ancient  coin will be presented to the best workshop participant on each day. B. Ed and D. Ed students of  St Teresa Institute of Education, Santa Cruz will be taken on a  special walk -through of the exhibition on  October 27 and 29.

Among the rare coins on display are an  Indo- Greek Agathocles Drachma featuring a lion and the Brahmi legend Raje agathuklayasa,  Iltutmish from 1220 AD with a silver tanka horseman, a gold Venetian ducat bearing the likeness of St Mark presenting a banner to the Doge (Ruler) of Venice, a Kushana Period coin featuring a standing Buddha and a Bassein Treaty—Anglo Maratha War—Medal circa 1818, a 1740  Bombay Presidency coin of a crown, which Aurangzeb had asked to revoke.

Also on display are coins exhibiting the seafaring capabilities of the Sathavanas in the 1st Century, Prant Sasti coins minted by the Marathas when they won the region of Vasai  and  Sasti in 1739 and a Shiv Shaka  coin dated 1770  from Chhatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj’s Coronation. According to Dr Lopes, this the only Shiv Shaka coin and is extremely rare. There are also coins bearing Sambha ji Maharaj ‘s name, British India coins with  Devnagri inscriptions, coins from Murud Janjira with the words Mulk-e-Konkan and a silver coin of the Afghan chieftain Ghulam Qadir.

Dr Lopes relates the story of Ghulam Qadir and his Sikh allies who attacked Delhi and deposed the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. Petty, avaricious and insane Ghulam Qadir ravaged palaces in search of Mughal treasures. Unable to locate even a fraction and angered by the Mughal Emperor's attempts to eliminate him and his Sikh allies, Ghulam Qadir is said to have personally blinded Shah Alam II on 10 August 1788. The great Maratha, one of the three pillars of Maratha Resurrection (with Madhavrao I and Nana Fadnavis)  Mahadaji Shinde (or Scindia)  rushed to Shah Alam’s rescue and reinstated him, declaring himself his protector (and Regent of Delhi). As fate or destiny ordained, Ghulam Qadir himself came to a bad end. He was executed on March 3, 1789, three months after he was captured on December 18, 1788.

Visitors can ponder on how the mighty fall  while they touch and handle specific coins  (This is not allowed at the Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Museum which explores the evolution of money through artifacts and exhibits of currency notes and rare coins.)

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