IN ASSAM, even the tea estates used to have their own coins till the 1950s. They used to pay the wages of their workers with those coins. Moreover, the coins issued by the Ahom and Koch kings were used for commercial purposes, asserted renowned numismatist Shankar Kumar Bose.
He was delivering a lecture on the numismatic heritage of North East India with special reference to Assam at the conference hall of Cotton University here on Thursday.
The lecture was jointly organised by the Archaeology Department of Cotton University with the Assam and Kamrup chapters of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
Bose, presently a trustee of the Institute of North East India Studies and a former president of the Numismatic Society of India, said evidence of the Assam tea estates circulating their own coins till 1956 are very much there.
The coins of small denomination minted during the reign of the Ahom and Koch kings suggest that they were used for commercial purposes. Though the colonial British rulers stuck to their claim that the coins issued during the rule of the Ahom and Koch kings were not used for commercial purposes, in their private communications they used to admit the fact that such coins were used for commercial purposes.
Archive records also state that the coins issued by the Ahom and Koch rulers were used for commercial purposes. From historical records, it is also found that in some parts of the North East region local people used to resist the British coins as they favoured the coins struck by their respective rulers.
That Assam had commercial relations with the Mughals during the rule of the Ahom kings is proved by the fact that some of the Ahom kings used to mint their coins with Persian script in order to depict the information on the coinage. Coins of Assam also suggest that she maintained trade links with Tibet. Similarly, Samatata coins also suggest trade links of Assam with its western neighbours, said Bose.
However, cowries were the medium of transaction in Assam until AD 17th century, when coinage was introduced by Swargadeo Jayadhvaja Simha. Significantly, China used to import cowries from Assam and in exchange Assam used to receive silver from China.
The coins minted during the rule of Swargadeo Chakradhvaja Simha (AD1663-70) had the Assamese script on them to depict the information on the coinage. The coins issued during the rule of Swargadeo Gadadhar Simha had the Ahom script used for the purpose.
Today, the intimate interactions among the historians of the North East region and the numismatists have led to important findings for the reconstruction of history of the North Eastern region of India, said the renowned numismatist.
The function was presided over by founder Vice-Chancellor of Assam University Professor JB Bhattacharjee and was inaugurated by Cotton University Vice-Chancellor Professor Bhabesh Chandra Goswami.