Thursday, November 6, 2014

Currency Reforms of Sher Shah Suri

The coins and currency reforms of Sher Shah Suri (Sher Khan) are one of his most outstanding achievements. The very nomenclature of his coins as ashrafis, rupaiya (Rupee) and paisa and the principle according to which they were cast, remained the basis of the Mughal currency, the British and even today currency of India and Pakistan (as well as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia and Mauritius) can trace its lineage to Sher Shah's currency reform. 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 abandoned mixed metal coinage which existed before his reign. 

Rupiya or Rupee

Rupiya or Rupee currency was first introduced by Sher Shah Suri and and numismatists confirm that they have not found any reference to the Rupee as a specific coin before Sher Shah. Mughal historian of Akbar, Abu Fazal also confirm this in Ain-e-Akbari, he writes;
 روپیہ................در زمان شیر خان بدید آمد
 "Rupaiya......... appeared in Sher Khan's time" (Ain-i-Akbari, Persian text, p- 18)

Sher Shah's Rupiya in silver is still the currency of India , Pakistan ,Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mauritius as the Rupee and in Indonesia as Rupiah. It replaced the earlier 'tanka'. He minted a coin in silver of 180  grains in 1542. When the coin was given to him, he looked at it and exclaimed “rupaiya”, meaning ' beautiful form', 'wrought silver' emphasizing the change from the alloyed or 'black' tanka . Sher Shah Suri also introduce gold "MOHAR" which along with silver "RUPIYA," was continued throughout the Mughal regime. Sher Shah's rupee was the means of trade far beyond his empire because it was a carefully minted coin weighing 179 gram of very pure silver. It 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).


In the context of issuing copper coin for the lower exchange values , credit goes to Sher Shah Sur, who for the first time in the Indian history, circulated it successfully on large scale throughout his mamlikat. Henceforth, as Ahmad Yadgar informs us (Tarikh-i-Shahi, p-227), Sher Khan Sur's copper became the basis of the sale and purchases of the people of the world. This cooper coin was then known as paisa. Abu Fazal , while referring to Akbar's dam, writes that "formerly they called it paisa" (Ain-i-Akbari, Persian text, p- 18)


The Mohur coin was first introduced by Sher Shah Suri  and was then a gold coin weighing 169 grains (=10.95 grams). It was last minted in British India in 1918, but some princely states continued to issue the coins until their accession to India after 1947

Sher Shah's Silver rupee

Sher Shah's Copper paisa

Sher Shah's Gold Mohur

 Imperial Gazetteer of India remarks; 
"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.)

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.