The Coinage of Manipur

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Item Code: HAJ739
Author: N.G. Rhodes, S.K. Bose
Publisher: Library of Nimismatic Studies, Kolkata
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 8190186795
Pages: 96 (Throughout Color and B/W Illustrations )
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.50 X 7.50 inch
Weight 540 gm
Book Description
About the Author

Nicholas Rhodes was born on 26 May, 1946 in London. The mystique world of Numismatics used to fascinate him from his formative days. After studying mathematics at Cambridge University, he achieved tremendous conceptual profundity in actuarial-science, After retirement Rhodes spent more time on his academic interest till he passed to the great beyond on 7 of July, 2012 He was Secretary-General of the Oriental Numismatic Society of Great Britain and was actively engaged with organisations of similar stature and agenda. He had delivered sublime lectures widely in India and the West on the coinage of the Himalayas and Northeast India. He has composed several books and published more than 290 research papers on numismatics and philately. The world of numismatics will continue to offer earnest homage towards the indelible landmark established by Nicholas Rhodes. His stupendous feats have given him an immortal status which is going to emanate the radiance of his unprecedented erudition for eternity.
S. K. Bose was born in Assam, India. An ex-banker, he was requested by his employer to conduct coin exhibitions at different places in Northeast India. This re-fuelled his childhood fascination in history and antiquities. With the passage of time his fervent passion got translated to unfathomed academic interest. He is at present Executive Trustee of the Institute of Northeast India Studies, Kolkata and associated with a number of organisations at the regional and national level devoted to history and numismatics. Several published research papers and books on numismatics and art composed by Bose, reflect his expertise on the relevant disciplines. These are of instrumental importance to the researchers and documentation-activists functioning in the sphere of history, archaeology and numismatics. His vast stretch of technical knowledge has fetched him spectacular eminence as an authority of northeast India coinage in the national and international arena.
The Numismatic Society of India, during their Centenary Celebration year 1910-2009, had bejewelled the prestigious Akbar Medal to both Nicholas G. Rhodes and S. K. Bose for their contribution to the numismatic literature.


The Meitei kingdom in Manipur emerged from the Meitei ethnic society through a prolonged process of social integration and consolidation of a large number of proto- Meitei clans that had migrated to the Manipur valley in several waves over a long period of time in the early period of Manipur's history. They were eventually regrouped into seven clans, each one of which settled exclusively in different parts of the valley and developed into autonomous clan-principalities or chiefdoms. The scrimmage for territorial expansion and occupation of more fertile lands amongst these clan-principalities led to Mutua conflicts and interclanish feuds and wars in which the Ningthoujas, one of the seven clans who were the first to immigrate and occupy the best segment of the valley, emerged victorious and the unified Meitei kingdom came into existence under their leadership, Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, who is said to have founded the institution of kingship in Manipur, according to the royal chronicle Chetharol Kumbaba, in first century AD, is believed to be a God in human form and this legend deified the royal clan and legitimized the Ningthouja rule. The pre-Meitei autochthonous clans, which were initially pushed by the Meiteis to the marshy and least fertile foothill regions, came to be commonly identified as Loi and were subordinated by the Meitei kings. The later immigrants like the Bishnupriyas, Brahmins and the Muslims, the tribals from the hills who settled in the valley as well as the Lois, were integrated into the Meitei social structure through the process of Meiteization of the lineages and the common use of Meitei language by all the ethnic groups domiciled in the Manipur valley. The Meiteis followed their traditional religion distinguished by ancestor worship, called Sanamahi, but in the medieval period the entire community, excepting the Muslims, embraced the Vaishnavite faith at the instance of the king who endowed to Vaishnavism the status of religion of the state. The title of the Meitei king was thereafter changed from Lainingthou to Maharaja and the kingdom came to be known as Manipur.
Manipur was indeed a powerful kingdom of the pan-Indian monarchical model. One of the longest surviving early states in the Indian subcontinent, it flourished as an independent political entity till the beginning of the nineteenth century when it passed under colonial control of the British, first, as a protected state after the First Anglo- Burmese War (1824-26) and then as a princely state after the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891 The society and economy in pre-colonial Manipur was under total control of the king The land, forests, mines and minerals, agriculture, industry and crafts, including dresses and ornaments of various sections in the society, were regulated by the kings who assigned social and economic functions to the lineages. Although the natural and human resources were not properly explored, technology remained backward and the economy could not develop to its fullest potential, the political and economic supremacy was a hallmark of the Meitei kingship. An independent currency system was also a royal vestige of pre-colonial Manipur under the Meitei kings. A tradition suggests that the coins known as faret maji naiba were used in worship of the deities in ancient times, although there is no physical or literary evidence of the existence of such material objects. However, there are some bell metal coins bearing ma in archaic Manipuri script which are ascribed to the reign of King Khagemba (alias Mayangamba, c. 1597-1652) and dated to early seventeenth century AD. King Paikhomba (1666-1697) is said to have sued coins bearing pa in archaic script.


The coinage of Manipur has not yet received its justified place in the numismatic history of India. Barring a few articles published so far, no serious study has so far been undertaken on Manipur coinage. One of the reasons may be the non-availability of such coins to the scholars and numismatists for examination and analysis. This has become more difficult due to forgeries that have been known to occur especially the late 1960's through to the 1970's. It is of great regret that people with considerable knowledge of the history of North east India, including Meitei kingdom of Manipur, have associated with forgers to produce fake coins. Inventing numismatic evidence of this nature has misled many scholars and has introduced mistrust and disbelief. The silver lining is that most recognise that all evidence needs to be re-appraised.
The most interesting part of the Meitei coinage is the issue of very small denomination coins, known as sels. We wonder if any other kingdom in India had ever produced such low value coins which were accepted in the market and had continued for centuries Meitei sel coins enabled common people to become accustomed with use of coins in lieu of cowries to buy their provisions from the market to meet their day-to-day requirements. A little over four hundred sels was equivalent to one native tanka or the British India rupee.
Keeping in view what has been mentioned above and also to highlight the high quality of coins from this region; we decided, as early as 1998, to write a series of books on the kingdoms of the region that have issued coins. This book on Manipur coinage is the last of the series. We acknowledge that many questions remain unanswered and much more remains to be discovered. We are driven by the aspiration that prospective archaeological friends in the pathway of impending future will help in this regard.
A new addition to the family of North-East Indian states is the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim. The economy of Sikkim was not monetised until the twentieth century, and coins were struck on only one occasion in 1881 AD. As the scope of elaborating the coinage of Sikkim is virtually non-existent, we decided to incorporate a note on Sikkim coinage as an appendix (Appendix IV) in this book, though politically, socially or economically. Sikkim was not even remotely connected with the Manipur kingdom. With all other books on the region that we have published so far, the inclusion of Sikkim coinage completes the numismatic history of North-East India as we know it at this date.
In the preparation of this book, we have received valuable help from erudite scholars, collectors and museums. We extend our gratitude to them all, too numerous to individually enlist. However, we would miserably fail in our duty unless we mention in particular Mr. Joe Cribb, who has recently retired as the Keeper of Coins & Medals at the British Museum, London, Dr. Mark Blackburn, keeper of Coins at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Dr. Michael Mitchiner, Mr. Stan Goron, Mr. Mutua Bahadur, Director, Mutua Museum, Imphal, Prof. PK.Bhattacharyya, Mr. I. K. Kejriwal, Dr. Anasuya Bhowmick, Mr. Anuj Pakvasa Mr. S. Gosalia, and Mr. Ravi Shankar Sharma, who allowed us full access to the coins in their custody or helped us in numerous ways.
Our heartfelt thanks also extend to Professor J. B. Bhattacharjee, Ex Vice-Chancellor of Assam University, who has graciously consented to write the foreword and for his never- ending encouragement.

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