Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The March of Money: Part II

For a country that did not use money, Bhutan was flooded with overabundance of metal currency - from six different countries and perhaps more than half a dozen mintage of our own.

The most abundant coins were those from the then independent Kingdom of Cooch Behar known as the “Narayani Rupee”. Cooch Behar had extensive trade relations with Bhutan. Not only that they travelled to Tibet through Bhutan. The Cooch Beharis suffered overlording by the Bhutanese. They were repeatedly robbed, plundered and enslaved. In fact it is recorded that two villages in Bhutan are populated with the descendants of Cooch Beharis enslaved by the Bhutanese few centuries back. Cooch Behar was the state that Bhutan interacted with most. Some of the coins from Cooch Behar were the following:

Examples of Narayani Rupee coins from the reigns of five different Maharajas of Cooh Behar

The other nation whose coins were preferred in Bhutan and became freely available plentifully were those of British India. In fact, British India used its metal currency to keep Bhutan within its sphere of influence. Bhutan’s request for supply of dies to mint coins was denied outright - to ensure that Bhutan did not have the capability to have our own currency. British India took drastic measures to exert influence over Bhutan, to the extent that at one point they even closed down Cooch Behari mint – to cut off supplies of coins to Bhutan so that the Bhutanese are forced to continue to use British India coins. The following were some of the coins of British India that could be found in Bhutan:

Coins of British India period

The other most abundantly available coins in the country were those from Tibet. Bhutan had good relations with Tibet - trade, political, social and religious. Due to an active trade with that country, lot of Tibetan coins found its way into Bhutan. Even the Chinese coins that entered Bhutan came through Tibet. The following are examples of the Tibetan coins that were available in the country:

Tibetan silver coins called Boetum

Quite a lot of Chinese coins were also available in Bhutan. They were principally treasured for their bullion value - they were hardly ever used as currency. China also pressurized Bhutan - in fact they issued a proclamation requiring Bhutan to use the Chinese coins, particularly after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1910. Bhutan remained unimpressed, and continued to prefer the British India coins since the bulk of our trade was with India in the south.

Examples of Chinese coins that became available in Bhutan were the following:

Chinese silver coins

Since Assam bordered Bhutan, their coins also found their way into the country. They were mostly melted down to make ornaments since their silver content was very high. Examples of their coins that were available in Bhutan are the following:

Coins from the independent state of Assam

Strangely even the French Indian coins from their Arcot mint were available in Bhutan. In fact they were highly prized for their superior silver content. French India had a outpost at Goalpara – now in Assam - to carry out trade with Assam. The following is an example of their coin that found its way into Bhutan:

Coins of French India that entered Bhutan through Goalpara, currently part of the Indian state of Assam

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