Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Bhutan Cheated Out Of Rs.5,000.00 Worth Of Silver

On pages 435-436 of the compilations of correspondences titled “PERSIAN CORRESPONDENCE”, the following appears as item 1583:

Portions of correspondence from Druk Desi to the Governor General of British East India Company dated January 15, 1785

The letter addressed to the Governor General of British East India Company was dated 15th January, 1785. Thus, the Druk Desi who authored the letter would have to be Druk Desi Jigme Singye who ruled between 1776 to 1789. From this letter it is clear that Bhutan sent silver to Koch Bihar to be converted to coins. We know that the earliest Bhutanese coins were of silver – only later we began hammering coins in copper.

Although the claim for the silver worth Rs. 5,000.00 is being made in a letter dated 1785, the letter is explicit that the silver was handed over to the grandfather of the incumbent Koch Bihar Raja ruling in 1785.  It means that the silver would have had to have been sent to Koch Bihar earlier to 1772 - the logic behind this assumption is explained further down the post.

A Bengali civil servant working for the East India Company by the name of Babu Kishen Kant Bose visited Bhutan in 1815. His comments in relation to coinage in the country are perhaps among the first references to the existence of minting in Bhutan - many years prior to his visit. His report submitted to his superiors records that:

"There was formerly no mint in Bootan, but when the Booteahs carried away the late Raja of Cooch Behar*, they got hold of the dies, with which they still stamp Narrainee Rupees. Every new Deb Raja puts a mark upon the Rupee of his coinage, and alters the weight. The Dhurma Raja also coins Rupees, and besides them, no one else is permitted to put their mark upon the Rupees, but there are mints at Paro, Tongso, and Tagna**".

This firmly establishes that by 1815, Bhutan already had at least three mints – one each at Paro, Trongsa and Tagna. In addition to these three mints, it is also recorded that more of them were pressed into service in later years. The report also names exact locations of the mints – Sisina in Thimphu and Yudrong Choling in Trongsa.

Bhutan had been over lording the poor Koch Biharis – to the point that we had maintained a garrison in the Koch kingdom. However, the garrison was driven away by the British East India forces in 1772. To halt further atrocities by the Bhutanese, the British East India Company annexed Koch Bihar. In an effort to make the Koch Biharis use British India coins, they closed down the Koch Bihari mints – effectively shutting off supplies of coins to Bhutan. Bhutan requested British East India Company to supply coin dies – they were refused - in an effort to force the Bhutanese to use their coins. It appears that the Bhutanese weren’t going to do so – instead they carried off Koch Bihari moneyers and started to hammer our own coins within the country.

NOTE: We always make the mistake of calling Governor General of British India Government. It was the British East India Company that ruled India - until its closure in 1858. Only thereafter the British India Government took over the administration of India.

** Tagna is most likely Dagana.

* The Maharaja of Koch Bihar that the Bhutanese supposedly abducted would have to be either Maharaja Rajendra Narayan (1770 – 1772) or Bijendra Narayan (1772 – 1774).

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