COIN OF EMPEROR JAHANGIR

A gift for the Emperor’s followers 

The Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27) showed an exceptional engagement with his coinage, which represents the apogee of Mughal Indian numismatic art in its calligraphy and design. The obverse of this example features a hallowed portrait of Jahangir sitting cross-legged, reclining against a bolster on a hexagonal throne and holding a goblet-like ornament in his hand. It has been described as a wine goblet, thus showing the Emperor in fond attachment to his favourite pastime yet a heretic in terms of the tenets of Islam. The Farsi inscription around the portrait reads, ‘Destiny has made the picture of a likeness of venerable king Jahangir on this gold coin’. Jahangir issued coins bearing his portrait, by his own admission, to be given to his followers as a special gift which they could ‘wear on their turbans or sashes’ to show that they had been graced by imperial favour.

On the reverse is a central sun burst with compartments on either side. The one on the left mentions Ajmer as the place where the coin was struck (Jahangir had moved his court there in 1615–19) and 1023, the Islamic (Hijri) year of its issue. On the right is the invocation ‘O Assister’, followed by ‘Year 9’, the year of the reign. The Farsi inscription reads ‘The words “Jahangir” and “Allahu Akbar” are equal in value till the Day of Judgement’. Based on the so-called Abjad system, which applied numerical value to each letter of the alphabet, the words ‘Jahangir’ and ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘Allah is greater’) were considered to add up to the same total.

Ajmer
Ninth year of reign
Gold
20.5 mm
On deposit from Christ Church, Oxford
HCR7680