One of the coins on display at the Mudra Utsav. Picture by Sayantan Ghosh
If history is your favourite subject or your hobby is collecting coins, Sunday is the last chance to visit an exhibition that the Numismatic Society of Calcutta has organised.
Held at Haldiram banquet hall in Ballygunge Park, the annual Mudra Utsav witnesses the biggest gathering of coin collectors and traders in the city.
“Coinage of Bengal through the ages” being the theme this year, the exhibition has on display coins of Bengal dating from the 6th century.
Ravi Shankar Sharma, the secretary of the society, is showcasing coins which bear the Bengali script. Some are from the reigns of the Tripura kings Vijayamanikya, Rajadharamanikya and Gobindamanikya, some others from the Bengal Sultanate. He showed a tonka issued in the name of Mahendra Deb in 1414. On the other side is written Shree Chandi Charan Kamalasya. “Raja Naranarayan of Cooch Behar copied the practice,” he said. There are also coins of Manipur, all smaller than thumbnails, and of Tripura with beautiful engravings of the Ardhanarishwar figure. The coins of Assam, issued in fractions till as little as a 32nd part of a rupee, stand out by their octagonal shape.
There are other exhibits like coins of the Bengal Presidency and Bengal Sultans. The latter includes a coin of Alamgir II, issued in his fifth year of reign, in which the word “Kolkatta” written in Persian appears for the first time by itself on a coin, instead of “Alinagar Kolkatta”, as was the practice. Basant Rathi’s collection — gold coins of Bengal Presidency — are the most valuable among the exhibits.
There is also a collection of contemporary coins, from denominations of five paise to Rs 10. Some are commemoratives, while others are definitive — the ones that are commonly used. Kunal Chatterjee has arranged them by mint marks (coins minted at the Calcutta mint are identified by the absence of a mint mark). “Between 1985 and 2001, the government got many coins minted abroad,” he says, pointing to coins identified to be from 10 foreign mints.
I.K. Kathotia’s collection on tokens of Bengal shows how religious, corporate and even flour mill tokens can be interesting collectibles.
S.K. Arvind, deputy general manager of the issue department of the Reserve Bank of India, had dropped by on Day 1. “We have a counter here where we are distributing pamphlets and screening an audio-visual presentation on ways to identify counterfeit currency notes. Coins of interest to collectors are also being sold,” he said.
The hottest picks at the counter are Rs 5 commemoratives. The one on Bhagat Singh is sold out. Those on Mother Teresa, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Rabindranath Tagore are being sold at face value.
Contributed by Sudeshna Banerjee