Azad Hind coins, Netaji mail at wax museum

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By Sudeshna Banerjee
  • Published 17.02.17
An embossed George VI coin for use of the Azad Hind government. (Top) A Sher-e-Hind medal. (Mayukh Sengupta)

My dear uncle, 

It is long since I wrote to you or had news from you direct. Please accept my respectful Vijaya pronams and convey them to mamima. My love and fond wishes for the children…

This may read like an ordinary letter but the “censored and passed” stamp from the superintendant of police indicates that the “Subhas” in the signature is no ordinary writer. Another letter, dated August 15, 1936 from Darjeeling has the writer discussing with “Natun-mamababu” his “intestinal trouble”.

Such hand-written letters were part of the items on display at an exhibition held at Mother’s Wax Museum to pay tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary. The items were part of the private collection of Baguiati resident Prithwish Dasgupta.

Among the exhibits, there were five types of Azad Hind stamps — with a map of the Indian subcontinent chained between two swords, a jawan taking aim with a gun, a farmer tilling the field, a girl spinning a wheel and a patient being tended to. These were printed in Nazi Germany in 1943.

There were also coins issued by the Provisional Government of Free India that was set up in late 1943 in Singapore. Some were 1942 British India Re 1 coins which had the words PGAH 1943 embossed on the head of George VI.  Later, coins were issued with the map of undivided India carrying the words Azad Hind in Hindi on one side and the subcontinent’s flag on the other. Also displayed were currency notes with Netaji’s picture under the “Bank of Independent”, worth 1,000 but with no currency mentioned. There were currency notes in rupees printed by the Japan government for use as a replacement for the local British Indian currency during their occupation of Burma in 1942.

Also seen were money receipts for collection of contributions to Netaji Fund across Burma in 1944. 

Dasgupta  is proudest of his collection of medallions. “The Sher-e-Hind is the highest military decoration awarded by the Azad Hind. Only two were awarded — one to Captain Ganeshi Lal and the other to Captain Kunwal Singh.” He has also procured a Vir-e-Hind medal, the third highest decoration, from a war medal collector in the UK.

Prithwish Dasgupta explains the exhibits to Debashis Sen and Hiraan

Dasgupta has been collecting Netaji memorabilia for 10 years. He requested Hidco chief Debashis Sen for space for a permanent Netaji exhibition in New Town.