The coinage system of Sikkim
It is more or less a forgotten part in the development process of the then small Himalayan kingdom, Sikkim. An introduction to the coinage system in Sikkim ceased the way it got started. A study in the coinage system of Sikkim puts light on the time period of the socio-economic and political history of the then small state. The coins of Sikkim ended the way it appeared, it came from nowhere and finally it got lost out in the darkness. A handful of people around Sikkim and in the districts of Darjeeling now have these rare items in their collections. The coin of Sikkim is much sought after by numismatists interested in countries that are no more in existence today.
Prior to the British invasion to the land of Sikkim, capital revenue system was never heard. Sikkim being an agricultural foreground had some parts of food grains given to the king as tax. Trade was carried where things were exchanged between individuals. This system was even prevalent even in the mid-19th century; oranges were exchanged with that of a hen while broomstick with bamboo caskets and many other things were exchanged as per the need. It was only after the permission from the British officials in 1849 AD the coins of Nepal were accepted as legal tender. Handing over the territory of Darjeeling in 1835 AD brought Indian rupee to the land of Sikkim. This was seen as the first change as per the economic development was concerned. John Claude White, Political Officer in 1889 AD in his account had said that Maharaja collected in taxes “what he required as he wanted it from the people.”
There were six Taksari families in Sikkim who were addressed as “Taksari”, an owner of minting house. Those Taksari included Lachhimidas Pradhan, Kancha Chandbir Pradhan, Chandbir Pradhan Maskey of Pakyong, Jitman Singh Pradhan, Prasad Singh Chettri of Tarku Estate and Bharaddoj Gurung of Khani Goan.
Lachhimidas Pradhan, a newar tradesman who fled Nepal was the man behind extracting copper from the mines in Sikkim. It was in the year 1868, Lachhimidas Pradhan and others secured a mining lease for copper mines and agriculture estates in Sikkim. The then Maharaja of Sikkim Thutob Namgyal took interest in the minting of the coins in Sikkim and asked for the approval form the British authority. It was finally in July 20, 1881, a letter from the Secretary, Government of Indian in the Foreign Department intimated the Government of Bengal that there was no objection to the request of the Maharaja of Sikkim to make Dooba pice at the copper mines within the territory of Sikkim. British had no problem in letting the small and poor country of Sikkim setting their own minting.
The British wrote that the Dooba pice requested by the Maharaja of Sikkim were lumps of irregularly shaped copper of the kind well known in Bihar as Loheea pice and there were no provisions in the treaty of 1861 with Sikkim prohibiting coining. The coins of Sikkim known so far are of two types. Dooba Paisa also known as Doli or Dheba is a lump made of copper. These coins were cut out of copper sheet to a particular size and weight. They are plain on both observe and reverse, weighs around 8.265gms to 10.755gms. These small metal are found to be 1.7 x 1.4 cm to 1,9 x 1.3 cm in size. The minting of Dooba Paisa began sometime in 1882 AD i.e. 1939 according to Nepali calendar.
It should be noted that coins of Sikkim had been highly influenced by that of Nepal and similar types of Dooba and Chepte Paisa were also found in Nepal. The inscription was also written in devengari script and bore the Nepali calendar year 1939 to 1942. The weights of Sikkim coins vary from 4.18gms to 5.55gms whereas the copper coins of Nepal range from 4.8gms to 10gms.
The second type of coin the Chepte Paisa is “fashioned in a rude way with the hammer and anvil and has plain unmilled edges. Stamping is carried out in a similarly rough manner, one workman holding the piece of metal between the dies, whilst a second with a blow from a heavy hammer complete the coin. With very few inceptions, the coins bear only portions of the inscriptions carried by the dies”.
The second type of coin the Chepte Paisa is more or less circular in shape with inscription “Sri Sri Sri Sikkim Maharajpati” written on observe and “Sri Sri Sri Sikkim Sarkar” in the reverse. It weighs around 7.60gms and is around 2.6cm in size. A floral design on the edge of both sides of the coins has also been found. The coins of Sikkim do not bear any mintmark but it appears that the minting of these coins was generally done in places near of Tukkhani and Pacheykhani, while few were minted in Duga too.
The new beginning in the decimal history of currency in Sikkim was short lived. The new coins were accepted as the legal tender in the territories of Nepal. But the inconvenience provided by the traders of Nepal the coins of Sikkim had a setback to face. The Newar traders presented the petition to the Prime Minister of Nepal to put restriction on the Sikkim currency within Nepal territory.
It was in the month of September-October 1885 a letter was send to Lachhimidas Pradhan in Sikkim by Col. Gajraj Singh Thapa forwarding a restriction of the entry of the coins of Sikkim into the boundary of Nepal and said that the pice of Sikkim was found to be lesser in weight than that of Nepal. This was a big blow to the rising economic development of the small state.
No coins of Sikkim has been found after Nepali calendar 1942 i.e. 1885 AD, thus a sad part of a great hope in Sikkim have to bow to a premature death.
1. Aspect of Cultural History of Sikkim
2. Documents on Sikkim and Bhutan