Read your horoscope today?
The Persian couplet on the obverse (front) of this coin might be not mean much to most, but look closely at the friendly-looking lion and he can tell you something about this coin without you needing to learn Persian. The sun behind him shows he is Leo from the Zodiac: he tells us that the coin was made in the time of year when people with the star sign of Leo are born. He also reminds us that the symbols of the Zodiac - an everyday sight to us as we scan our horoscopes today -were also meaningful shorthand for people in medieval India, the generation before the Taj Mahal was built.
The Mughals: warriors and artists
To a reader of Persian the obverse of this coin can tell more: it declares who made it, where and when. It reads:
Zar/ Zinat Agrah Dad/ Sikkah/ 1028 Az Jahangir Shah/ Akbar Shah
The money of Agra gave ornaments to gold/ by Jahangir Shah, Shah Akbar's son, 1028
It was struck by Jahangir ('World-Grasper'), the ruler of Mughal India, in AH 1029 (in the Christian calendar, 1618/19), at Agra, the then capital of the Empire.
The Mughals, who first invaded India in 1525 were a Muslim people descended from Ghengiz Khan. During the fifty-year rule of Akbar, Jahangir's father, who he proudly emphasises on this coin, they created a vast empire which stretched across the Indian sub-continent as far to the west as Afghanistan, and as far south as the Godavari river. The Mughals, despite being continually involved in military campaigns to expand and protect their empire, also created a courtly culture where art, literature, science and architecture flourished. This extended to beautiful and innovative coin design.
Minted in: Agra
Zodiac series - Leo
© Trustees of the British Museum