The Nizam-era Royal Mint building at Saifabad has been given a fresh lease of life when a coin museum was inaugurated in the 119-year-old lime and mortar heritage structure last week.
Once it had housed modern machinery used for making the finest coins since the State of Hyderabad under the zams was the only native state which enjoyed the privilege of coinage in British India. How- ever, when the Indian Government Mint shifted to Cherla- pally in 1997 this building tucked at the back of the Secretariat and the iconic Hussain Sagar found itself abandoned. Many of the old machines that made coins of exceptional quality with calligraphic beauty were left behind.
However, in 1921 the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India (SPMCIL)-of which the India Government Mint Hyderabad is a unit – decided to set up a coin museum as a part of the adaptive reuse of the heritage building. The museum, inaugurated last week as a part of the Azadi ke Amrit Mahotsav turn drew a large number of visitors who were mesmerized by the history of coin making, that of the mint, its old equipment, and coin collection. The exhibits also traced the timeline of the Royal Mint of the Nizam. The first mint in Hyderabad was established in 1803 at Moghalpura by Sikander Jah, the third Nizam after whom Secunderabad Cantonment was named.
At this private mint coins were produced in the name of the Mughal Emperor although by then the Nizams had established their independence in the Deccan.
The coins produced were of crude quality. In 1858, after the Sepoy Mutiny and dissolution of the Mughal Empire, all private mints were abolished except those of a few privileged states like Nizam and two Government of India Mints in Bombay and Calcutta. In 1903 a new mint was established at Saifabad which came to function as the Royal Mint.
“The coins of Hyderabad Royal Mint were inscribed with the only initial letter of Nizam,” pointed out Rehan Ahamad, the curator of Kolkata Mint Museum whose expertise was sought by the authorities for the exhibits.
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In 1895, machinery was first introduced at the mint and new coins known as Charkhi (Wheel) were minted. The minting of Osmani Sickka (after Mir Osman Ali, the VII Nizam) continued in Saifabad Mint, even after the State of Hyderabad joined the Indi- a Union till the middle of the 1950s when these were finally demon used. Under the Government of India, the Saifabad Mint continued to produce coins for the entire country till the mint shifted to Cherlapally in 1997.
Coins Exhibited in Nizam-era Royal Mint building
A numismatist Dr. Ahamad regaled visitors to the museum with tales of the first coins in India and how coins helped scholars to piece together the history of ancient India and how Indologist James Prinsep who worked at the Calcutta Mint deciphered Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts with help of the Greek inscriptions on the other side of the coin.
The coins exhibited included that of the Nizam era, British India, and the Republic of India but it was the replica of the world’s largest and heaviest gold coin issued by Mughal Emperor Jehangir and presented to the father of the first Nizam that evoked the interest of the visitors. Weighing 12kg it was minted in Agra and its denomination was 1000 mohurs.