Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Old Coin Jewelry – One quarter anna – from the British Raj – India 1835

Yesterday I had a strange experience, an adventure you may say.  I was going through some old suitcases and in one of them I found old family pictures, letters and many memorabilia.

You know how you lose track of time on those situations,  on those walks down the memory lanes.   I came across a piece of cotton handkerchief, all bundled up and knotted, seemed like it contained some thing, like coins.

I open up the knot and inside I found many  old coins indeed, from all over the world.  I am fascinated with old  coins.  So much so that I took several tutorials to learn how to wrap coins.  I’ll even show you some of my samples.
Coin jewelry
But this one is  a copper coin, quite dirty and old.  It is from India and after rubbing a bit I see the year marks 1835.

I get goose bumps.  It is a rare quarter of an anna.  One side there is a design of leaves; the other side has the face of the Empress.

Holding this quarter of an anna, which was called, a pice,  in those days, I was feeling like I am holding an eternity in  the palm of my hand.

This well circulated piece has seen so much until it was stuck in that suitcase.  I have no idea how it ended up there.  It has seen so much of history.

India was under the British Raj then,  I suppose.  This coin was perhaps minted in Calcutta at the latest in  December 1835. Right after that there was  the coin strike due to lack of copper. 

This one  has pure copper.  This is the time period when the East India Company is slowly capturing India, more than just trading. It had started the process of breaking the back bone of her culture. The British has started poisoning the spirit of the country

Why I say that?  Why am I such bitter?  Here is the quote from Lord Mc Cauley’s speech of Feb 2, 1835 to the British Parliament:

Lord McCauley in his speech of Feb 2, 1835, British Parliament

"I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation".

There were no beggars in the street said the Lord.

 I look at my coin again.  If it could talk it would have started sobbing by now. It would babble about   how many beggars and thieves it had seen since then, how many rich, generous, people it had also come across and how it landed to our family.

 Who was this last person?  When did the quarter of an anna become obsolete? 

I research what it is worth today.  I find its monetary value any where from $10 to $250,   perhaps even more.  I don’t know.

 What about its real value?  What could a pice buy then?  I have no proof to link but I remember a childhood poem in Bengali, my mother tongue.  Translating it, it would sound like:

How on earth did you spend all that oil-  a pice worth of oil?

Your beard, my foot, then on our baby boy

  weddings of the  daughter and son
seven nights there were lights and the band,
after that you ask what I did with that oil?  a pice worth of oil?

Well,  I decided not to let it go, whatever its value be   I decided to make it beautiful and then give it to some one close who will fully appreciate it.

 I do have many other coins that I am going to wrap soon and take to my etsy shop.

Right now I have only one from Thailand


Alicia said...

Oh, my, a post rich in history and information! Thanks for sharing!

LoriF said...

How cool!! I would love to send you some Canadian coinage in exchange for some Indian ones...I love coins too! What I have is not that old, probably...but would be different at least. :-)

AntiquityTravelers said...

Amazing post! There is such a rich history to India, a large and diverse country. I was in India during the 50th celebration of being free from the Raj - something to celebrate indeed.

alankarshilpa said...

Thank You my friends, all of you who took time from your valuable day schedule to read and leave comments in my page. Your feed back keeps me going. Dita.

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