A recent find of 18 AE Coins of the Jams of Sindh,

attributed to Jam Nizam al Din, and Jam Firoz

 

By Waleed Ziad

 

 

A lot of 18 AE coins hailing from the period of the Jams of Sindh have been discovered in southern Pakistan, specifically in the small town of Dadu.  Crudely struck on roughly octagonal flans, the fabric is entirely distinct from that of the neighboring kingdoms.

 

Map of Sindh Districts

 

One coin was struck in the name of Jam Nizam al Din, while the other 17 coins are in the name of his son, Jam Firoz. 

 

During the Islamic period, the Sultanate of Punjab and Western Sindh, from 1203 to 1259 had minted currency, mostly billon jitals, and silver tankas.  However, lower Sindh had ceased to issue indigenous currency from the period following the collapse of the Emirate.  These rare AE tankas, minted during the Samma period (734/1333 - 930/1524), mark the commencement of lower Sindh’s monetary independence after over 400 years.

 

Copper coins of the Jams of Sindh have been published previously by Simon Digby (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1972) in an article entitled "The Coinage and Genealogy of the later Jams of Sind.”  Stan Goron, in the recently published Coins of the Indian Sultanates, introduces one bronze variety of Jam Nizam al Din, and a silver coin and two copper varieties of Jam Firoz.

 

The flan of these tankas is broader than contemporary coins of the Delhi and Gujarat Sultanates of similar weight.  Substantial hoards of coins of the Sultans of Gujarat have been found in Sindh, leading us to believe that Gujarati currency was the popular medium of exchange during the period of the Samma Jams.  The average weight of the coins is approximately 15.28 grams ranging from 13.14 to 16.53 grams (refer to chart below for individual weights).  This weight, if based on the Gujarati Standard (8.9 g / tanka), lies between the 1.5 tanka and 2 tanka denominations issued by the Sultans of Gujarat.

 

The Sammas were originally a Rajput tribe of the Kutch and Lower Sindh region, who under Jam Unar (734/1333 - 753/1367) in  14th century defeated the Samra dynasty in Sindh, assuming the throne of lower Sindh under the title “Jam.”  During this magnificent period in Sindhi history, the kingdom remained politically and economically tied to the Sultanate of Gujarat, with occasional periods of friction.

 

Jam Nizam al din, known popularly as Nanda, ruled from 866/1461 to 914/1508 and is regarded even to this day as one of the legendary rulers of Sindh.  His reign was considered to be the most glorious period of Sindhi history, associated with the flourishing of education, the arts, and literature, and the establishment of Sindh as a political and cultural force in the region.  The Jam himself was considered the exemplar of piety, and an accomplished poet.  The liberal and peaceful environment of his kingdom brought numerous persecuted scholars and political figures to seek refuge in Sindh. His reign was also marked by tensions with Gujarat, as Sultan Mahmud Beghara (863-917) briefly expressed a desire to expand his borders into Sindh.  The tensions ended with a marriage alliance between the two kingdoms, and Mahmud later provided the Jam support in suppressing a rebellion on the eastern frontier. 

 

Nizam al din’s son, Jam Firoz (914/1508 - 931/1524-5) was the last Samma sultan.  Jam Firuz was considered to be a weak ruler, and his reign was characterized by internecine power struggles within the ruling family, rebellion, and foreign incursions which led to the eventual termination of Samma rule.  The first threat came from Jam Firuz first cousin, Jam Salah al din, who raised an army aided by Muzaffar of Gujarat and Rao Khengar of Kach.  In an effort to protect himself, Jam Firuz enlisted the aid of various Mughal households.  The next offensive came from Shah Shuja Beg, of the Timurid Mughal household of Herat.  Jam Firuz was forced to leave Thatta and sought refuge in Gujarat under Sultan Bahadur.  In 1535 Humayun of the Mughal house invaded Gujarat and the Jam was killed in the encounter.

 

Tanka of Jam Nizam al Din

 

The single piece of Jam Nizam al din is approximately 20 mm in diameter, and octagonal in shape, weighing 14.05 g.  (Plate I, 1)

 

The obverse reads as follows:

 

N

Sulta bin (?)

Niza(m) al din

Shah (?)

 

The reverse legend is also not entirely clear, but may is most likely making a reference to the Jam’s father, Sadr al Din Jam Sanjar (858/1454-866/1461) (Plate II,1):

 

N

Sulta

(Sadr?)…al din

bin (?)

 

The piece listed by Goron, SJ1, weighs between 5.5-6.5 g., and was earlier published in JRAS 1972 by Digby.  The obverse legend of Goron’s piece reads “Jam Nizam al din bin” while the reverse continues “jam sadr al din”.  Goron also mentions that smaller denominations exist.  It is interesting to note first that Goron’s piece refers to the ruler simply as “Jam”, while the larger introduces the titles “Sultan” and “Shah” to the local title, and his father is referred to as “Sultan” (if indeed the reverse legend reads “Sadr al din”).  Further, it may be noted that the smaller piece does not appear to be a sub-denomination of the larger, implying that multiple weight standards were employed in the Sultanate.  We may assume that either different states in the kingdom were not monetarily integrated or that there was no centrally enforced standard, with the coins might have been minted on a civic basis.  The execution of the smaller piece also appears much finer than the larger, employing a more developed calligraphic script, possibly a derivative of the contemporary Delhi Sultanate script.

 

Tanka of Jam Firoz

 

The coins of Jam Firoz are struck on a slightly larger flan, approximately 22 mm in diameter, and are generally octagonal in shape.  The weight of the coins varies from between 13.50 to 16.53 g.

 

The obverse dies are more or less the same, containing the following legend (Plate I, 2-18):

 

Shah

Feroz

Jam

 

with the tip of the alif in “Ja” joining “Fer” at the point of the “ya”.

 

There are two distinct reverse types, which vary in terms of the arrangement of the words.  The execution of coins which feature the Type II reverse, while still crude, is finer than that of coins with the Type I reverse, with narrower lines.  The Type I reverse legends generally read “bin Sultan Nizam Shah”, arranged as follows:

 

Reverse I: 11 coins (Plate II, 2-12)

 

Niza Shah

m

Sultan bin

 

The reverse legend in type two above introduces another enigmatic two letter word resembling to the right of the word “Nizam”, in addition to another two letter word which occurs to the right of the word “Sultan”.  One possible reading is “Shah Nizam Sultan aldin”, although this reading would require an additional “alif” before “l-din”.

 

Reverse II: 6 coins (uncertain reading) (Plate II, 13-18)

 

Shah

Nizam din (?)

Sulta al (?)

n

 

Goron lists two smaller bronze coins of Jam Firoz, SJ3 weighing 11.4 g. and SJ4 weighing 6.1-7.5 g. (SJ3 is not pictured).  The legend and execution of SJ4 is identical to Type I, and the weight is roughly one half of the weight of the approximately 15 g. tankas listed above.  SJ4 seems to be a half denomination of the above coins.  Goron has noted that in this series, Jam Feroz referes to himself merely as “Shah” while his father is endowed with the title “Sultan”. 

 

Given the nature of the reign of Jam Nizam al din, and the economic and cultural growth which occurred, it is not surprising that Sindh once again was able to develop its own monetary system.  The architectural and artistic innovations of this period endowed Sindh with a distinct character, separate from that of neighboring Gujarat and Safavid Persia.  Further, the periods of tension between Mahmud’s Gujarat and Samma Sindh would have called for the development of a separate coinage, for economic purposes, and more importantly, as a proclamation of Samma power and independence.  After all, throughout Islamic history, upon declaration independence or assumption of the throne a ruler’s first acts would be to have his name announced in the Friday khutbah, and to have coins minted in his name. 

 

 

 

Coin Weights and Sizes

 

No.

Diameter (mm.)

Weight (g.)

Jam Nizam al din

 

 

1

20

14.05

Jam Firoz

 

 

2

22

13.14

3

24

15.12

4

23

16.09

5

22

16.41

6

23

15.58

7

23

15.63

8

23

16.53

9

22

15.86

10

22

15.14

11

23

16.34

12

23

15.37

13

22

13.5

14

21

15.32

15

22

16.09

16

23

15.53

17

22

14.64

18

23

13.67

 

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