Numismatic Narratives: Sovereignty, Identity, and Devotion in the Parvinder S. Khanuja Collection of Sikh Coins

Authors

  • Paul Michael Taylor Director, Asian Cultural History Program (and) Curator, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern Ethnology Dept. of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution
  • Saeed Husain

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.62307/srj.v8i1.21

Keywords:

Sikh art, Numismatics, Collecting, Sikh studies, Sovereignty, art collectors

Abstract

This paper is a case study of the role of coin collecting in the Sikh diaspora in the United States, with comparative references to broader sources on Sikh and non-Sikh coin and medal (i.e., numismatic) collecting beyond this one collector and collection. Here we briefly survey the collection of Sikh coins assembled (within a much larger collection of Sikh and Punjabi art and heritage) by Dr. Parvinder S. Khanuja, examining the collector’s criteria used to select coins as a preferred or important collectible, and also the criteria used to ascribe value to particular coins based on their characteristics (original mint or place of manufacture, age or date of manufacture, materials of manufacture, and physical condition), as well as their prior line of ownership (i.e. their “biographies” as objects). We also survey current literature on Sikh coin collecting in comparison with the broader collecting and study of numismatics, looking for generalizations about Sikh vs. non-Sikh coin collecting and how value is ascribed to coins. We find that the importance of coin collecting for Dr. Khanuja, and in the literature on Sikh numismatics, is closely tied to the concept of former Sikh sovereignty or political control that (in the past) made an autonomous coinage possible. This paper illustrates some exemplary coins that Dr. Khanuja and his family highly prize, documenting the importance ascribed to sovereignty, identity, and devotion. The significance ascribed to coinage as a symbol of sovereignty, the relevance of his collecting to the collector’s strong Sikh identity, and the fact that collecting may be an expression of Sikh religious devotion, all seem to constitute motivations for the formation of this collection. Based on references to such concepts in Sikh numismatic literature, these motivations seem very likely to be characteristic of a broader Sikh collecting tradition rather than an idiosyncratic one used only by this collector.

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References

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Published

2023-04-13

How to Cite

Taylor, P. M., & Husain, S. (2023). Numismatic Narratives: Sovereignty, Identity, and Devotion in the Parvinder S. Khanuja Collection of Sikh Coins. Sikh Research Journal, 8(1), 23–34. https://doi.org/10.62307/srj.v8i1.21

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Articles