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Rañjanā Tangka

Rañjanā Tangkas of Tibet

Above is the rarest Ranjana Tangka in the series and is the only type which features a swastika in the upper right panel of the obverse.
Provenance: Ex. Wolfgang Bertsch collection

Rañjanā is a Brahmi script that is primarily used for writing (the Newar language) Newari, but is also used in Buddhist monasteries and was considered to be the standard Napali calligraphic script.

When Rañjanā was introduced to Tibet, it was referred to as Lanydza (Tibetan: ལཉྫ་), which simply derives from the Sanskrit word Rañja.

The Tangka was a Tibetan silver currency unit-of-measure until 1941, where one Tangka is equal to one and a half Tibetan Sho or fifteen Tibetan Skar.

Four types of Ranjana tangkas have dates on the obverse that are written with Tibetan figures and could be interpreted as Tibetan cycle dates similar to the ones found on the so-called Kong-par tangkas of Tibet: 15-28 (1894); 15-30 (1896); 15-40 (1906); and, 15-46 (1912).

There is a large group of Ranjana tangkas which bear dates written with Nepalese figures (some of which can also be read as Tibetan figures) and were taken (first by Landon, 1928) as belonging to the Nepal Saka Era, which is behind the Western Era by 78 years. We can find the following dates of this type: SE 1316, 1661, 1664, and 1692. These, when convened into western dates, would be AD 1394, 1739, 1742 and 1770. These dates cannot be interpreted as the year of the minting of the coins, since they all fall within a period which precedes the striking of the Tibet-mohars in the name of Pratap Simha.  The Saka Era found on the Ranjana tangkas may commemorate certain events which had occurred in those years, or, more likely were inscribed on the dies at random. Since these coins are of similar fabric and design (although slightly cruder) to those which bear meaningful Tibetan dates. These coins must have been struck during the years 1880 and 1919, but, as indicated above, they were probably between 1880 and 1890.

There are also two coins which bear the date 9629 and 9661 which can only he explained as fantasy dates. There is no reason to believe that these coins were struck outside the period 1880 to 1919. The figures "9" in these dates can also be interpreted as reversed figures "1" and would enable us to add these two year types to the previous group of coins with Saka Era dates.

Location of Minting

Due to political suppression of Ranjana script in Nepal and the use of the lotus design, I believe that these coins were minted in Tibet.

The Rañjanā Tangka was likely a Nepali merchant coin minted and used in Tibet, in or shortly after, 1880.  Newar suffered heavily under the repressive policy of the Nepali Rana dynasty (1846–1951 AD) when that regime attempted to wipe it out.  In 1906, legal documents written in Newar were declared unenforceable, and any evidence in the language was declared null and void. The rulers forbade literature in Newar and writers were sent to jail. In 1944, Buddhist monks who wrote in the language were expelled from the country.  It seems highly unlikely that the Rañjanā Tangka would be minted in Nepal when its regime was trying to rid the country of the Newar language, but perhaps this explains why misleading dates were used.

Use of Rañjanā (Lantsa) Script

The script was probably considered a Lakshmi mantra by the Hindus and a Jambhala mantra by the Buddhists.

Obverse Script:

"Let every place be full of food and grains"

Reverse Script:

"Ultimate peace and happiness within one's lifespan" (inscribed in the eight petals, starting at 12 o'clock)

"The blessing of many kinds of valuable jewels" (inscribed in the inner circle)

Meaning of Inscribed Dates

Dates on Ranjana Tangkas are inscribed in both Nepalese and Tibetan.  Tibetan dates seem like reasonable minting dates, whereas the Nepalese dates seem older than the actual mintage date.  Perhaps older dates were used to conceal the use of Newar language in a period of time where the Nepali regime was trying to terminate its use?

The tangka coins of this series are known as "Ranjana Tangkas" (or "Rañjana Tangkas") referring to the type of script which is used on both sides. This type of ornamental script is also known as Lantsa-script. The legend represents an invocation of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and good luck.  Variants of the obverse legends have been noted.  All the coins of this type are dated, but some of the dates do not correspond to the date of minting. It is believed that these coins were struck in the late 19th and early 20th Century in Tibet by Nepalese merchants and that they circulated at the same value as the Kong Par and Gaden tangkas. The basic design of these coins is a combination of designs from the silver mohars struck in Kathmandu in the name of Pratap Simha which were exported to Tibet and the Gaden tangkas of Tibet.

兰萨文章嘎

此类章嘎的形制、图案与尼泊尔18世纪所铸的一种“默黑”银币十分相似。币上有纪年,但大部分纪年是含义不清的数字。凡该币正面三齿叉周围由点组成半方框形、背面中心是大花的,其背面都有明确的纪年。正面三齿叉周围由点组成塔形(图353 除外)、背面中心为小圆花的,纪年都是含意不清的数字。有书籍认为此币为后藏班阐所铸。此类钱币多被剪开使用。

SE 1661 (1739)

Nepali date: SE1661 (1739) – actually minted between 1880 and 1919.

Nepali date: SE1661 (1739) – actually minted between 1880 and 1919.

Nepali date: SE1661 (1739) – actually minted between 1880 and 1919.

Nepali date: SE1661 (1739) – actually minted between 1880 and 1919.

Nepali date: SE1661 (1739) – actually minted between 1880 and 1919.

Nepali date: SE1692 (1770) – actually minted between 1880 and 1919.

Tibetan date: 15-28 (1894)

Tibetan date: 15-40 (1906)