« Some Notes on Ladakhi Currency ». Indian Antiquary. 1901. n°30, p. 456.
SOME NOTES ON LADAKHI CURRENCY.
BY A. H. FRANCKE.
With reference to Colonel Temple’s paper on the Beginnings of Currency, ante, Vol. XXIX. pp. 29 ff., 61 ff., I would like to make a few remarks from my experiences and researches in Ladakh. Before the days of the Dogra War, say 60 years ago, there do not seem to have been many silver coins in the country. The royal treasure was in ingots of silver and the revenue was paid in kind, consisting chiefly of hides, grain, butter and so on, sent to the king’s household. Even at the present day it is almost only in Leh that the currency is in silver, i. e., in Indian money. Elsewhere in the villages barter pure and simple is still the rule.
However, once a year the taxes due to the Maharaja of Kashmir have to be paid in silver, and for this purpose Rupees have to be collected. This is managed in the village of Khalatse in the following manner. The people take all their spare grain and dried apricots to the Salt Lakes and there they effect an exchange in salt, thus: —
They have a measure of capacity called ‘abo. Four ‘abo of grain equal five ‘abo of salt: or two ‘abo of apricots equal one ‘abo of salt. The salt is then taken to Kargil and Baltisan, where rupees are procurable and there exchanged at 22/5 ‘abo for the rupee. The rupees when received by the Khalatsepa are not of much use to him, except for the payment of his revenue, and then only to save him from the inconveniences he would incur if he were to tender his grain or apricots instead. Here we have rather a neat instance where salt in a certain recognised measure is the currency, even where the object is to procure a fixed amount of definite coins.
As regards the ancient tea-money of Tibet, there is a very interesting survival of it in one of the modern Tibetan coins called jau. This name means « a little tea, » and was probably once equal in value to a small tea-brick. At the present day, the value of the jau is 3 annas 3 pies. It is also interesting to mention here that the Tibetan word « rich, » phyugpo, means « Possessing many cattle, » being derived directly from phyugs, cattle. This direct analogy to pecunia is most interesting.