How much does a coin tell us about history? “More than one can think of,” says Mannar Mannan, a 24-year-old numismatist and a history researcher, who has a huge collection of nearly 6,000 coins. His collection is huge enough to revisit the history of India, especially Tamil Nadu, with coins of each period telling us the story of its time.
Born in Thanjavur, a land, which is closely associated with history, Mannar took to history, and began collecting coins and asking questions about them. He recollects his first encounter with an old coin when he was in class three and how it turned into a passion within two years.
“It was a British one rupee coin, which I saw with my neighbour. When he told about the coin, I immediately got interested and asked for the coin and luckily he gave it to me for free. But only later did I know that collecting coins is the most difficult and costly affair. When I was in class five, I traded all the crackers, which I had, to get coins from a bunch of youngsters during Deepavali,” laughs Mannar, who is also a media person and a writer, talking to City Express at a recent exhibition in Chennai, where he displayed a huge collection of old Tamil Nadu Coins, from 3rdcentury BC to 18th century AD.
Mannar Mannan, who as a curious youngster started collecting coins as his hobby has today moulded himself into a responsible historian and nothing less than a scholar.
Coming from a lower- income group family, he always wanted to be an achiever in some fiel. And, today he happily claims to be a Chola Expert now. Any coin from Chola dynasty in Tamil Nadu, you name it and he has it. In fact, one of his favourite coins is the lead coin by Raja Raja Chola, who was the only king to have made coins of all metals, including gold.
“I have spent nearly `20 lakh in just buying coins, excluding the expenses of organising exhibitions like these. Very few people come forward to help us with sponsors. So, I have an added responsibility of earning money not only for family but also for preserving this art due which I started working from class nine,” he said. His passion made him explore more about the history and learn about each and every coin he collected, through the experts, whom he fondly remembers.
He remembers his early days in Cholamandala and his teacher Durairaj, who taught him history. His collection comprises British polymer coin, Thailand’s bullet coins, Chinese chopstick coins, bamboo coins and what not.
Mannar makes a few easy references that could be made by seeing the coins, like if kings were wealthy, they released coins in gold, if they had more metals then they made bigger coins or if they had defeated another kingdom, they released a coin with the symbol of the other kingdom too.
It sometimes amazes people when he accurately guesses the composition and make of the coin by merely looking at it.
Mannar has a clear mission, which is to create more scholars, not only in history but also in any other subject, which is interesting to students. That’s the objective behind Payitru Educational Trust, which helps in organising educational exhibitions for school students. All the volunteers, who work with him are not experts in coins, but are passionate about exploring and learning, which is very important according to him.