Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Story of India Money Part XIII - Vijayanagara coinage

The Vijayanagara kingdom was found in 1336 A.D. by the warrior brothers, Harihara and Bukkaraya, the sons of Sangama Nayaka and the kingdom served as a bulwark against Islamic expansion in the South; Vijayanagara became the centre of cultural renaissance for the South India as the rulers held sway over vast areas of the south and became a byword for prosperity till the kingdom fell prey to a confederacy of Islamic sultanates in 1565 A.D. at the Battle of Talikota.
 It was ruled by four dynasties of rulers viz. the Sangamas (r. 1336-1485 AD), the Saluvas (r. 1485-1505 AD), the Tuluvas (r. 1505-1565 AD) and the Aravidus (r. 1565-1646 AD). 
All rulers issued gold coins with images of Saivite and Vaishnavite deities. 

The coins were divided into numerous denominations; gold as Gadyana or Varaha or Pon or Hon; Pratapa or Mada or Madai were other terms; silver coins were called Tara and copper coins were Pana, Jital or Kasu. 

The Varaha or Gadyana (English Pagoda) became the standard gold coin of South India with 3.4 grams as its weight; its half denomination was named Pratapa (Portuguese ~ Pardao) came in vogue in the later part of the kingdom. The Pagoda's lower denomination its one-tenth known as Panam or Fanam (weighing 0.36 gram) was equally famous and was issued in larger numbers for public consumption. 
The silver denomination was called Tara (Tar or Tare of foreign visitors) (weight ~ 0.2 gram)
Thus 1 Varaha = 2 Pratapa = 4 Katis = 10 Panams = 40 Hagas  (Gold)

    1 Panam (Gold) = 6 Taras (silver) = 18 Jitals (Copper)

The Paradigm of imperial Vijayanagara currency outlasted the Vijayanagara rulers and was used by the Deccan Sultanates (Golkonda and Bijapur), the Mughals, the Marathas, the Mysore rulers (including Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan), the colonial powers like Dutch, English (Madras Presidency) and French and a host of smaller dynasties called the Nayakas who were the subordinates of the Vijayanagara rulers. Thus, the currency formed the core of South Indian currency till the implementation of Uniform Indian Currency by the EIC in 1835.

Below (Top two images of Gold Varaha of Deva Raya I)
Middle two images Copper Jital of Krishna Deva Raya with image of Garuda
Last two images: Gold Varaha of Krishna Deva Raya with images of Balakrishna and reverse Nagari legend 'Shri Pratapa Krishna Deva Raya'

Krishnadeva Raya of Tuluva dynasty began the trend of issuing heavier gold gadyanas (weighing 7.65 grams) called Dodda Varaha with images of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati, his favourite deity after vanquishing the Gajapatis of Orissa.

 Vijayanagara Empire suffered a great reversal after Krishna Deva Raya's death and its defeat in the Battle of Tallikotta at the hands of the confederacy of the Deccan Sultanates. However, its coinage lasted a longer time even after the fall of the last dynasty of Aravidus who ruled from Chandragiri in 1646; the coinage in gold served later dynasties of Mysore Rajas, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and the East India Company as well who got Madras from the last ruler of Chandragiri and established their Madras Presidency from Fort St. George.
Hyder Ali issue a gold pagoda with the images of Shiva-Parvati (Hara-Gouri) with a Persian 'Ha' representing Hyder Ali on the reverse (see below)

The EIC issued a gold pagoda from Madras and named its Three Swami Pagoda (representing Lord Venkateshwara and his two wives  (See below)