God of Kings


S. Rajesh,
Tamilnadu - India
Email: rajes1@gmail.com

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Vijayanagara Coins 01

THE CAPITAL CITIES OF THE VIJAYANAGARA EMPIRE

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1. Sringeri, Dwarasamudra and Hospatna
Mobile Capitals
2. Anegundi
1336- 1343
3. Vijayanagara
1343- 1565
4. Penukonda
1567- 1592
5. Chandragiri
1592- 1606
6. Vellore
1606- 1672



The name 'VIJAYA'- City of Victory- Survived the fatal shock of A.D. 1565 and the capital of the monarchs was always called 'VIJAYA' whether at Anegundi, Hampi, Penukonda or Chandragiri.



CENSUS
The population of the kingdom during the reign of King Krishnadevaraya was estimated at 18 millions. The capital city with one lakh houses had population of five lakhs. Army of six lakh soldiers fought at Raichur in 1520.

MONARCHS
The aim of the kings was the preservation and protection of Hindu dharma and tradition against the onslaughts of Islam. Over this vast territory 26 monarchs belonging to 4 dynasties- the Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu- reigned with regal splendor. On Saturday, 4th May, 1336, Vira Harihara, at Vijayanagara (Present day hampi) celebrated his coronation as the king of the just founded kingdom which came to be called after its capital city. A New Era dawned. This kingdom became the mighty Vijayanagara Empire (1336 - 1674) which ruled for 338 years the whole of peninsular India, South of the Tungabhadra – Krishna rivers with its influence, at times, extending to Sri Lanka. Reviving and safeguarding Hindu Dharma was the main object of the kings. Over this vast territory 26 monarchs belonging to 4 Dynasties – the Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu – reigned with regal splendor.
Among them the following are important:
  1. Vira Harihara I (1336 - 1354), the founder.
  2. Bukka Raya I (1354 – 1377), who consolidated the newly founded kingdom.
  3. Harihara II (1376 - 1404), who converted the kingdom into an empire.
  4. Devaraya II (1423 - 1446), his General Lakkana Dandanayaka with his army embarking in ships from a port near Tirumanikkuli (Cuddalore District) lead a successful military expedition, in 1442, against the Ilam's (Northern Sri Lanka) King Parakrama Bahu IV and levied tribute on the Island Kingdom. This event earned for the emperor the title Ilam – Tirai – Kondan or he who levied tribute on Sri Lanka. Lakkana was subsequently appointedas the governor of Tekal Rajya.
  5. Krishnadevaraya (1509 - 1530). This illustrious personage who had his coronation on 8th August 1509 – auspicious Sri Jayanthi Day – at Vijayanagara was pre-eminent as a warrior and was equally great as statesman, administrator and patron of the arts. He was hailed by the contemporaries as Sahiti – Samarangana – Sarvabhauma – one equally skilled in literary craftsmanship and warfare. His magnum opus, Amukta-Amalyda (Telugu Prabhandha) still remains and in it he left for posterity a monument which is beyond the ravages of time. His Prime Minister, Salava Timma, popularly known as Timmarasu Mantri saved the eye sight and the throne of his king, placing the latter under a debt of gratitude. The King performed Kanakabishekam (Bathing in gold and precious) to Timma. This King's Jaya Sasanam (Victory inscription) in Telugu is found at Vishnu Pada temple, Gadha Dhara Ghat, Gaya, Bihar State. An adept in playing on the Veena, he was a master of the game of chess. He was a good horseman and was fond of wrestling. The royal reception and kindness that he invariably bestowed upon foreign embassies, his imposing personal appearance, his genial outlook which distinguished a pure and dignified life and his solicitude for the welfare of his people and above all the almost fabulous wealth that he conferred as endowments on temples mark him out indeed as the greatest of the South Indian Monarchs.
  6. Achyutadevaraya (1530 - 1542), a worthy successor and an equally great ruler.
  7. Venkatapathydevaraya (1586 - 1614), the last of the great monarchs.


THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE VIJAYANAGARA KINGS

 Sangama Dynasty

No.
Name of the King
Reign Period A.D.
1.
VIRA HARIHARA I
1336-1354
2.
BUKKA RAYA I
1354-1377
3.
VIRA HARIHARA RAYA II
1376-1404
4.
VIRUPAKSHA RAYA I
1404-1405
5.
BUKKA RAYA II
1405-1406
6.
DEVA RAYA I
1406-1422
7.
BUKKA RAYA III
1422-1423
8.
DEVARAYA II
1423-1446
9.
VIRA DEVARAYA
1446-1447
10.
MALLIKARJUNA RAYA
1447-1465
11.
VIRUPAKSHA RAYA II
1465-1486


Saluva Dynasty

12.
SALUVA NARASINGA RAYA I
1486-1493
13.
SALUVA NARASINGA RAYA II
1493-1501


Tuluva Dynasty

14.
VIRA NARASIMHA RAYA I
1501-1502
15.
VIRA NARASIMHA RAYA II
1502-1509
16.
KRISHNADEVARAYA
1509-1530
17.
ACHUTHADEVARAYA
1530-1542
18.
VENKATADEVARAYA I
1542-1543
19.
VIRA SADASIVARAYA
1543-1568


Aravidu Dynasty

20.
TIRUMALA DEVARAYA II
1568-1572
21.
SRI RANGA DEVARAYA I
1572-1586
22.
VENKATAPATI DEVARAYA II
1586-1614
23.
SRI RANGA DEVARAYA II
1614-1615
24.
RAMA DEVARAYA
1615-1633
25.
VENKATA DEVARAYA III
1633-1646
22.
SRI RANGA DEVARAYA III
1646-1672

*Apart from the above mentioned monarchs Narasa Nayaka and Alia Rama Raya were the two karyakartas (regents) who virtually ruled as co-rulers.



COINAGE

The empire fulfilled its mission for three and half centuries when it patronised and nourished the ancient Hindu culture of the country. The empire disappeared. But the literature, stone & copper inscriptions, monuments and coins of that period still survive. Treasure troves of Vijayanagara coins are found throughout South India. These coins, now, are not just relics of the past. They furnish information pertaining to contemporary political, economic and cultural history.  With the foundation of the empire, the currency system in South India became well regulated. Money economy became more regular though, to some extent trade transactions were done by way of barter. The scarcity of coins in the earlier medieval South India was completely removed. Harihara I established at Hampi a separate department of mints to regulate the minting operations. There was a central mint at Hampi and smaller mints were set up at various provincial capitals and other important places such as Barakur, Mangulur, Gandikota, Penukonda, Tirupati, Gutti, Adoni, Tadapatri, Madurai and Mysore. Because of the need for mass production of coins the government allowed some select feudatories also to mint their own coins. Lakkana Dandanayaka, the governor of Tekkali Rajya under king DevarayaII, minted his own coins with the sanction from the king. 

Monetary System

The structure of Vijayanagara currency was carefully standardized. The monetary system was made uniform throughout the empire. Varaha, a gold coin with an approximate weight of 3.4 grams( 52 grains) was made the basic monetary unit. This coin was also called as Gadyana and Pon or Hon. To the English the coin was known as Pagoda. There were three varieties of varahas:-
  1. Ghattivaraha
  2. Doddavaraha
  3. Suddhavaraha.
    The Gold issues of the first two kings namely Harihara I and Bukka I were debased. In these coins the gold content was less compared to the subsequent issues of Harihara II and his successors.


    Table of GOLD COINS with their relative Values & Weights


    Dodda varaha = Dodda gadyana=2 varahas = 120 grains

    1 gadyana= 1 Varaha = 1 pon or hon = pagoda =52 grains

    1 varaha= 2 Pratapas= 52 grains= mada

    1 pratapa= 2 Katis= 26 grains= half varaha

    1 kati = 13 grains= quarter varaha

    1 varaha= 1- Pana (each 5-6 grains)

    1 chinna= One Eight Varaha=6.5 grains

    1 pana= 4 haga= 5-6 grains

    1 haga= 2 bele=1.5 grains

    1 bele= 0.75 grain

    The coinage was sub-divided into several denominations. Coins were issued in gold, silver and copper. The coins were mostly circular in shape and were undated. The lowest denomination coin was a copper piece which was equal to 1/3600 of gold varaha. The coins were hammer-struck.


    Table of SILVER COINS with their relative Values & Weights

    Tara=Tairh=Tare= Tara= One of pana
    Tara (another variety)= One sixteenth of pana 
                             
    Table of COPPER COINS with their relative Values & Weights

    Duggani= 2 kani or kakini= 250 grains
    kani= 125 grains= 2 Ara kani
    Jital= One third of Tara
    Kasu= 30 grains 
    Ara Kasu= 15 grains

    The weight standard of the gold coins was based upon the Kalanju, an indigenous seed, or Molucca bean (Caesalpinia bonduc). The manjadi seed (Odenathera pavonina) served as the radical unit of measurement. Ten manjadis were regarded as equivilant to one Kalanju seed. The seeds are popularly known as Gundumani in Tamil and Guruginja in Telugu. Metallic pieces cut to the weight of these seeds were used. At a particular time and place the actual might vary from the average, for the coins were liable to deterioration or debasement. Reduced weight may also be a result of the increase in the price of the metal. Assaying and weighing were necessary before a coin could be accepted in payment for materials. Assaying was a regular occupation of goldsmiths. For purposes of testing and verification, touchstones and in some cases a gold bar of the royal standard of purity were kept, and the coins were received after a process of testing. Goldsmiths also acted as money changers and bankers. They used balances which were so sensitive that they would turn by a hair of the head.

    This monetary system governed the public economy of the era in its various aspects:- Taxation, Defence Expenditure, Industry and Commerce, Cost of Living - Foreign trade et cetra. We can have an approximate idea of Varaha's external value (foreign exchange parity) and internal value (purchasing power-price levels) by studying the following:



    Name of the Coin                   Metal              Weight (grams)

    Manoel or Cruzado                Gold                3.45
    Half Manoel                           Gold                1.67
    Esfera                                     Silver              3.58
    Half Esfera or vintem            Silver              1.79
    Leal                                         Copper            11.8
    Half Leal                                Copper            8.5
    Dinheiro                                  Copper            4.00
    Cepaica                                   Copper            3.1



    Typology of Coins

    The typology of the coins is that on the obverse side the figures of Hindu Deities, animals, symbols and on the reverse side the issuing king's name or his title in Nandi Nagari or Deva Nagari or Kannada or Telugu or Tamil Script is depicted.

    • The deities shown are 1. Hanuman, Garuda, Siva-Parvati, Lakshmi Narayana, Lakshmi Narasimha, Brahma-Saraswathi, Nandhi, Venkateswara and Sita Rama.
    • The animals that are portrayed are bull, camel, elephant, horse, lion, varaha(boar) and the mythological double-headed eagle Gandabherunda.
    • The symbols that are appearing are Sankha, Chakra, Damuru, Parasu, Ankusa and Sword (Khadga).
    The titles that are found are Sri Nilakantha stands for Devaraya I and Rayagajagandaberunda & Gajavetekara stands for Devaraya II. Each King chose his favourite of Dieties/Animals/Symbols as a device for his coinage.



    Commemorative Coins

    Besides the above mentioned regular issues commemorative coins were also struck as detailed below:-

    1. To strengthen his army Devaraya II modernised his Armed Forces by induction of a Camel Corps. At that time, these animals which were native to the deserts of Rajasthan were brought into South India.To commemorate this event copper coins were issued wherein the figure of camel was shown on the obverse. visit catalogue.
    2. Krishnadevaraya offered a gift of Navarathna Prabhavali - Makara - Thorana to his Istadevta Lord Venkateswara at Thirumala on 15th October 1515. To commmemorate this event a special gold coin weighing 119.7 grains was issued known as Dodda Varaha or Double Varaha. The coin bears on the obverse a well delineated figure of Lord Venkateshwara inside a Makara Torana or Prabhavali. The Prabhavali is not only beautifully portrayed but also given great importance in the coin's design.
    3. The same monarch in the course of his military campaign against the Gajapathi king of Kalinga (Orissa) captured in the year 1514 the important fort of Udayagiri (District Nellore). There he siezed as a war booty a beautiful image of seated Balakrishna, carried it off to his capital Hampi and there he installed the same in a newly built temple and arranged regular worship. To commemorate this historical event special gold coins were issued. On the obverse of this coins is shown an image of seated Balakrishna with the right hand holding a lump of butter. He attatched great importance to the celebration of Krishna Jayanthi festival. visit catalogue.
    4. It is well known that Timmarasu was responsible for the accession of Krishnadevaraya to the Vijayanagara throne against the wishes of Vira Narasimha. Timmarasu became the Prime Minister of Krishnadevaraya and enjoyed a special status. Krishnadevaraya performed Kannakabishekam to Timmarasu. To commemorate this great event special copper coins were issued in which the Kannada legend 'Krishnadeva' on the obverse and 'Timmarasaguru' on the reverse was inscribed. This is the unique coin where the name of the Emperor and his Prime Minister appear together. visit catalogue.
    5. Portrait coins (copper) were issued by King Sriranga I. The unusual design adopted make this coin unique. On the reverse is shown the figure of a standing person holding in his right hand a sword pointing downwards. The left hand is placed on the chest. Tuft of hair is made in the shape of sideknot (Koppu) and thrown a little to the left of the head. On the obverse the following is depicted. The varaha(boar) to right facing a khadga with the Sun and the Moon above. The standing person portrays a youthful figure with a regal bearing and could represent king Sriranga. The varaha was the Raja Lanchana of the Vijayanagara Empire. This coin is the only known, so far, portrait type coin of the Vijayanagara monarch. visit catalogue. 

    Impact on Post – Vijayanagara Coinage

    Even after the decline and disappearance of the Vijayanagara kingdom, its coinage had widespread impact on the coinages of the various successor-powers such as the Nayakas of Keladi, Madurai, Thanjavur, and Gingee, the Wodeyars of Mysore, Sultan Haider Ali and the East India Company.


    On 22nd August 1639, King Venkata Devaraya III granted the privelege of coining money to the Honourable English East India Company so that it can meet the needs of its commercial necessities with a stipulation that the English should not fail to preserve on their coinage the representation of that Diety, who was the favourite object of his worship namely Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathy. The company commenced the minting of gold Pagoda coins showing on the obverse, the figure of Lord Venkateswara with and without His two consorts - Sri Devi & Bhu Devi. The last Vijayanagara king Sri Ranga Raya III died on 16th December 1672. On that day the last great Hindu kingdom ended. But the impact of Vijayanagara coinage did not end. It continued in the English merchants' coins of Vijayanagara typology that circulated as legal tender money until 1818. The Pagoda coinage was issued in three series - Three Swamy Pagodas, Star Pagodas and Gopuram Pagodas.

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