memories of family outings.....


The Tale Of A Tiny Coin

Rediscovering a coin .

I have had this coin for five decades now. Given by grandfather , along with a few British India coins, to add to my childhood hoard of collectibles .  


On one side : the image of the devi , Lakshmi ( or so I thought )  . 

On the other side :  the name " Vijaya" , in kannada script ( or so I thought ).

No markings of denomination or date . 

Clearly not  real money , just a souvenir  to commemorate some special puja  in the Mysore palace (or so I thought ) .

       ( The Goddess and the script ) 

The  coin , less than 1 cm in diameter , lies in perpetual hibernation , forgotten,  in the bottom drawer, emerging only  during spring cleaning sprees .  

Recently , the Vijaya Coin suddenly popped up - as an exhibit under glass .  In Pudukottai museum that  i was visiting  .  

" Pudukottai Amman Cash - 1800 AD  " ! 

Misshapen and struck earlier, but unmistakably , the same as mine . Same Goddess . Same Vijaya . No date. No denomination ...   Wonder ! 

The slim book of Pudukottai trivia I bought in the museum revealed a wealth of information about my precious little coin ! 

The goddess is not Lakshmi , but Brahadamba, the guardian diety of the Thondaiman Kings  whose names were all suffixed with the moniker  "BrahadambaDas"  

The script , it turned out , was telugu , native language of the Thondaimans , not kannada ( both scripts are very  similar )

And it was not a souvenir , but real money ! 

(HH Brahadambadas Raja Sir Martanda Bhairava Thondaiman Bahadur 

The Eighth King . Mural on wall of Brahadamba Temple entrance .)

Originated in 1738 as an offering to the diety , to be  distributed  to the public as a blessing during Dasara ( One 'padi' measure of rice and 4 coins each ) . Made of pure copper .

(Coat of Arms of the Pudukottai Samasthanam at the top of the New Palace) 

The public began using the coin as small change only from 1900. The value fixed for it was : 5 AmmanCash for Quarter Anna , which was also equal to 3 paisa ( or Salli kasu ) .16 Annas  made one Rupee . 

Earlier hand struck locally , the coins were mechine minted in Birmingham from 1869 to 1934 , after which minting ceased . But the coins were in circulation within the kingdom till 1948 , when the Princely state merged with  Independent India. Thereupon , the huge hoards of demonetised  coins were melted down for copper .


     ( Brahadamba temple . View from top storey .) 

There is a ritual , continuing to this day , of making votive offerings of "Amman Kasu" to the Goddess  Brahadamba , upon fulfillment of a prayer  . The temple sells the votive  coins , but of modern manufacture.

So much history in such a tiny coin ! And it has taken half a lifetime for me to discover the rich lore behind a  trinket collected in childhood !