Wednesday, 7 August 2013

When Canteroy inspired Shivaji

It is now common knowledge that Chatrapati Shivaji (1627-1680), the Maratha Emperor, spent part of his childhood in Bangalore
and that he learnt the basics of statecraft and warfare from his father, Shahaji Raje Bhonsale (1594-1664).Shahaji then was the Jagirdar of Bangalore and he had his palace at Chickpet. Shahaji had defeated Kempe Gowda and sent him away to Magadi-Savandurga, while he retained Bangalore, Kolar, Hoskote, Yelahanka and Anekal. This was sometime in 1638. Shivaji had come to Bangalore from Pune when he was just eleven years old and he spent time with his elder brother Sambhaji and his half-brother Ekoji. Shivaji’s mother, Jija Bai, also came with Shivaji to Bangalore and by then Shahaji had married a second time. The second wife was Tukabai Mohite and Ekoji was her son.Maratha and Adil Shah records of the period state that Shahaji lived with Jijabai and Tukabai along with their sons in his palace at Chickpet. It was at Bangalore
that Shahaji decided to partition his jagir. He permitted Shivaji to return to Pune with Jijabai and he decided to give Bangalore as a jagir to Ekoji. His eldest son, Sambhaji, received the province of Kolar.    It was while he was in Bangalore
around 1640 that Shivaji heard tales of the erstwhile Vijayanagar Empire and its Emperors. He was deeply inspired by the Vijayanagar Empire and the stories of valour and piety of its Emperors. It is from the Vijayanagar Empire that he took the inspiration to found a Hindu
Kingdom. Of course, the atrocities perpetuated by the Mughals in the Deccan and by Afzal Khan and other Adil Shah commanders of Bijapur only strengthened his resolve to establish a strong and independent Hindu Empire. However, Shivaji was also inspired by another Hindu ruler of the South. This was Ranadheera Kanteerava or Kantirava Narasaraja Wodeyar (1638-1659), the wrestler King of Mysore.
Kanthirava Narasaraja I, as he is known, was the first Wodeyar King of Mysore
to use symbols associated with royalty, such as a mint and issuing coins named as Kanthiraya, which the British later called as Canteroy. He first struck coins in his own name on April 26, 1645. They were then called Kantiraya Hana or Kantirava Raya Ravi.  Another form of currency was Kantiraya Varaha which later came to be called Canteroy Pagoda. This Pagoda was divided into ten sub units called hanams. The weight of one Varaha was equal to nine hanams.
He also issued copper coins called Anekasu. Of fall his coins, the Canteroy was so popular that they remained part of Mysore
's current national money for well over a century. (In 1843, the Mysore coins formally ceased to exist). When Shivaji was in Bangalore, he came across the Canteroy coins and he immediately sensed the importance of having coins struck in his name and of using other royal symbols and seals. This resolve was further strengthened when Shivaji was told that Ranadheera Kanteerava issued the coins with the intention to strengthen his grip and hold over the Kingdom. The Wodeyar coins with Lord Narasimha created a series of fanams which numismatically came to be known as Kantirava Fanams. Narasimha is the fourth reincarnation of Hari or Vishnu with a human body and lion face. The Yogabhanda pose is depicted in earlier Kanteerava coins. Other coins have Narasimha in meditation with legs folded inward and the holy thread  or Janevara going around both his knees. One hand holds a flaming chakra and a flaming conch and the lower hands rests on his knees.
The Kantirava fanams became popular in south India
and Shivaji too was inspired by them to mint his own coins. Shivaji called his coins as Shivarayi. The Shivarayi was first issued by Shivaji after his coronation as Chatrapathi in 1664. Unlike the Canteroy, the Shivrai was a copper coin minted to denote the symbol of sovereignty, the Rajyaabhisheka Shaka. A gold coin called Shivrai Hon was also minted but such coins  are rare today.
Shivaji is  known to have minted only one set of gold coins in his time. During his coronation, seven lakh Shivrai Hon coins were showered upon him and issued for the first time. These coins are now rare as his rival and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had most of them melted down.
These coins had a legend Shri Raja Shivachhatrapati inscribed on them. Thereafter, all royal correspondence (Rajpatra) carried the words, Kshatriyakulaawatansa Shri Raja Shivachhatrapati.
Apart from Shivaji, the Nayakas of Sira, the British at Madras
and even the Dutch were inspired by the Mysore coins and they minted them at Pulicat, Negapatnam and Tuticorin.Generally, the Wodeyars minted coins in gold, copper and sometimes in silver. The Wodeyars had a fairly big mint at Srirangapatna. Ranadheera Kanteerava shifted the mint from Msyore to Srirangapatna when he shifted the capital to Srirngapatna.
The gold coins of Wodeyars  carried the motif and the name of the King and the mint on the reverse, while the silver coins bore the name of the king on the obverse and the name of the mint on the reverse. Some coins of smaller denominations had sculpted image of  Chamundi.
Hyder Ali continued minting coins in gold with Hindu deities, while Tipu preferred silver coins. Tipu set up twelve mints in his kingdom. The mint of  Srirangapatna was shifted after the death of Tipu Sultan on May 4, 1799.

Interestingly, the Wodeyar coins are strikingly similar to the coins of Vijayanagar Empire. Both the Wodeyar and Vijayanagar coins are similar in size, shape and weight.

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