VIJAYANAGARA, THE FORGOTTEN EMPIRE
COINAGE

Because of huge wealth, Vijayanagara empire issued large quantities of gold coins, other metals used in their coinage are pure silver and copper.  The weight standard was the same that used by the earlier dynasties of the south.  Pagodas stood at the higher denomination, gold fanams with its fractional units, silver taras with its fractional units and the copper coins were used for day to day transactions.  The earlier coinage were produced in different mints and were called by different names such as Barkur gadyanas, Bhatkal gadyanas, etc.,

Harihara-I and Bukka minted gold coins using debased gold.  Gold fanams and its fractions  were minted by them for medium end transactions.  Silver taras met the usual transaction need of their economy.  Pagoda obverses were engraved with running warrior along with dagger symbol (These were often misinterpreted as Hanuman because of the style used by earlier dynasties such as Kadamba-Chalukya series).  Wide popularity of the Hoysala fanams made them to mint similar styled fanams with stylished Shardula on the obverse.  But the reverses carried the legend showing initials of the Kings name (BU).  The dagger symbol embedded the crescent most of the time, and in some rare issues Hanuman is found.

From Harihara-II reign onwards, one can notice Hindu Gods engraved on the obverses of the pagodas.  Pagodas and half pagodas carried the Gods / Goddesses of Hindu Pantheon. The coinage of Harihara-II is remarkable, the trinities namely "Brahma Saraswathi" - the creator, "Vishnu, Lakshmi" - the sustainer, and "Siva and Parvathi" the destroyer were the obverses of his coinage, the seating pose is beautifully shown.  The majority of the silver taras followed similar fabric with a kannada numeral such as 1.25,  2.5 and the legend Ha or Bu.  The numerals referred to the then monetary standard of "ratti" weight.  The ratti represents the average of weight of Gulagunja seed which equates to 0.11 gms.  The taras with 2.5 numerals weighed between 0.2 to 0.25gms.  Typically they had a diameter of 7 to 9mm, half taras weighed about 0.14 gm and the quarter 0.07gm.  The Hoysala style fanams too were in circulation, but they are very rare. They carried Hanuman and a Warrior inside the crescent mark.

The coinage of Devaraya-I and Devaraya-II probably cannot be easily distinguished as they carried similar designs and legends.  The seated Siva and Parvathi, and the Vishnu Lakshmi motif in his coinage shows much more intricacy.  He minted copper coins extensively, and they represented the smaller denominations.  Three copper jitals (jitals is more persian) equated to one silver tara, and each tara equated to one sixth of the gold fanam.  The gold fanams carried the elephant device, but are very rare.  Silver taras were definitely abundant than the previous ruler's issues, but they differed in designs.  The elephant symbol on the obverse, and the legend "Sri Devaraya" in nagari along with a dagger symbol ornamented his silver taras and the copper jittals. Copper coins seems to be vast compared to the number of issue of any of the previous rulers, they carried various animals on the obverse.  Typically the humped bull, elephant, bull, lion.  Coins with "Deer" are only found in Hampi.

As there are no coins attributable to the Saluva dynasty, it can be guessed that the economy was still based on the previous ruler's currency issue. It is only during the Tuluva dynasty, the coinage was enriched with the skill of engravers.  Krishnadevaraya issued pagodas and half pagodas with "seated Balakrishna" in different styles, became the prototype for even later generation of rulers such as the Nayakas.  He introduced copper of higher denominations such as five, three, two jittals, all carrying the kneeling Garuda device.  The reverse carried the classical nagari legend "Sri Pratapa Krishna raya".  Achyuta raya's coinage is superb among the Vijayanagara coins.  He issued pagodas and half pagodas carrying a mythical double headed eagle "Ganda Berunda" in walking as well as sitting poses. This logo is found even in the emblem of Karnataka state, State Bus department of Karnataka.  Copper jittals carried either elephant or Ganda Berunda bird on the obverses and the legend "Sri Achyutha Raya" on the reverse.

Sadasiva Raya's gold coinage depicted "Vishnu Lakshmi seated" on the obverse and the reverse with the legend in nagari "Sri Sadasiva Rayaru".  Copper jittals of higher denominations followed "The kneeling Garuda" prototype of Sri Krishna Devaraya.  The legend too followed a similar style "Sri Pratapa Sadasiva Raya" replacing the word Krishna with Sadasiva.  The unit jittal carried the symbol "Standing Garuda in praying mudra".  Rama Raya struck his coins all in copper carrying the obverse device "humped bull" and the reverse with the legend "Rama Raya".

Aravidu dynasty struck gold and copper coinage unlike the previous rulers Ramaraya and Venkata, who struck only copper.  They were struck in the name of Lord Venkateshwara.  Tirumalaraya came out with pagodas and half pagoda with "Rama Lakshmana and Sita" on the obverse and the nagari legend "Sri Tirumalarayulu", a Telugu expression on the reverse.  The next notable gold coin issues was from "Sri Ramadevaraya" and "Sri Venkatapiraya-III", who struck standing Venkateshwara beneath the arch, and with the reverse legend either "Sri Pratapa Rama Raya" or " Sri Venkateshwaraya Namaha".  This prototype was the standard for Sri Rangaraya-II and other pageant kings.  Even European traders and Nawab of Arcot followed similar style but with granular reverse device.
 

LAST UPDATED 1st Nov 2001
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