Friday, October 16, 2009

Madurai Nayak coins

Madurai Nayak Rulers
Viswanatha Nayak
Kumara Krishnappa Nayak
Joint Rulers Group I
Joint Rulers Group II
Muttu Krishnappa Nayak
Muttu Virappa Nayak
Tirumalai Nayak
Muthu Alakadri Nayak
Chokkanatha Nayak
Rangakrishna Muthu Virappa Nayak
Rani Mangammal‡
Vijaya Ranga Chokkanatha Nayak
Queen Meenakshi‡
‡ Regent Queens
Major Forts
Madurai 72 Bastion Fort
Tiruchirapalli Rock Fort
Dindigul Fort
Thirunelvelli Fort

The Bull type coins may be grouped broadly into three varieties. Among them two groups bear names of the rulers. One bears the name Konerirayan and the other bears the name Sethu. These two groups are neither Chola Coins nor Pandya Coins and are coins of local rulers. The third group bear the initial of the ruler in Tamil-Nagari or Telugu. It will be shown presently that these coins were the issues of the Nayaks of Madurai and have nothing to do with Chola or Pandya.
It is well known that towards the end of Krishnadevaraya’s rule the Nayak principalities of Tanjore, Madurai and Gingee were established. Towards the end of his reign Krishnadevaraya, sent his able general nagama Nayaka to Madurai, to remove the Chola who has captured the Country and restore it to the Pandya. Nagama took no time to dirve out the Chola, but did not restore the country to the Pandya. This enraged the emperor Krishnadevaraya, who sent Nagaman’s son Visvanatha to fight against his own father. Visvanatha the young general won the battle and brought his father a prisoner before the emperor. But at the same time Visvanatha informed the emperor that the action of his father in not returning the Kingdom to the weak Pandya was the prudent policy that would mainain peace in the region.
Krishnadevaraya realised his folly and appointed Visvanatha himself to govern the Madurai Country. That marked the beginning of Madurai Nayak dynasty. Though Visvanatha ruled as a Governor under Vijayanagar dynasty, he styled himself as a Pandya. In his coins he reflected this by showing on the reverse the two fish and a sceptre and the Tamil legend ‘Visvanathan’ in-anti-Clockwise direction. Another point of interest is the presense the crescent moon to indicate the lunar lineage of the Pandyas. On the obverse is shown the standing figure. The issue of the coins with Tamil legend and the Pandya crest by the Telugu speaking Visvanatha shows that he respected the sentiment of the people of the region and also ensured a smooth currency system.
This writer happened to notice an interesting copper coin in a private collection at Kuttalam, Tinnnelveli district. The coin bears on the obverse two fishes and above them is seen the Tamil legend ‘Pandya’. On the reverse the legend Visvanatan’ is written. This should have been one of Visvanatha’s early coin.
Desikachari realised that this variety was issued by the Nayak of Madurai. Commenting on this he says, “Coins of later times issued during the Nayak rule, bearing the names of Visvanatha and his successors, sometimes also having the name of the presiding deity of the Madurai temple or the name of the town itself in Tamil and Telugu occur in large numbers”.(2)
A coin of smaller diamension illustrated as No. 72 by Desikachari may also be assigned to the early period of the Madurai Nayak age. However Desikachari’s description of the coin is somewhat inaccurate. The obverse carries a figure of a standing bull nad the reverse two fish and a sceptre crowned probably by the royal umbrella. Though there is no legend on it, it seems to be typologically an early 16th Century coin. The introduction of the bull in the coin must be noted.
It has been said earlier that the coins bearing the legend “Koneri Rayan’ belong to the Vijayanagar general bearing that name whose epigraphs are found in the Chola Country.
That the Madurai Nayak, chose the seated or standing Bull as their crest is proved by the flag staffs found in Madurai Minakshi Temple and Subramanya temple at Thiruparankunram. The flag staff in the Minakshi temple at Madurai is covered with copper sheet gilded with gold. At the bottom it has four faces. The front face carries a Ganesa image, and the rear face an image of Annapurna. The side faces on one side carries the Vijayanagara emblem the boar, the Katari, Sun and Moon. On the other face is the seated Bull, under a tree, with a trisula and sun and moon. This clearly shows that the seated Bull with sun and moon is the royal crest of the Madurai Nayaks(3). The flag staff in the Sundareswara temple, and at Subramanya temple at Thirupparankunram also carry the figure of Boar and seated Bull. A historical worrk Madurai Thiruppanimalai listing the renovations done by various people through the centuries mentions that the flagmast in front of the Amman shrine was set up by one Mallappa and that Virappa Nayak, Son of Krishnappa renewed it with gold covering, in the second half of the 16th century. These were regilded by Thirumalai Nayak in the middle of 17th century. An interesting point worthy of notice is that Virappa Nayak and Thirumalai Nayak were called rulers hailing from Kanchipuram. Obviously the Madurai Nayaks have adopted the Bull emblem from the Kanchi region. It is therefore clear that all the coins bearing the seated or standing Bull relate to the Nayaks of Madurai. (Contra-A number of Copper coins depict a crude figure of standing figure on the obverse and standing Bull with a few symbols and occasionally some letters in Kannada or Nagari like ‘vi’ on the reverse. These coins appar to have been issued by Chola viceroys of Kulottunga in Chalukya territory-Vidya Prakash, P. 88. This is obviously wrong).
Against this background a number of coins of this variety could be attributed to the Madurai Nayaks.
Among the rulers three deserve special mention, Visvanatha’s son Krishnappa and his son Virappa were great builders. They were aided by the able administrator Ariyanatha Mudaliyar. Virappa built a number of structures including the 1000 pillared hall at Madurai. The most outstanding ruler of the Madurai Nayak dynasty was Thirumalai Nayak, son of Muthukrishnappa. He succeeded his brother Muttu Virappa in 1623 and ruled upto 1656 A.D. During his reign, he waged many wars, some of them successful and others when he had to retreat. He waged a successful war against Travancore. His wars with Myosre kept him engaged for a considerable time. At first the Mysore forces of Chamaraja Udayar, reached as far as Dindugal near Madurai. But Thirumalai’s able Commander Ramappayyan chased the Mysore forces into their territory upto Mysore and won a signal victory there. Again towards the end of his life, Kantirava Narasa Rayan of Mysore conquered upto the outskirts of Madurai, Thirumalai who was on his death bed however was saved by the royal troops and the Maravar army. The Mysore army was chased and driven into their country. Thirumlai also fought an unnecessary war against the Vijayanagar Emperor Ranga. But the notable war of Thirumalai, was with the Sethupati of Ramnad in which the Portughese and the Dutch also took sides with the rival parties. Thirumalai’s general Ramappayyan won a decisive victory. Though the Sethupathi was initially captured a prisoner, he was restored later with full honours.
It was not the wars that made Thirumalai Nayak a great monarch. It was his contributions to art and literature that have won him a place in the heart of the people. The pudumandapam the south Gopura, the Vandiyur tank at Madurai and his innumerable benefactions to various temples like Srivilliputtur, Alagar koil, Srirangam and others are standing monuments to his greatness as an art Connoisseur. The costly jewels he gifted, the ivory carvings he made etc., show the prosperity of his rule. The palace he erected is an outstanding building in the South.
Another noteworthy figure in the history of Madurai Nayak dynasty was Queen Mangammal who paid attention to roadways and rest houses besides a prosperous rule. The coins of this dynasty are quantitatively more in number but lack any finencess. A few of them could be identified.
The coins of Visvanatha have been discussed above. There are a few coins bearing on the obverse a standing figure with what seems to he a dagger below the left arm. On the reverse is sanding bull with a Nagari letter (Vi) in front. Above the bull is a crescent. Elliot attributes this to the later Cholas with hesitation(3). This seems to be an issue of Virappa Nayak(4). Another variety shows the standing figure on the obverse and the standing bull on the reverse. Before the bull a Sankha is shown. Above the bull is the letter ‘Cho’ in Telugu-Kannada character. It is likely that this coin was issued by Chokkanatha Nayak.(5)
Another type of the series, shows the standing figure on the obverse and the Bull standing on the reverse. In front of the bull is shown a conch, and a letter ‘vi’ in Telugu Canarese script, above the bull is a crescent(6). This coin is probably an issue of ‘Virappa’ Nayak.
There are a number of coins of similar types but without script. On the obverse are seen seated bull on a pedestal. Lamp stands are seen in front and back. Above the bull is crescent moon. On the reverse are two fish shown across a pedestal and a lamp stand in the front; above the fish is the crescent moon.(7)
Another type shows a seated bull on one side and two fishes one facing up and the other down and in between is an arrow.
There are varieties of these coins showing on ne side two fishes or standing man and on the other the Bull either standing or seated. All these were issues off Madurai Nayaks. They are found in large numbers around Madurai region.
A coin illustrated No. 17, Pl. VI. by Vidya Prakash is of interest. The description given by as him is as follows. “Obverse: standing figure, head out of the flan. Inside splayed out legsare Telugu letters probably ‘Raja’. Reverse: Bull facing right before a dagger, crescent above”. The letter is certainly not aja but ‘Ti’ probably the initial of Thirumalai Nayak.
Besides these Bull type coins, there are other type of coins also issued by the Nayaks of Madurai.
One more coin about which there could be no doubt, is that of the issue of Queen Mangammal. Desikachari has illustrated this coin as Plate IV, Coin No. 82. It shows on the obverse a seated bull on a pedestal. On the reverse is seen four square; within each there is the Telugu letter ‘Mangamma’ obviously an issue of the queen.
Besides these coins, there are a few coins which were also issued by the Nayaks of Madurai. A point of interest in this series, is the mention of the name of mint obviously an idea borrowed as a result of close western contact. These mention the places like Palani, Madurai etc. On one series we find the seated bull on one side and on the reverse the Tamil word ‘Palani’. In another series, a symbol resembling a dagger is seen. On the reverse is a figure of a fish shown vertically with the letter ‘Palani’ written around. Yet another series show a fish shown horizontally with the name Palani on the obverse and on the reverse a crosslike diagramme shown with the word ‘Palani’ around. In another series, the obverse shows a galloping horse and on the reverse a Tamil word ‘Palani’. From all these it is seen that the town Palani served as an important mint in the time of Madurai Nayak particularly towards the close of their reign.
One series shows the word ‘Madura’ in Tamil on one side and on the reverse the Telugu legend Madhura’. While a number of the former series could be related to the late Nayak period, it is not known whether the other relate to the Nayak or early British period.
Besides these there are a number of coins bearing the figure of deities like Garuda, Goddess Minakshi, Ganesa etc.
Regarding the Financial administration of the Madurai Nayaks the following account from Sathyanatha Iyer’s worrk ‘Nayaks of Madurai’ would be Read with interest.
Revenue Administration: The administrative system was organized with a view to the collection of revenue with ease and promptitude. The village revenue officer was called the maniyakaram or ambalakaran The collection from the villages were transmitted to their immediate superior, the head of the makanam, and from him in progression to the King’s treasury under the control of the Pradhani. The amount of land tax collected was half of the produce of the land, according to the Jesuit writers. Nelson takes this as half of the gross produce, but it is more reasonable to think that the net produce is meant, as taxation in general was on the net product. The payment of revenue appears to have been in cash, as the Jesuit authorities seem to imply. A letter of 1683 says that Ekoji was receiving money payments as revenue. This shows that there was sufficient currency in the country for the sale of paddy. If this was the case in Tanjore, the same system would have been prevalent in Madura. Moreover, as early as fifteenth century, payment of revenue in cash was adopted by the Vijayanagar emperors. Sufficient details are not available to explain in full the working of the revenue system of the Nayaks.
Sources of Revenue.­­--The land tax was the mainstay of the public revenues, as was the case in more ancient times. All the lands were not given to the Polegars. The crown lands, though smaller in extent than all the Palaiyams put together, were more productive, as Nelson thinks. An unfailing source of income seems to have been provided for by the first Nayak ruler by reserving the best lands for the upkeep of the Government. Distant and unproductive lands principally would have been given to the Polegars. Further, the crown lands would have been far better looked after than other portions of the country, as the resources of a Government would be far greater, for improvements in land, than those of individuals with limited means. The second chief source of the state income consisted of tribute from the Polegars, which amounted to one-third of the produce that they received from their farmers. This income varied with the circumstances of the times. In the early days of the Nayakship, the Palaiyams were not very productive. There were numerous obstacles to cultivation, which the Polegars only slowly succeeded in overcoming. In many instances, total remissions of tribute were sanctioned as rewards for public services, as in the cases of the Setupati, the Polegar of Kannivadi, and others. Regular payment of tribute by the Polegars depended on their temper and the condition of the times. In periods of commotion, it would have been difficult to make them pay; a weak king cannot have received tribute from them in full and with ease. Therefore this was an uncertain sourc of revenue. The pearl and chank (Xanxus) fisheries brought some revenue; but they could not be relied on, as their proceeds varied arbitrarily, and in the course of time became very disappointing. Further, only a portion of the costs could bring revenue to the king of Madura, since the Marava king claimed the proceeds from fishing in his roads. The lion’s share of the profits went to the Dutch, who bought the pearls and chank at a nominal price. The main sources of income were the three above-mentioned, viz, the land tax, the tribute from Polegars, and the fisheries.
There were numerous miscellaneous taxes which do not seem to have been productive. Inscriptions contain references to these, tbut the details of their character and incidence are not known. The inscriptions mention ulavu and pandaravadai, Jodi and virada, taxes on looms and weavers, and those on imports and exports. There were also petty taxes on land and water communications, and octroi duties. This ‘multiple system’ of taxation is not economical from the modern standpoint, but it is difficult to appreciate how it reacted on the kingdom at large. It is not enough if particular taxes are selected and their characteristics examined, even if we have sufficient data for such a study. It is more important to appraise the burdens which the tax system, as a whole, imposed on the people, according to their ability to pay. We have no materials for such an investigation. Nelson and Mr. Rangachari, especially the latter, think that all the taxes levied by the Vijayanagar emperors and the Mysore rulers would have been imposed by the Nayaks on their subjects; and therefore they enumerate a long list of them. There is no direct evidence to justify their applicability to Madura. Some of these miscellaneous taxes were frequently made over to temples and public charities. Inscriptions record numerous cases of remission of this kind of taxation. Portions of the crown lands were alienated in favour of private individuals as rewards for meritorious service, and also in favour of temples. State officers and charitable institutions were often granted villages in Sarvamanyam (free of tax).
Amount of Total Revenue.--Working on the suggestion of Taylor, Nelson gives an estimate of Thirumala Nayaka’s revenues. A Mackenzie Manuscript says that ‘from the public revenues he (Tirumala) gave one thousand puns out of every lae (or hundred thousand) for the customary and extra-ordinary services and festivals of the god; for the regular fulfillment of this gift, he endowed the temple with lands to the annual value of forty-four thousand puns.’ Hence Taylor’s remark--’whence it is to be presumed that his whole revenue amounted to forty-four lacs of gold puns.’ The Maduraittala, varalaru records that Thirumala gave ‘forty-four thousand pons-producing lands to Gods Sundaresvara and Minakshi’. This statement of the chronicles can hardly be taken as a precise record of facts. Hewever, if affords the working basis for a rough estimate.
There are indications about the total amount of the Nayak revenue in the writings of the Jesuit Vico and Barradas. The former syas in a letter of 30th August, 1611: ‘The great Nayak of Madura and those of Tanjore and Gingi are themselves tributaries of Bisnagar, to whom they pay, or have to pay, each an annual tribute of six to ten million frans.’ As the tribute was usually one-third of the revenue, the total income of the Nayaks was between eighteen and thirty million francs, according to Vico. Barradas records in 1616,’ ‘The Great Naique of Madura …… pays a revenue every year of, some say, six hundred thousand pagodas. This puts the Nayak revenue at eighteen lakhs of pagodas are equal £411.421 4/7; eighteen million francs to £720,000; thirty million francs £1,200,000. Wilks equates the pagoda differently; according to him, five thousand pagodas are equal to £1,840 and therefore, eighteen lakhs of pagodas come to £662,400. If the value ascribed to the pagoda by Wilks be correct, then the amount given by Barrads approaches Vico’s lower estimate of eighteen million francs. Forty-four lakhs of pons are equal to £880,000, according to Nelson, and to £825,000, according to Mr. Rangachari. The latter takes the value of the pon to be half a pagoda.
In that case, the estimate of the chronicles comes to twenty-two lakhs of pagodas, and therefore four lakhs higher than that of Barradas.
Nelson is disposed to take the higher estimate of Vico, i.e. thirty million francs, and equate them to £1,200,000. He tries to reconcile the statement of the chronicles with this. It appears that, since forty-four lakhs of pons come only to £ 880,000, he thinks that the chronicles give, not the total revenue, but the land revenue alone. Therefore, he adds to this he amounts of the tribute and miscellaneous income; he puts them at £ 189,000 and 131,000 respectively. The total of these figures comes to £ 1,200,000. Nelson’s method of arriving at this precise result is arbitrary and artificial. He appears to have been obsessed by the statement of the Jesuit writr and to have manipulated the amounts of the various sources of revenue, so that they might agree with Vico’s higher estimate. Nelson does not seem to have had sufficient justification for choosing the higher amount given by Vico; he remarks that ‘assuming, as we may well assume, that he of Madura paid the largest sum. Though Madura was more extensive than Tanjore and Gingi, she does not appear to have been more wealthy; the land was unproductive and covered with forests. A large part of Madura was brought under cultivation in the course of the Nayak regime. Wild beasts and robbers offered great impediments to agricultural progress. Therefore Nelson’s assumption remains to be proved. The statement of Barradas was not available for him. The greatest error in his estimate in his supposition that the forty-four lakhs of pons, given by the chronicles, represent the land revenue, not the total revenue. Their statement has already been quoted; it refers only to the total revenue. Their statement has already been quoted; it refers only to the total revenue. But Nelson says that ‘the lands granted must have been crown lands, under the King’s own management and altogether at his disposal, or they could have been granted; and if, therefore the revenue yielded by them amounted, as stated, to one per cent on the total revenues derived from the King’s lands, the inference is that the lands intended were the crown lands, and that they yielded no less than 44,00,000 pons or £ 880,000 per annum’. Tirumala set apart crown lands producing an annual revenue of forty-four thousand pons, but this only means that he calculated approximately what one per cent of his total revenues would amount to, and gave the lands necessary to yield that amount. Because he gave a portion of the crown lands, it cannot be contended that the total revenues of those lands are referred to. The explicit statement of the chronicles that Tirumala made the gift from ‘the public revenues’ is sufficient ground for rejecting the inference drawn by Nelson.
Tirumala’s revenues cannot have been so large as £ 1,200,000 as Nelson estimates them. A more correct estimate would be to put them at about seven lakhs of pounds; this will be in conformity with the evidence of Barradas, Vico, and the chronicles. This amount would have been the revenue budgeted, not the income realized, as remission of taxation and alienation of crown lands were frequent; and these could not have well been provided for. Moreover, there were many uncertain sources of income.
Nelson proceeds further in his investigation, and says that ‘Tirumala’s gross revenue of £1,200,000 was equivalent to a revenue of nearly fifty millions of pounds drawn at the present time (in 1868)’; because, ‘the value of money has risen more than fortyfold’. He compares the price of rice in 1713 with that during 1863-6, and says that it increased fortyfold in the course of that century and a half. The following remarks from Martin’s letter of 1713 have been utilized by Nelson for arriving at the conclusion just referred to: ‘One famon (Panom) will procure up to eight marakkals, or large measures, of very fine husked rice, which is sufficient to feed a man for more than fifteen days. But, when there is lack of rains, it becomes so dear that I have seen the price of one of these measures off rice mount up to four fanoms. Nelson says that eight maraikkals would weigh about, ninety-six pounds and they could be had for a fanom or 2 ¼ pence. ‘Now in 1866 and the two or three years preceding it, the average price of good rice was about twenty pounds for a Rupee. Consequently, whereas a penny bought some forty old pounds of good rice at the commencement of the eigheenth century, it has been an equivalent for only five-sixths of a pound during the last few years. Thus Nelson arrives at the astounding conclusion that the price of commodities has risen more than forty times. But his data are open to question. The Jesuit writer quoted above speaks of the condition of things in the Marava country. He says that there were great oscillations in the price of rice, sometimes to the extent of a rise of thirty-two times. Nelson takes the lowest rate he gives. Moreover, Martin says that ‘nowhere are such precautions taken as in Marava not to let out a drop of water, and gather all that of the streams and torrents, which the rains bring’. He greatly admires the wonderful irrigation facilities of the Marava country. These modifying conditions have been overlooked by Nelson, who takes only the minimum price of rice, and applies it to Madura. Moreover he is not right in equating the fanom of 2 ¼ pence. Leon Besse remarks that the fanom is a gold coin worth 120 reis (Or. Conq.), i.e. about fifty centimes. Therefore, a fanom is to be taken as equal to 4.8 pence, i.e. more than twice the value attached to it by Nelson. Dewan Bahadur Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar says, with reference to the letter of Martin quoted above, forty-five pounds of rice are required for a man for fifteen days, and that therefore, taking Nelson’s equation of a fanom to 2 ¼ pence, the price in 1713 would be only one-twelth of what it was in 1893, that is, the increase in price would be only twelveold. When the fanom is correctly equated to 4.8 pence, the rise would be not more than six times, not forty times, as Nelson contends. This is confirmed by Dr. Vincent A. Smith’s remark that Akbar’s revenue of forty million pounds would amount to two hundred million pounds at the present time; the rise in price is, therefore, estimated as fivefold.
Expenditure:--The ordinary expenditure of the Nayaks was not in proportion to their income. Regular payments from the treasury were few, and they did not amount to much. Some officials seem to have been paid. The army cannot have required large sums for its upkeep, since the Polegars were bound to supply the number of troops fixed by the original agreement with them. Occasionally professional soldiers and mercenaries were employed and paid. The administration was not highly organized, and it was conducted mostly on traditional lines. The ordinary expenses of government, as the salaries of officials, the army, the police and judicial departments, did not consitute a serious drain on the public revenues”.