Friday, October 16, 2009

Thondaiman dynasty of Pudukkottai Coins

Issuer : Martanda Bhairava
Coin Type : Milled Coin
Obverse : Goddess Brihadamba Seated
Reverse : Telugu Legend " Vijaya"
Mint : Birmingham, London
Date : Non Dated(ND) (1889-1906 AD)
Dia : 13mm
Weight of a coin : 1.30grams

Marthanda Bhairava Tondaiman (April 15,1886 –May 28, 1928)
Tondaiman rulers of Pudukkottai who are famous for a unique circular copper coin they minted called Amman Kasu. The obverse of this coin portrays Goddess Parvati or Brihadamba, seated wearing a short skirt. The reverse of the Amman Kasu bears the legend Sri Vijuya (victory) in Telugu. Goddess Brihadamba is the presiding Goddess in the historic Siva temple at Tirugokarnam in Pudukkottai. The royal family worshipped in this temple which was also the venue of the coronation of many of the Tondaiman rulers. The first Amman kasu was minted in the year 1738. During the Navaratri festival, the Tondaiman king gave the Amman kasu along with a bag of rice and other gifts to all those who visited his palace.; Of all the coins issued by the various native states, the Amman kasu is well-known and is even worshipped in many Hindu households.
Thondaiman King in his Durbar, Pudukkottai, 1858.

The princely state of Pudkottai was created by Raghunatha Thondaiman. Raghunatha Kilavan Setupati of Ramnad(1673-1708 A.D.)married Kathali Nachiar the sister of Thondaiman, he appointed his brother in law Raghunatha Thondaiman as a chief of the district of Pudukottai. Raghunatha Thondaiman was earlier ruling Thirumayam. In appreciation of Raghunatha Tondaman's services, Raghunatha Kilavan Setupati has given Pudukkottai as a honour for his services.. In later centuries, the Thondaiman rulers, while nominally feudatories of the Ramnad state, often pursued an independent foreign policy, a trend common in all parts of India at that time.After the death of Raghunatha Kilavan Setupati he become ruler of Pudukottai.. After becoming the ruler of Pudukottai, Raghunatha Thondaiman fought against the Nayaks of Tanjore in support of the Nayaks of Madurai and conquered Thirukkattupalli a very important place. Then there was a direct clash between Thondaimans of Pudukottai and the Nayaks rulers of Tanjore. Thondaiman conquered the west of Thirukkattupalli..The next ruler Raja Vijaya Reghunatha Raya Thondaiman he helped Arcot Nawab against Hyder Ali the ruler of Mysore. He was also loyal towards the British Government. After some time, when Hyder Ali’s army tried to enter into Pudukkottai, the Thondaiman’s army successfully defeated them and drove Hyder’s army away. Thondaiman captured Kilanilai and Aranthangi. He helped the British Government against Tipu Sultan..Pudukkotai finally came under formal British protection. This was arguably unavoidable, since the Thondaimans were much menaced in that period by a resurgent Mysore ruled by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan had sought to leverage the power of the French against his British adversaries, and Pudukkotai, in common with its neighbours such as Thanjavur and Travancore, found it expedient to ally with the British. .Raja Rajagopala Thondaiman (1928 -1948) the last and ninth in the line of Thondaiman rulers, was selected by the British Government and was crowned when he was six years old. After Indian independence in 1947, the Pudukkottai Princely State was amalgamated with Indian Union on 04/03/1948 and became a division in Tiruchirappalli district. The long history of the Thondaimans rule came to an end.

The Thondaiman dynasty
Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1686 - 1730)
Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1730 - 1769)
Raya Raghunatha Tondaiman (1769 - Dec 1789)
Vijaya Raghunatha Tondaiman (Dec 1789 - Feb 1, 1807)
Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (Feb 1,1807 - June 1825)
Raghunatha Tondaiman (June 1825 - July 13, 1839)
Ramachandra Tondaiman (July 13, 1839 - April 15, 1886)
Marthanda Bhairava Tondaiman (April 15,1886 –May 28, 1928)
Rajagopala Tondaiman (October 28, 1928 - March 04, 1948)

Origin of Pudukkottai
Once, when the King of Vijayanagar was on his way to Rameswaram, one of his elephants went berserk and that elephant was brought under control by Avadai Tondaiman of Karambakkudi (near Pudukkottai), a stronghold of the Kallar community. So, the King honoured him with a long title in telugu "Raya Rahutta Raya Vajridu Raya Mannidu Raya", and extended favours. Avadai Tondaiman's sons Ragunatha Raya Tondaiman and Namana helped Rajah Sethupathi of Ramnad in defeating his enemies. As a result, a few territories, one of them being Pudukkottai, under the domain of the Rajah of Ramnad were gifted to the brothers. Raghunatha Raya became the first Tondaiman ruler of Pudukkottai in 1686. Thus, the kingdom of Pudukkottai came into existence.

Princely State:
In addition to Presidencies, a very large number of kingdoms existed when the British ruled India. They were known as Princely States or Native States and very few native states had the privilege of issue of stamps and coins. Pdukkottai is the one amongst the few. As the area under Kingdom is around 2000 square miles and land locked in the larger Madras Presidency, the Tondaimans issued only one denomination coin, the famouns Amman Kaasu.

Why it is called Amman Kassu:
The Amman Kaasu is so-named after the presiding Goddess Brihadh Ambal or Periya Naachiyaar in the historic Shiva temple at Tirugokarnam in Pudukkottai. The obverse of the coin figures Brihathambal and the other side has telugu letters which spell " Sri Vijaya". From this, it is understood that the Pudukottai was under the dominions of the Nayak Kingdom of Madurai which in turn was under the mighty Vijayanagar Empire. The first Amman Kasu was minted in the year 1738. In the initial years, the dump Amman Kassu was handcrafted at the Pudukottai mint. Later, the coin was machine made at London and shipped to Pudukottai.

The Amman Kaasu, though small in denomination was able to buy small items of food, snacks, and fruits. Twelve Amman Kaasu were equal to then one British quarter anna at one time. It was made of highly pure copper. At the time of the Indian Independence, there was an abundance of these coins. But they were collected by the coppersmiths and goldsmiths, who melted them down into metallic copper.

Why Brihadambal as Amman on Coin?
Brihadh Ambal or Periya Naachiyaar is the tutelary deity of the dynasty of the Thondaimaans. The royal family worshipped in the temple and was also the venue of the coronation of the many of the rulers. It is said that there was a rebellion in Pudukkottai at one time. The ruling Thondaimaan's own kinsmen and relatives were contesting for the throne of Pudukkottai. So, in order to sort out the problem a scheme was proposed by the able Divan of the Samasthaan, called Sesha Saasthrigal.

Accordingly, the Thondaimaan decreed that, henceforth the Sovereign State of Pudukkottai would be the property of the Goddess Brihadh Ambal. The Thondaimaan will hereafter administer the state as Her Viceroy. Anybody rebelling against the State also commits sin and thereby against the Supreme Goddess, who is the true ruler of the state. Thereafter, Thondaimaan kings added a prefix to their string of titles -

Sri La Sri Brihadh Ambal Daasa, Jamshad JamBahadhur, etc., etc., So-and-So Thondaimaan Maharaja of Pudukkottai. During the Navaratri festival, the Tondaimaan (King) used to offer the Amman Kassu along with a bag of rice and other gifts to all those who visited his palace Thus the Pudukkottai rulers ruled happily for ever till 1948.

Note: 1. Pudukkottai town proper is located about 50 kms southeast of Tiruchy and about 60 kms south of Thanjavur. It lies on the Tiruchy-Rameswaram Railway line and is connected by bus with Tiruchy, Thanjavur, Karaikkudi, Madurai, Ramesvaram and Aranthangi.
2. In this article we have seen how the Tondaiman kings called themselves `Brhadambadas' (servant of Goddess Brhadamba) and issued coin portraying their tutelary Deity.