Kochi Issues with Initial of Haider Ali.

Jee Francis Therattil

Recently I came across a hitherto unpublished specimen in copper and another one in gold with a typical Kochi touch in its style of depiction, but with ‫ - ح‬the Arabic consonant ‘H’ as ‘control mark’. Depiction of ‫ ح‬on coins is a very familiar feature among issues of Mysore due to its frequent use as initials of Haider Ali [1761 – 1782 AD]. The obverse symbol in both the coins under discussion [coins # 1 & 2] is exactly similar to the Fanam [coin # 3 - gold; Sch # 1249]1 and Rāshi [coin # 4 – copper; Sch # 1252]2 which are catalogued as issues of the Dutch. Instead of the normal Viraraya symbol having three rows of four pellets each, here; we have the first row intact, whereas all the four pellets in the second row are having tail downwards covering the space of the third row which is totally absent. The space inside the U-shaped portion on the top is vacant and has one pellet on either side. Not much is known regarding the origin or antiquity of Peumpadappu Swarupam, the ruling family of Kochi [the vitiated form of Kōchiri - denoting ‘Gōshree’3]. We can infer that the kingdom started flourishing by 1341 AD, when the turbulent flood waters due to the torrential rains, made Periyar River change its course to the present one which also helped the formation of the navigable estuary at Kochi. Since then, Muziris lost its glory and the port at Kochi became pivotal to the trade activities in the region. By the end of the 15th c AD, Portuguese arrived at Kochi and by 1530 they were successful in starting their own mint in the city of Santa Cruz at Kochi. In 1663, the Dutch took control over Kochi and maintained the status quo till 1776, when Haider Ali conquered the region. In 1792, English East India Company got control over the region in accordance with the peace treaty with Tipu Sultan [1782 – 1799], the son and immediate successor of Haider Ali. The Dutch were successful in regaining the power in 1796, but by 1809 English East India Company took back the control. Even though it is much difficult to attribute properly the wide varieties of Panam [Fanam – derived from hon, meaning gold] which are based on Viraraya symbol, having its root in the Hoysala coinage, we have some clues to safely attribute these coins to Kochi. The factors to our help are the characteristics of Rāshi [coin # 4 – copper; Sch # 1252] and Fanam [coin # 3 - gold; Sch # 1249] issues from the Dutch period, which immediately predate the Haider Ali period.

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Coin # 1. Copper; 250 mg. Haider Ali Kochi Cash.

Coin # 2. Gold; 400 mg. Haider Ali Kochi Fanam.

Graphics in both the above two Haider Ali coins.

Coin # 3. Gold; 400 mg. Dutch Kochi Fanam.

Coin # 4, Copper 11.100 g. Dutch Kochi Rāshi

Coin # 5, Gold 400 mg. Fanam [Malabar region].

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Both the gold coins – the Dutch Fanam [coin # 3] as well as the Haider Ali Fanam [coin # 2] are having exactly the same weight – 400 mg. The Haider Ali Fanam is of pure gold as is the practice in other regions4 also; whereas the Dutch Fanam is of not-so-pure gold, whereby the Dutch were making remarkable profit out of minting coins. The purity of the Haider Ali Fanam might have helped it to gain wide acceptance among the traders, when there was an acute political instability in the region. The symbol on the reverse in both the coins under discussion [coins # 1 & 2], is having the initials of Haider Ali which imparts them the identity, instead of ‘j’ in the Dutch Fanam [coin # 3] and in the Dutch Rāshi [coin # 4]. The arrangement of the 12 pellets to the left of both ‘‫ ’ح‬and ‘j’ remains the same. We can notice a single pellet at the other side of ‘j’ in Rāshi [coin # 4]; whereas the number of pellets at the other side of ‫ ح‬becomes two, which may be an indication for the continuity towards the ‫ ح‬version of the issues from the previous ‘j’ version. Even though we know Fanams issued with ‫ ح‬from several mints by Tipu Sultan, invariably all are dated in Hijri or Mauludi Eras, which helps us to identify the issuer without any difficulty. This shows that the Fanam concept adopted by Haider Ali was continued by Tipu Sultan without any alteration in the basic graphics. The gold coin under discussion is the only other Fanam with ‫ ح‬besides the one [with seated God and Goddess on obverse and ‫ ح‬in a granulated field on the reverse] from an uncertain mint [KM # 8] without date. Even though the gold coin weighs 400 mg, the copper one is weighing only 250 mg. This may be to make the copper coin to have a value at par with the other Cash coins in the adjacent regions. We know about Quarter Bazaruco5 in 275 mg of copper from the Portuguese period6 which is considered as successor of Cash prevailed at Kochi7. The Dutch tin coin [Bazaruk] got its name from the Portuguese coin [Bazaruco] only which is considered as a derivative of Bāzār [market place] Cash8. We are at present not able to confirm the name of the copper Haider Ali coin. Haider Ali or Tipu Sultan is not known of adopting any European nomenclatures while they introduced their own coinage in any region. The weight of this copper coin [250 mg] is even less than the weight of Quarter Bazaruco [275 mg]. So it may not be wrong when we tentatively consider this as Cash. Even though it is not yet reported, the presence of a silver denomination in the same system cannot be ruled-out. These coins were minted only for a short period of time and that too during an acute political instability in the region, which may be the reason behind the scarcity of this variety. These coins might have been minted by the Raja of Kochi only, but with the initial of Haider Ali at a juncture of time when he had to accept the suzerainty of the Mysore ruler [1776]. All the other Haider Ali Fanams are having his initial in full flan on the reverse; whereas here, the initial is merely a ‘control mark’. Even though we can see Fanam issues of Tipu Sultan also which continues the usage of the initial of Haider Ali [evident from the year those possess], those coins are having their weight in the range from 380 mg to 330 mg only and not 400 mg. Page 3 of 4

Notes & References:

1 & 2.

Page 248, The Standard Guide to South Asian Coins and Paper Money Since 1556 AD, First edition, Krause Publications, USA.

3. 4.

Visvavijnānakōsham, vol.V, p.606, SPCS, Kottayam, 1971. Go means cow, shree means prosperity. Feroke [KM # 58], Calicut [KM # 78], Khaliqabad [KM # 88], Nagar [KM # 108], Patan [KM # 128] and from an uncertain mint [KM # 8], pages 101 – 107, The Standard Guide to South Asian Coins and Paper Money Since 1556 AD, First edition, Krause Publications, USA.


Unpublished Portuguese Quarter Bazarucos from Kochi Mint, Jee Francis Therattil, Studies in South Indian Coins [journal of the South Indian Numismatic Society], volume XVIII [2008].

6. 7.

During the reign of D. Philip II [1598 to 1621 AD], the King of Portugal. We know from a contemporary Portuguese official document [Documentacao papa a Historia, Antonio da Silva Rego, vol.I, doc.10, p.44.] at least not much later than, if at all not in 1506 AD, wherein a rate of 3 Caixas [Caix = Cāsh] was fixed for a purpose at Kochi.


The tradition of using verbally the abbreviation for Cash as Cāy or simply Ca was prevalent till recently. When the Cash system got replaced with Rupee – Paisa system, literally Malayalam Ca denoted Uruppika [Rupee] for years.


Paper was presented at the XXIInd annual conference of South Indian Numismatic Society on 21st and 22nd January, 2012, at Thiruvananthapuram, organized by Archaeological Survey of India.

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