By the end of the eighteenth century the British, in the facade of the East India Company, had extended their power to control large tracts of Southern India, either by direct or indirect rule. They had become the dominant power in the region, with their centre of government at Madras, where they had first established themselves in the middle of the previous century. At that time they had obtained the right to mint their own money, and from then until about 1800 the coins consisted mainly of gold pagodas, silver fanams and copper cash, supplemented during the eighteenth century with silver rupees.
On the procurement of Madraspatnam in 1639 by the English East India Company, Agency of Fort St. George was established a year later. This was the antecedent of the Madras Presidency, although there had been Company factories at Machilipatnam and Armagon since the early 1600s. Under the provisions of Pitt’s India Act in 1785, Madras became one of the three presidencies founded by the East India Company.
Map of Madras Province, 1859
The head of the area was called ‘Governor’ and became a subordinate to the Governor-General in Calcutta, a title that would persist until 1947. The province of Madras comprised of twenty-two districts, each under a District Collector, and further sub-divided into talukas and firqas. In 1919, Madras became the first province of British India to execute the system of Dyarchy following the Montague-Chelmsford reforms. Five princely states fell under the political authority of Madras Presidency. They were: Banganapalle, Cochin, Pudukkotti, Sandur, and Travancore.
Flag of Madras Presidency
With the advent of Indian independence on 15 August 1947, the Presidency became the Madras Province. Madras was later admitted as Madras State, a state of the Indian Union at the inauguration of the Republic of India on 26 January 1950. In 1953, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra regions became the new state of Andhra, and Bellary district became part of Mysore State. In 1956, South Kanara district was transferred to Mysore. The Malabar Coast districts became part of the new state of Kerala, and Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1968. The northern district of Madras presidency, Ganjam, was transferred to Orissa (now Odhisha).
The British East India Company’s first factory or trading post was established in 1611 in Masulipatam on the south-eastern coast. In 1639, the company received a grant of a lease of Madras from the king of Chandragiri. There they built Fort St. George and Madras replaced Masulipatam as the company’s principal settlement on the Coromandel Coast.
Fort St. George
A mint was established at Fort St. George where coins of Vijaynagar style were struck. The Madras mint began minting copper coins after the renovation. In 1689 silver fanams were authorized to be struck by the new Board of Directors.
Silver rupees were introduced into southern India by Aurangzeb after his conquest of Golconda and Bijapur in 1687. The company sought authorization to mint rupees in Madras, and received this permission from Kam Baksh, the son of Aurangzeb, in 1692. The coins mined were circulated locally and also sent to Bengal. A new mint was built in the northwest corner of the Fort in 1695, and later rebuilt in 1727. It became known as the Mint Bastion. The chief competition for the Madras coins was the Arcot rupees. Some of the bulk coins from Madras were sent to the Nawabs mint to be made into Arcot rupees.
In 1742, a second mint was established in Chintadripet. The same year, the Fort mint was permitted to strike the Arcot rupee as well as those of lower denominations. In 1792, the Chintadripet mint was moved to the Fort and these two mints jointly became the gold and silver mints respectively.
The Company decided to establish two bigger mints at Bombay and Calcutta in 1815. From 1835 to 1867 the mint also struck Uniform coinage for circulation. The Madras mint assisted these mints and since its capacity was insignificant. The mint was finally closed down in 1869 to make way for the government press in the same premises.
Mint Master and Assay Master
The Madras Presidency was run by the Madras Council, headed by a Governor, who was responsible for, amongst other things, the coinage of the Presidency. The mint itself was jointly run by a Mint Master and an Assay Master, who, at various times reported either directly, or through a committee, to the Council.
In the early 1800s the roles of Mint and Assay Master were under consideration. The Mint Committee had previously proposed (30th November, 1809), that the duty of refining and alligating metals should be passed to the Mint Master, and that the Assay Master should be responsible only for assaying metal received into the mint and coin delivered from the mint. In this way the two departments could act as a check on each other, and in 1810 this became the subject of a formal proposal. This clarified the job of the Mint Master and the Assay Master.
The following was their job description:
- The Mint Master had control over every department of the mint.
- Nothing should go in or out of the mint without his permission.
- The Mint Master would indent the General Treasury for the quantity of bullion necessary to keep the mint going, and, once this had been approved by the Mint Committee, then the sub- treasurer should comply with the indent and send with each supply of bullion or old coins an invoice of the exact rate at which the coins and bullion had been received into the treasury. The Mint Master would then issue a receipt specifying the weight of the bullion and coins.
- Each type of coin or bullion would be weighed separately and put into the crucibles for melting in the presence of the Mint Master and Assay Master or their deputies, melted and then weighed again. The wastage on melting was to be ascertained and recorded in a book kept by the Mint Master. The Assay Master would then take specimens from each cake for assay.
- The amount to be melted should be enough for fifteen days’ operation of the mint, so that the activities of the mint were not continually disrupted by this procedure.
- After assay the cakes would be refined, as necessary, and cast into ingots for laminating. The Assay Master or his deputy would make assays of the ingots.
- If the ingots varied from the standard by more than one pennyweight in the troy pound for silver, or twelve grains in the troy pound for gold, then they would be returned to be re-alligation.
- The Mint Master would be responsible for establishing methods to detect fraud in the departments under his control.
- The Mint Master would correspond with the Mint Committee on all subjects relating to the mint.
- The Deputy Mint Master would perform the duties of the Mint Master if the latter were in- disposed.
- The Assay Master was responsible for seeing the coins and bullion delivered into the mint, and overseeing the melting and casting of the cakes. He was responsible for taking samples for assay.
- The Assay Master would furnish reports specifying the weight of coin or bullion when put into the crucibles, the weight after melting and the fineness of the resultant cakes. He would also calculate the weight of standard bullion in each cake.
- The Assay Master would assay specimens of the ingots.
- The fineness would be stamped on each ingot.
- In the absence of the Assay Master, the Assistant Assay Master would preside.
- The Assay Master or his assistant would personally conduct the assays. These would not be delegated to natives.
- The Assay Master would keep a book of every assay.
- The Mint Master would initially be debited for the whole amount of each invoice of bullion or coins.
- The difference between the invoice and the actual value would be accounted for as profit or loss, the Mint Master being debited for the excess and credited for the deficiency on the invoice.
- The Mint Master was to continue the system of accounts for refining, alligating and other departments as had been established by his predecessor (Benjamin Roebuck).
- The Mint Master was also to keep a book of the weight of coin and bullion before melting and the weight of the cakes. This was to be jointly signed by the Assay Master and the Mint Master.
- The Mint Master was to prepare a quarterly account of the coinage showing the profit and loss.
- A selection of coins from the Pix Box would be assayed in the presence of the Mint Committee and the result would be submitted to the Madras Government.
- A Pix Box would be kept in the mint under the joint keys of the Mint Master and the Assay Master, and one coin in every thousand would be deposited in the box.
Early Dump Coins: The earliest coins of British East India Company in Madras were small silver pieces issued from their factory at Fort St. George in about 1670’s. These coins were undated with two interlinked C’s on the reverse (assigned to the reign of King Charles II).
During the 18th century silver coins were minted bearing the Company’s bale mark (an orb and a cross) inscribed C.C.E (Charter Company of England) and in some cases G.C.E (Governor and company of merchants trading into the East Indies). All these issues were meant for use within the company’s factory and surrounding areas and also for exchange with European traders. They were not meant for circulation in the interior of the country.
In 1742 company obtained permission from Nawab Sadatulla Khan of the Subah of Arcot to strike rupees in imitation of those struck at the imperial mint at Arcot. These coins were poorly struck with dies bigger than the blanks used. Hence, only a part of inscriptions are generally visible. They bear the name of Alamgir II with Sixth year of reign and have a ‘lotus – mint mark’. This undated series continued for about 50 years. Subsequent issues had Hijri Date ‘1172’ equivalent to 1758 A.D. irrespective of the year of minting. The R.Y-6 also appears on all issues.
Machine Struck Coins: In 1807 new machinery was introduced. The mint started producing silver coins in European style with oblique milling. It consisted of the following coins:
|Cash||Two and Half|
Madras also issued 2 rupees coins. Although minted in 1807 and later all bear the frozen date “1172”A.H. Copper coins in this series were called Dub with inscriptions in Persian on one side and Tamil and Telugu inscriptions on the other side indicating the value in Dub units.
The subsequent is the fragmentation of the currency:
- 3360 Cash = 42 Fanams = 1 Pagoda =31/2 Rupees = 168 Faluce (Dub)
- 1 Rupee = 48 Faluce (Dub)
- 1 Faluce (Dub) = 20 Cash; 1 Fanam = 4 Faluce(Dub) = 80 Cash
After 1818, Rupee was made the standard coin and the weight was fixed at 180 grains with smaller pieces in proportion. The pagodas and fanams were demonetized from that year.
Next issues were:-
- 1812-1835: Struck at Madras Mint with ‘Lotus’ mint mark and indented cord milling.
- 1823-1825: Struck at Calcutta with ‘Rose’ mint mark and upright milling.
- 1830-1835: Struck at Calcutta with ‘Rose’ mint mark and upright milling but with a small crescent added on the reverse (rupee and half rupee coins) and on obverse (1/4 rupee coins).
Northern Circars and their Coinage
The Northern Circars was a former division of Madras Presidency and consisted of present-day Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. There were five circars namely: Chicacole, Rajahmundry, Ellore, Kondapalli and Guntur. By a treaty, signed in 1768, the Nizam acknowledged the validity of Shah Alam’s grant and resigned the Circars to the Company, receiving as a mark of friendship an annuity of 50,000. Guntur, as the personal estate of the Nizam’s brother Basalat Jang, was accepted during his lifetime under both treaties. Finally, in 1823, the claims of the Nizam over the Northern Circars were bought outright by the Company, and they became a British possession.
The Northern Circars were governed as part of Madras Presidency until India’s independence in 1947, after which the presidency became India’s Madras state. The northern, Telugu-speaking portion of Madras state, including the Northern Circars, was detached in 1953 to form the new state of Andhra Pradesh. Coins for use of Northen Circars division of the Madras Presidency with headquarters at Musalipatnam were:-
- Silver : 4 Annas and 2 Annas
- Copper : 1/48 Rupee and 1/96 Rupee
The last set of coins were a set of 3 copper coins in the denominations of 4 Pai, 2 Pai and 1 Pai issued during the period 1824-1825.
Here are some exquisite examples of Madras Presidency coins:
Gold Star Pagoda, Madras Mint, 3.43gm, 1648-1740 AD
Obverse: Single standing deity of Vishnu facing front
Reverse: Star in the center with granulated background
Gold Cash, Soho Mint, 1803 AD
Obverse: A lion rampant facing left holding Imperial crown (from the EIC crest); in exergue, 1803
Reverse: The denomination in Persian script; in exergue, 1 Cash
Silver Fanam, Madras Mint, 1704 AD
Obverse: Bale mark with CC/E (Charter Company of England)
Reverse: Ingriz Kampani in Persian in Large Lettering
Silver 2 Fanam, Madras Mint, 1.83gm, 1764-1807 AD
Obverse: Standing deity of Vishnu
Reverse: Two interlinked Cs
Copper Cash, East India Company, Madras Mint, 1.20gm, 1733 AD
Obverse: Bale Mark E/I/ Co. (East India Company)
Reverse: Date 1733
1/48 Copper Guilt Rupee (Dub), London Mint, 1794 AD
Obverse: East India Company Coat of Arms in centre with legend AUSPICIO REGIS T SENATUS ANGLIAE UNITED EAST INDIA COMPANY
Reverse: Bale Mark with legend ENGLISH UNITED EAST INDIA COMPANY (incused)
- The Reformation of the Coinage of Madras Early in the Nineteenth Century (London, 2006) by Paul Stevens
- The Coins and Tokens of the Possessions and Colonies of the British Empire (London, 1889) by J.A. Atkins
- The Coins of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Part 4 Volume I by F. Pridmore
- South Asian Coins and Paper Money by George Cuhaj, Rajendra Maru, Thomas Michael