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  3.6 Tipu's Coinage  


©The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh
From top left: a) Tipu Sultan Paisa, Chittledroog, ? 1788-9 Copper, with border of stylised tiger stripes (bubris); Diam 1.9 cm

b) Tipu Sultan Farukhi Pagoda, Seringapatam, 1793 Gold Diam 1.2 cm

c) Haidar Ali Pagoda, Mysore, 1772-82 Gold Diam 1 cm

d) Tipu Sultan Half-paisa, Bangalore 1788-9 Copper Diam 1.7 cm

ecent research has revealed that as many as fourteen mints existed in Tipu's Mysore, and eleven of them had been established by 1789, only six years after Tipu succeeded his father as ruler of the kingdom. Tipu recognised the significance of his own coinage in confirming and strengthening his authority and legitimacy - as a ruler in his own right, not a distant vassal of the Mughal Emperor. Indeed, Tipu's coins defied this traditional authority by adopting his own Islamic designs, including his flag and the bubri or tiger stripe, seen here on the copper paisa . The Tiger of Mysore further emphasised his independence from the Emperor by stamping on his coins Tipu's own dates of accession and regnal year , and inscriptions such as 'The Faith of Ahmad is proclaimed to the world by the victories of Haidar.'

Already by 1794, the highly decorative qualities of Tipu's coins had been recognised. Edward Moor in a separate Appendix on 'Tippoo's Coins &c' notes that 'the coins, and materials for these plates, have been collected … from various parts of England.' Moor labours with the transcriptions of dates and inscriptions - 'To us it is not clear that our idea respecting the year of accession is correct….1199 was not the year of accession, but the third after it, as expressed in the reverse here.' or 'The date of the Hejra and reign do not accord on these coins.' Nevertheless, Moor, in apologising for these deficiencies, points out that little reference material on the subject existed at that time. He quotes Dirom's statement that Tipu was the first Mahommedan prince openly to disclaim the authority of 'the king of Delhi', but then points out that 'Tippoo is not the only prince who has presumed to impress coins with other names than the great Moghul's' A coin of Timur Shah coin, minted in 1756, is illustrated and described to prove the point. ' Tippoo might have been the first to shake off the shackles of prejudice in this respect; but he is not the only sovereign who strikes money independently of the Great Moghul,' Moor states.

This detailed, if amateur survey of Tipu's coins includes a number of practical observations, for example:

>'Those who look for the work Seringapatam on this coin, will be disappointed: that name is unknown in Tippoo's country, where the metropolis of Mysore is always call and written ptn or Puttun'

>"Struck at Bungloor" is the manner in which the fort we call Bangalore is always written, and pronounced by the inhabitants and natives of that part of the country'

>'By a lion and a battle-axe, Tippoo perhaps means to symbolise his courage and prowess in war; and by the elephant …his strength and sagacity; not possibly his own, but allegorically the courage and strength of his people and country.'

Moor also illustrates a medal commemorating the visit of Tipu's three ambassadors - 'Legati Tipponis Sultani victoriosi' - to Louis XVI in Paris, and ventures an interesting comment on Tipu's use of double meanings or 'ambiguous indefinite sentences' in his coin inscriptions. These, he suggests, flattered Tipu's 'pious emulation,' However, because the inscriptions could be interpreted in more than one sense, this protected Tipu from direct accusations of impiety or threatening ambition - aspirations which the Mughal Emperor and Tipu's neighbours clearly suspected and feared.


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