The Portuguese in Ceylon about 1505 - 1655
In 1505 Francisco de Almeida, newly appointed first
Portuguese viceroy of the East, despatched his son to explore commercial prospects
southwards from the Portuguese seat at Cochin. He returned in 1506 with a treaty from the
king of Ceylon who agreed to pay tribute in Cinnamon and Elephants. During 1509/10
Albuquerque established Portuguese maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean and sailed on
eastwards to Malacca in 1511. In 1512 Lopo Soares established the first Portuguese factory
in Ceylon at Colombo. During ensuing years further factories were opened around the coast
of Ceylon and in 1597 the Portuguese King Philip I (1580 - 1598) was proclaimed sovereign
of Ceylon. In practise, however, the Portuguese only ruled the coastlands and the
Singhalese kings of Kandy remained paramount in the interior of the island. Portuguese
coinage struck in, or for, Ceylon all appears to postdate the declaration of Philip´s
suzerainty in 1597. Subsequent Captains-general recorded to have issued money are D.
Jerónimo de Azevedo (1594 - 1612) and D. Constantino de Sá (1619 - 22: 1623 - 30). Local
striking was ordered to cease in 1634, but had been resumed by 1640 when dated
"gridiron" tangas were being struck. Local minting continued at least 1645, but
from about 1642 most silver coin destined for use in Ceylon was struck at Goa. In 1638 the
Raja of Candy, Rajasinga II, called on the Dutch for help against the Portuguese and in
1655 the last Portuguese fortress on the island fell into Dutch hands.
(Michael Mitchener, Non-Islamic states & Western Colonies AD 600-1979, Hawkins Publications 1979)
|Ceylon - Portuguese
Undated copper coinage (1597-1655) AE 1/4 bazaruco. Obv.:Cross within a circle Rev.: 'Cross L' monogram. 9,2 - 9,5 mm 0,55 grams. Mitchener 1979, 2154
During the Portuguese period larins enjoyed widespred use in Ceylon. The silver larin coinage, which originated in the Persian Gulf, was used extensively from that region around the coast of the Indian Ocean as far as Ceylon during the period circa 1500 to 1700. Larins used in Ceylon were bent into a "fish-hook" shape whereas those of other regions were straight. Larins actually produced in Ceylon bore either imitation Persian inscriptions or meaningless designs: though specimens bearing western inscriptions are reported to have also been produced. Larins of more northerly origin that reached Ceylon in the course of trade tended to be bent into "fish-hook" shape when they later subserved the currency needs of that island.
About 1620 - 21 the Danes minted Larins on Ceylon. From the diary of
Ove Giedde for 19th April 1621 that on a merchant tour with Elefanten he received Henrik
Hess from the new colony in Ceylon "On the 19th Henrich Hćss was on board with
some arrack and collected some casks for more. He gave me one of the larins which Erich
Grubbe had had struck in that country on which is stamped in large letters; Don Erich
Erik Grubbe was staying in Ceylon where a fort at Trincomalee was to be built by the Danish. This, however, came to nothing primarily because the King of Kandy did not send the men and food he was obliged according to the treaty. Erik Grubbe was sent to the King to persuade him to keep the agreement better but with no succes. During his stay at Trincomalee, Erik Grubbe had minted larins. These were very common silver coins in Ceylon and, as Portuguese was the Trading language, he used a Portuguese title on his larins. Unfortunately these larins are unknown today.
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|Sinhala Fanam, 0,39
gram. 16th cent. - c. 1760, struck by the Rája of Kandy.Gold Fanams
The great majority of the gold fanams found in
Ceylon are Kali or Kaliyugaráyan fanams ,"at one time current over the whole
of Kerala, "and latterly struck in Malabar under the name of " Vira ráya."
This small coin weighs between 0,35 and 0,40 grams. On the one side the design consists of
an oval placed vertically and open at the top, with one dot inside and another outside to
the left; below this are two curved lines springing upwards and then curving downwards
from two dots, with two rows of dots in the space so formed. On the other is a thin
horizontal line, bent upwards on the left, having two dots about the middle, from which
rise two vertical lines; below are three rows of dots, each of four. The lines on the
obverse are derived from the Ceylon standing figure, the open oval being the head and
body, and the curved lines the outline of the legs and dhoti; a study of the
later Rájarája and Pándyan copper shows this to be the case, and an intermediate stage
of degradation is to be seen in the Dutch Negapatam copper pieces, in which the human form
is still just traceable. The design on the reverse has been compared to a jingal with its
pile of cannon balls; it may be the last stage of corruption of the sitting figure or
perhaps of Nágari letters.
These fanams had a currency far beyond the limits of Malabar, as it was found profitable to take them in exchange for pagodas to the east coast, where they were also imitated.
(From H.W.Codrington, Ceylon Coins and Currency, Colombo 1924)
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