Of Bombay & Mumbai....

In the 1600s, Angelina was a form of silver coinage issued by the Bombay Mint set up by the English East India Company (EIC). The foundation stone for the Mint was laid in 1671. Over the next 100 years, the Mint would issue coins with both Roman and Persian inscriptions. While the English coins (Carolinas, Angelinas, Copperoons and Tinnys) have “Bomb”, “Bombay” and “Bombaim” inscribed on them, the later Persian ones used the name popular with the locals — Mumbai. Most of these coins are today housed at the British Museum. “This factoid disputes the fact that the two names did not co-exist and were mutually exclusive,” says numismatic expert Mahesh Kalra, who is doing his PhD on Mughal coins from Mumbai University. Kalra, who is also the regional secretary of the Oriental Numismatic Society for South Asia, recently completed a research project on it for the KR Cama Oriental Institute, titled, ‘Forging Cosmopolitan Cultures: The Story of the ‘Old’ Bombay Mint c. 1672-1830’. “Mumbai comes from Mumbadevi, who was worshipped by the city’s original inhabitants, the Kolis,” says historian Dr MD David. “When the Portuguese arrived in 1526, they began calling the city ‘Bombaim’, which comes from the Portuguese phrase ‘Bom Bahia’ or ‘good bay’. In the 17th century with the arrival of the British, this changed to Bombay.”
In 1995, the Shiv Sena-BJP government changed the name of the city to Mumbai. Since then, it has become a contentious issue with political parties insisting that shop owners and private institutions stop using the anglicized “Bombay”. However, in the 1680s, the British themselves began minting currency with “Mumbai” inscribed on it in Persian. “They switched to Persian because few people could read English and so the currency was not accepted in the rest of the Western coast,” says Kalra. “Mumbai was used because it was the name used by local residents,” says David. The advantage of issuing coins with Persian inscriptions was
stop using the anglicized “Bombay“. The advantage of issuing coins with Persian inscriptions was thwarted when Mughal ruler Aurangzeb took exception to the names of British monarchs emblazoned on the currency. To make matters worse, this was around the same time that Aurangzeb’s ship was attacked by British pirates. He insisted that the minting of Persian coins be stopped.
For the next 25 years, the Bombay Mint remained dormant and the EIC had to pay a “seignoriage” to the Surat mint every time it needed coins. In 1717, the British approached Mughal ruler Farrukh Siyar, who gave them permission to issue currency in his name as long as he was referred to as the “emperor of ye sea and land”.
These were issued in Persian and had the words “zarb Mumbai” or “struck at Mumbai” on them. “It was the Mughal ruler’s decision to use the name Mumbai,” says Pascal Lopes, who has a master’s in numismatics from Mumbai University.

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