Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Adieu Chavanni

Chavanni – the name itself is so cute – well, it's no longer a legal tender. I know many of you must be trying to remember its shape and the last time you used it. As it is, it had disappeared from use everywhere, including shops, business establishments, utility services and even public sector organizations and government departments. But you still had the option of depositing them in the bank. Yeah right! You could have gone to the bank with a bag full of, say, 100 chavannis and make a deposit of Rs. 25.

However, July 1, 2011 was the last day you could actually exchange these tiny cute coins at banks or the RBI. From July 1 onwards, 50 paise will be the minimum coin accepted in the markets as all denominations below it will cease to be legal currency. Also, the entries in books of accounts, pricing of products, services and taxes would be rounded off to 50 paise or whole rupee from this date.

I have many fond memories of 25 paise. This little shiny thing provided me with a little shiny sweet toffee so many times. I also remember buying pepsi-colas. The only way I can think of to describe it is, frozen flavored water. It was a popsicle like thing. Don't know how many of you have tried that or remember that but they were quite popular. I used to get excited just by looking at the variety of colors and flavors it used to come in. I remember just as the vendor used to open the deep-freezer door, I used to peep my head in to look at the different varieties – wait a minute, I think I was talking about something else. Oh yes…cute little chavannis.

I remember I used to collect them and balance them on top of one another to see how tall a pile I can make. I know, silly time pass, but cable TV and computers (not to mention Internet) were not so prevalent then. My mom also used to collect them. Don't laugh. It was because she needed them to put as an offering in temples, place them in Puja Thali on auspicious occasions, you know sava rupaiya (Rs. 1.25) – used to be a common offering.

A brief history of the humble Chavanni.

I wonder how many of you know that the first of the 25 paise coins were issued in India in 1830s during the reign of William IV.

The coins were made of silver. Yes, silver coin with the value 25 paise.

Through 1840s to the end of century, the longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen V ictoria, was featured on the face of the 25 paise coin. But it was not the same image that was embossed all through the 60 years. It changed from a young lady's image in 1840s to a more mature looking image during her later years. While Queen Victoria was adding to her years in real life, she also put in a bit of weight on her image on the coins.

The new century witnessed a change in the British monarchy. Following the death of his mother Queen Victoria, Edward VII was crowned as the King of the United Kingdom and also as the Emperor of India. All new coins issued during the time bore his name and face.

With rising silver prices following World War I, the new equivalent of the quarter rupee coin, the 4-aana coin, with a new design was introduced in 1919 that was made from cupro-nickel instead of silver. These coins had the effigy of King George V.

But the 4-aana coins didn't gain popularity and soon the quarter rupee coins had to be brought back.

During 1930s, while coins of other denominations went for a design change, the quarter rupee coins continued, with only a new monarch, King George VI, replacing his predecessor, Edward VIII. There were no coins issued for Edward VIII.

Early 1950s: Following the Independence of India the currency system continued with the British series of coins till the establishment of the Indian Republic. The first coins of independent India were introduced on August 15, 1950 and it included the quarter rupee coin made of nickel. The coins had the words 'char aana' embossed in Devnagri script and had the Ashoka Emblem on one side.

The next landmark in the history of the 25 paise coin happened following the introduction of the decimal series in accordance with the Indian Coinage Act that came into force from April 1, 1957.

The 19 mm 25 paisa coins were called '25 naye paise' but in June 1, 1964, the term 'naye' was dropped. The coins weighed 5 grams and were made of nickel.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, other coins of lower denominations underwent a major change and moved to aluminum, but 25 paisa coin didn't change much. In 1988, the 25 paisa coin went steel and was made of ferratic stainless steel. It was a little heavier than its predecessor at 2.83 grams but was of the same size. The last 25 paise coins seen in popular circulation were minted in the year 2002. I know what you are thinking…"This Rhino looks familiar", right?

In July 2010, when this poor little guy was already on its deathbed, the Government of India unveiled the new symbol for the Indian Rupee and designer D Udaya Kumar also designed a new symbol for the paise.

But with the 25 paise going out of circulation, we are unlikely to see this image anywhere. But now, the journey for this tiny fellow has come to an end. Even the books of accounts have ditched the poor guy. I think chavanni was like the Kareena Kapoor of coins – you know, size zero. Can't really say that we'll miss you but we certainly shared some nice moments and we'll cherish those. You represent an era when things were simple and you meant something.

Adieu Chavanni !!!

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