April 14, 2023
It is well known that coastal Karnataka was the cradle of Indian Banking. Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, Vijaya Bank, Corporation Bank amd Karnataka Bank, all of these originated here and went on to become major banks.
With the merger and consolidation of banks, except Canara Bank, rest of them got merged with other banks and lost their identity. This is a feeling of hurt which will bother people of coastal Karnataka for a long time to come.
Corporation Bank was established in Udupi by a businessman and philanthropist (Khan Bahadur Haji Abdullah Haji Kasim Saheb Bahadur) in the year 1906.
It was called Canara Banking Corporation (Udipi) Ltd at inception. Later, name was changed to Corporation Bank Ltd.in the year 1972. The bank was taken over by Government of India in the year 1980 and became Corporation Bank.
It was merged with Union Bank of India on April Fool’s Day 2020, thus ending the saga of a 114 years old, Udupi-born national institution.
Corporation Bank Heritage Museum in Udupi, the birth place of the bank, showing glimpses of the history of the bank along with monetary artefacts and prolific information about money and banking, was dedicated to the nation in 2011.
The museum is housed in the residence of the founder of the bank, a heritage building by itself, more than a century old, located on Rajaji Road, behind the Jamia Masjid compound. The building manages to conceal its age. A tiled building (except the portico) with a very well-maintained interior, flooring with artistic tiles, wooden ceiling and speckless clean surfaces. It has a vintage window with 2 layered wooden pane. If slided a couple of inches, the window opens and slided back the same way, it closes. The look of the interior is kept antique with old wooden rocking chairs and a large clock of about 6 feet kept on a platform in the main hall.
Photos of the important personalities related to the bank, RBI chairmen, and a large sized portrait of the founder adorn the walls. A bust sculpture of the founder is also mounted near the entrance.
Some photos taken during Gandhiji’s (first and only) visit to Udupi in the year 1934 are also displayed. The public meeting of Gandhiji was chaired by the founder of the Bank.
The visitors turn emotional on viewing the photos of teeming crowds near the building at the sudden and untimely demise of the founder Haji Abdullah in 1935 at the age of 53.
Apart from huge collection of coins and notes, the museum also has numerous photos, paper clippings about the bank and economic events. It is interesting to learn that apart from demonetization in the year 2016, there were two more demonetizations done in the past, in 1946 by the Government of British India and in 1978 by the Moraji Desai Government.
The core of the museum is the about 1800 coins dating back to 400 BC, from many parts of the world, mainly ancient India though history till after Indian independence. Not to be left behind, there is also a section for notes (both Indian and foreign), featuring notes from all over the world. Not many know that there were notes of the denomination 10000 and 5000 in India. 10000 rupees note was demonetized in 1946, reintroduced in 1949 and again demonetized in 1978. 5000 rupees note was introduced in 1949 and demonetized in 1978.
Another little-known fact is that Indian government on many occasions got coins minted in foreign countries. Extensive information about coins minted abroad by Indian government is available in the museum. These coins bear foreign mint marks. Mint mark is symbol etched on the coin which signifies the mint where the coin was minted.
Information (news clippings) regarding international fake currency activities is also part of the museum exhibits. One clipping mentions about the nefarious activities of our neighbor China in the counterfeiting of currency.
The museum exhibits a unique form of money, i.e., coins printed on card board. This is a very precious artefact and very rare to be found. It is said that cardboard was used when metal was in short supply / not available to mint coins. A few cardboard coins issued by some olden royalties of India are part of the coin section.
One can find many punch - marked coins which are coins created by pressing punches on surface of metal piece as against coins minted in a mint with die/mold. Such coins were unique to ancient India.
Some coins with “test marks” can also be found. Test marks on ancient coins are the markings done on the coin itself by coin testers / appraisers about the genuineness of the coin as well as purity and integrity of its metal content. It is said that even in ancient times, there was malpractice of removing gold from inside the gold coins and filling the hollow with non-precious metal.
Collection includes coins minted in gold, silver as well copper, brass, bronze, iron, nickel, tin etc.
Coins from Jana pada times (ancient Indian local governments / city states) through dynasties, invaders, European colonisers (Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, French), East India Company, British India, post-independence India, post formation of Indian Republic till the current times (Amritha Mahotsava of Independence) can be seen.
An interesting section of the museum is the commemorative coins issued by Govt of India on important occasions. Special coins of high denominations are found here. For example, Government issued 100-rupee coins in 1979 to mark International Year of the Child.
There is a separate section showing bank’s annual reports and share certificates dated in the 1920s, various passbooks and plastic cards issued by the bank across time, photos and news clippings of various milestones in the bank’s history.
As far as Karnataka / Coastal Karnataka are concerned, there is lot to view for the visitor. Museum has abundant number of coins of Chalukyas, Kadambas, Hyder Ali / Tipu Sultan, Gulbarga / Bijapur Sultans Vijayanagara Empire and Wodeyars of Mysore etc. About 50 coins of coastal Karnataka’s Alupa dynasty are also among the exhibits.
Photography is not allowed. However, visitors can get themselves photographed posing next to the founder’s bust sculpture.
Having spent 3-4 hours in the museum, visitors leave with a sense of edification and their time well spent.