For decades, it has been the cultural symbol of all things auspicious in India. It is the source of numberless Indian jokes and phrases, and children once survived on it for pocket money.
When the 25 paise coin goes out of circulation from July 1, a whole generation of Indians will have to say goodbye to the iconic chavanni.
“When I was growing up in the late1960s, getting one chavanni a day would give us a feeling of empowerment,” said writer and social activist Tushar Gandhi, who flooded Twitter with nostalgic memories of the 25 paise coin on Tuesday.
With the chavanni, says Gandhi, people could buy everything from a vada pav to snack of boiled peanuts, sugarcane and berries.
The ‘four annas’ also made their way idiomatically into language. “To call someone an idiot, we would use the phrase chavanni kam or pavli kam, and ‘teri chavanni gir gayi’ meant ‘you’ve lost your marbles’,” said Gandhi.
For several communities, the chavanni also has auspicious significance. While making offerings to a deity or gifting money on weddings, Gujaratis and Maharashtrians always offer sava rupaya (Rs1.25), considered an auspicious amount because it is more than the round-figure ‘one’.
“Consequently, the Gujarati phrase savayu is used for anything that has the potential to grow,” said Nalinee Madgavkar, 61, a singing teacher from Dadar.
“Now at the temple, we will have no choice but to offer amounts such as Rs11 or 21,” said Shashikala Kamle, 50, a Worli resident.