Porbandar is famous in India as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, whose grandfather, father and uncle had served as Dewan to the rulers of Porbandar. The state was ruled by the Jethwa clan of Rajputs and the ruler was titled ‘Rana’ of Porbandar, who were entitled to an 11-gun salute, among the smaller states of this type. Porbandar lies in the Kathiawar region of present day Gujarat. The state was a coastal strip of land 636 square miles in area, and not wider than 24 miles at any one point.
Porbandar’s population in 1901 was 82,640. Despite its relatively small population, the state had annual revenue of Rs 9.75 lakh – much higher than other states of this size. For instance, Sailana had a population of 25,731 – about one-third of Porbandar, but the revenue was Rs 1.5 lakh, less than one-sixth.
The high revenue was because of ports – due to the coastal location, which imported grain from Karachi, tobacco from Bharuch and sugar from Navsari, and exported limestone to Bombay. Porbandar also had cotton and silk textile industries at that time. Because of the prosperity, even in the early 1900s, Porbandar town had telephone connections and public gardens, while the state had a railway line – later absorbed into the Saurashtra Railway.
The currency of Porbandar was the kori – a silver coin of 4.7 grams. The word ‘Shree Rana’ in Devnagari script is written on the obverse – this was the heriditary title of the rulers. The currencies of nearby maritime states of Kutch, Junagadh and Nawanagar (Jamnagar) were also called ‘kori’. The word for sea-shells, which have been used as currency in the older times, is ‘cowrie’, and it is possible that kori is derived from cowrie. Porbandar’s silver kori coins were minted from 1570 AD to 1890 AD, but carried a frozen date – 978 AH (Islamic calendar). The coins of Nawanagar also had the same frozen year.