The History of the Indian Currency Notes and its Evolution
The origin of the word “Rupee” is from Sanskrit word ‘Rupya’ which means shaped, stamped, impressed or coin and also from the Sanskrit word “raupya” which means silver. The rupee which we keep in our pocket has a strange or perplexing past. There was a long history of struggle, exploration and wealth which can be traced back to the ancient India of the 6th Century BC. In 19th century the Britishers introduced paper money into the subcontinent. The Paper Currency Act of 1861 gave the Government the monopoly of note issued throughout the vast expanse of British India.
Below are the interesting facts about how Indian currency notes have evolved over the ages into the rupee of today.
The earliest issuers of coins in the world are the Ancient Indians along with Chinese and Lydians from the Middle East. The first Indian coins were minted in the 6th Century BC by the Mahajanpadas (the Republic Kingdoms of ancient India) known as Puranas, Karshapanas or Panas.
These coins have irregular shapes, standard weight and are made up of silver with different markings like Saurashtra had a humped bull, Dakshin Panchala had a Swastika and Magadha had several symbols.
Then Mauryas came up with the Punch Marked Coins minting of silver, gold, copper or lead and Indo-Greek Kushan kings introduced the Greek custom of engraving portraits on the coins.
The Turkish Sultans of Delhi had replaced the royal designs of Indian kings with Islamic calligraphy by the 12th Century AD. The currency was made up of Gold, silver and copper known as Tanka and lower valued coin known as Jittals.
The Mughal Empire from 1526 AD consolidated the monetary system for the entire empire. In this era evolution of rupee occurred when Sher Shah Suri defeated Humayun and issued a silver coin of 178 gms known as rupiya and was divided into 40 copper pieces or paisa and during the whole Mughal period silver coin remained in use.
During the British East India Company i.e. 1600, The Mughal currency remained popular but in 1717 AD, Farrukh Siyar the Mughal Emperor gave permission to the Britishers or the English to coin Mughal money at the Bombay mint. Then British gold coins were termed as Carolina, the silver coins as Angelina, the copper coins as cupperoon and the tin coins as tinny.
In the 18th Century, the Bank of Hindostan General Bank in Bengal and the Bengal Bank became the first banks in India to issue paper currency i.e. during this time paper money was first issued in British India.
This is the first note issued by the Bank of Bengal of Two Hundred and Fifty Sicca Rupees note, September 3, 1812.
With the Coinage Act of 1835, uniform coinage throughout the country comes. And in 1858, Mughal empire subsequently ended and British crown gained control over one hundred princely states and so, the images on the coins were replaced by portraits of the Monarch of Great Britain Supremacy.
The king George VI replaced the native designs on banknotes and coins but after the revolt of 1857, he made the Rupee as the official currency of colonial India.
In the honour of Queen Victoria in 1862, series of bank notes and coins were issued with the Victoria portrait.
Finally, the Reserve Bank of India was set up in 1935 and empowered to issue Government of India notes. It had also printed 10,000 rupee notes and was later demonetised after Independence. And the first paper currency issued by RBI was a 5 rupee note bearing King George VI’s portrait, in January 1938.
After gaining Independence in 1947 and in 1950s when India become Republic, India’s modern Rupee reverted back to the design of signature Rupee coin. The symbol chosen for the paper currency was the Lion capital at Sarnath which replaced the George VI series of bank notes. So, the first banknote printed by the Independent India was a 1 rupee note.
Do you know the history of 1 rupee note: One rupee note was issued on 30 November,1917 under the British Raj. During the first world war British domination was there. At that time one rupee coin was a silver coin. But because of the war, condition became worse and one rupee coin of silver was not able to generate. And due to this first time in front of people one rupee note issued and the image of George V was inbuilt in the note. Printed in England this one rupee note value was very less as compared to others.
In 1969 Reserve Bank of India issued the Mahatma Gandhi Birth Centenary Commemorative design series on Rs 5 and Rs 10 notes.
And amazing thing is that the vignette of the Sailing Boat or Dhow remained on the reverse of the Ten Rupees for over 40 years.
In 1959 a special issue of rupees ten and Rupees One Hundred were issued for the Indian Haj Pilgrims so, that they can exchange it with local currency in Saudi Arabia.
Even in 1917-1918 the Nizam of Hyderabad had given the privilege to print and issue their own currency.
In World War I, due to shortage of metal the princely states of Morvi and Dhrangadhra issued currency notes of limited liability known as Harvala.
During World War II also because of shortage of metal, 36 Princely States mainly Gujarat, Rajasthan, Sind, Baluchistan and Central provinces issued paper tokens instead of coins.
Finally, in 1996 The Mahatma Gandhi series of paper notes were introduced.
Always we see the picture of smiling Mahatma Gandhi on our notes which remains same on currency notes. Some says that Picture of Mahatma Gandhi is a drawn caricature but this is not true. Actually in reality this picture was taken by an unknown photographer in 1946 and from there it is cropped and used everywhere. The Picture is given below:
Mahatma Gandhi was standing with next to Lord Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence. He was a great politician and a leader of the woman suffrage movement in Great Britain. This picture was taken at the former Viceroy House, which is at present known as Rashtrapati Bhavan. And this image is used on the Mahatma Gandhi series of bank notes which was introduced by RBI in 1996.
In November 2001, Rs 5 denomination was issued with Mahatma Gandhi image in front and back side of it shows farm mechanization process i.e. the progress through agriculture.
In June 1996, Rs 10 was issued with front image of Gandhi and at reverse it represents the fauna of India which symbolises the biodiversity.
Earlier in 1981, Rs 10 consists of the lion capital our emblem at front of it and at reverse it represents our Indian Art of peacock which is our national bird.
In August 2001, Rs 20 was issued with same front image of Gandhi and at reverse was the image of Palm trees from the Mount Harriet and Port Blair lighthouse as viewed from Megapode Resort, PortBlair.
Earlier in 1983-84, Rs 20 bank note was issued in which at reverse of it consists of the Buddhist wheel.
In March 1997, Rs 50 was issued consisting of Mahatma Gandhi image at front of it and at reverse Indian Parliament.
In June 1996, Rs 100 was issued with front image of Mahatma Gandhi and at reverse of it represents Himalaya Mountains.
In October 1997, Rs 500 was issued at which front image is of Mahatma Gandhi and at reverse of it was the image which represents the Dandi March i.e. Salt Satyagraha which was considered as the wider Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Gandhi Ji on 12 March, 1930 against the British salt domination in India. In which Gandhi Ji and his followers will marched from his Sabarmati Ashram near Ahmedabad to the Dandi, a coastal village in Navsari dist Gujarat and prepared salt without paying tax to the British Government. In this way Salt law was broken by Gandhi on 5th April 1930.
In November 2000, Rs 1000 was issued with the front image of Gandhi and at reverse of it represents the economy of India which has Grain Harvesting i.e. agricultural sector, oil rig; manufacturing sector, Space Satellite dish; Science & research, Metallurgy; Mines & Minerals and a Girl working on a computer; Inclusive Technology.
Source: www upload.wikimedia.org
After 2000, details of Indian Currency Notes are given in the form of table: