Rupee, the currency of India, is issued, managed and regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. The word ‘rupee’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Rupya’ or ‘Rupayakam’ that means silver coin. It was first issued in the 1540s by Sher Shah Suri. The currency notes are printed depending on the economic growth and notes requirements. Ancient India was one of the first issuers of coins in the world and the historical rupee was a silver coin. The rupee has evolved over the centuries to current date currency that includes one, two, five and ten rupee coins with the lowest value note being that of one-rupee. Let us see some of the most interesting historical facts about the rupee.
In 1837, the Indian rupee was declared as the official currency in the Straits Settlements as it was a part of the British India. This attempt was opposed by the locals and the Spanish dollar continued circulating. The administration of the Straits Settlements was finally separated from India and the Straits dollar was made its official currency.
The Pakistani rupee came into existence after the partition of India with overstamping of the Indian currency notes with ‘Pakistan’. The Indian rupee was used as the official currency of countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Aden, Kuwait, Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius and others. The government of India introduced the Gulf Rupee to be used in other countries as an attempt to reduce the strain on India’s foreign reserves. These countries later replaced the Gulf Rupee with their own currencies. The Indian rupee is still accepted in Bhutan and Nepal except the banknotes of 500 and 1000. Apart from these two countries, Zimbabwe also accepts Indian currency as legal tender.
It was in the 18th century that the process of issuing paper currency began. The first ever paper money started printing by private banks like the Bank of Bombay, Bank of Hindustan, Bank of Madras and Bank of Bengal. The government of India got the monopoly of printing the currency after the 1861 Act of Paper Currency.
The highest value Indian currency note ever introduced by the Reserve Bank of India was 10,000 rupees. It was introduced in 1938 and discontinued in 1946. The RBI reintroduced 1000, 5000 and 10,000 rupee notes in 1954 but all these high-value banknotes were finally demonetized in the year 1978.
According to the current provisions of the 1934 RBI Act, the bank can issue notes in the denominations that the government specifies. But no banknotes can be issued in denominations higher than 10,000.
Denomination of the note is printed in Hindi and English on the banknote. 15 other languages appear in the panel of banknotes to be used for printing the value of the currency note on the reverse side. These official state languages include Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Urdu, Telugu, Kashmiri, Kannada, Marathi, Nepali, Tamil, Assamese, Konkani and Oriya.
The former symbol of the Indian currency was ‘Rs.’ It got a new symbol in 2010 designed by D. Udaya Kumar. This symbol ‘ र’ is derived from the Devanagari script and is a combination of the Latin and Devanagari letters. It contains a parallel line that is drawn in such a way that it resembles the tricolor of the Indian national flag.
To help visually impaired people identify the denomination of the note, there are identification marks on the left side of the notes in the form of diamond in 1000 rupee note, circle in 500 rupee note and triangle in 100 rupee note. Identification marks are made by creating angular bleed lines with raised inks on new currency notes to help the blind. The new notes of 100 rupees have 4 bleed lines, the 500-rupee new notes have 5 bleed lines while the 2000 note has 7 bleed lines.
Currency notes are printed at four different presses located in Mysore, Nashik, Dewas and Salboni. Coins are minted at mints situated in Kolkata, Mumbai, Noida and Hyderabad.
The present series of currency notes are known as the Mahatma Gandhi series. This series was introduced in 1996.
The paper currency notes of Indian rupee are made using cotton and cotton rag. It is not paper but looks like and has a feel of paper.
The government of India issues commemorative coins on various occasions. After independence, the government minted coins imprinted with various historical and religious figures and Indian statesmen. It was in 2010 and 2011 that India first minted coins of value 75, 100 and 1000 to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of the Reserve Bank of India, the 150 year anniversary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore and 1000-year anniversary of the Brihadeeswarar Temple. A 100 rupee coin was minted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gandhiji’s return to India. A 60 rupee coin was issued in 2012 to commemorate 60 years of the Government of India Mint. In 2015, commemorative coins of value 125 were introduced to honour the birth anniversaries of B.R. Ambedkar and Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.