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Explained | The History and Evolution Of The Rupee From Independence to 2022

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

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On Wednesday, 26 October, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal issued a plea to the Centre to add "photos of deities Ganesha and Lakshmi" as a part of efforts to revive the Indian economy.

Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party's plea to add Hindu religious imagery to India's currency was met with the ruling BJP attempting to reinforce Kejriwal as "anti-Hindu"(by spokesperson Sambit Patra) and simultaneously a "Hindu bigot" (by BJP IT Cell Chief Amit Malviya).

The Congress's Manish Tewari asked why not opt for images of Dr. Ambedkar along with Gandhi, as opposed to Hindu gods along with Gandhi.

While this drama continues over adding Hindu deities to the Indian currency, ahead of the 2022 Gujarat elections no less, we took a look at how the Indian rupee note has evolved over the years.

What religious images, if any, were printed on rupee notes in the past? When was Gandhi's image added? And how has the rupee note evolved since India became independent of British rule?

Explained | The History and Evolution Of The Rupee From Independence to 2022

  1. 1. 1949: Independent India and The Design of The New Rupee Note

    At midnight on 15 August, 1947, India became independent of colonial British rule. At the time, the Indian rupee was on par with the American dollar, since it was still tied to the British pound India also had a clean balance sheet, devoid of foreign borrowings.

    In the words of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), "the transition of currency management from colonial to independent India was a reasonably smooth affair."

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    Pre-independence Indian rupee notes carried photos of George VI, the then-British king.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    But the need for a new currency note was sorely felt since the notes in existence still carried an image of the king of Britain, George VI. By default, since India was a British colony, George VI was also the Emperor of India.

    In the period between India attaining independence and India becoming a republic, the RBI would continue issuing the existing notes which carried George VI's image.

    In 1949, a year before India became a republic, the Government of India released a new design for the 1 rupee note.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The newly designed 1 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1949.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    While the need to replace George's image was uniformly agreed upon, the imagery to replace him was contested. While initial suggestions leaned towards replacing George's image with that of Gandhi, in the end, the RBI settled on an image of the Ashoka pillar AKA the Lion Capital at Sarnath.

    Expand
  2. 2. 1950-1975: The Evolution Of The Indian Rupee Note

    Before we proceed further about how the rupee's design evolved, let's clear one thing up.

    The only body authorized to issue bank notes in India is the RBI, under Section 22 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

    Section 25 of the act also adds that the design, form, and material of these bank notes will only be those approved by the Central Government after consideration with the RBI's Central Board.

    With that said, onwards.

    In 1950, the Indian Republic issued its first bank notes in denominations of Rs. 2, 5, 10, and 100, in different colours and designs. The 1950 series of denominations carried images of bucks, elephants, tigers, gazelles, and other local fauna on their backs.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The 5 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1950.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The 10 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1950.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The 100 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1950.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    In 1953, the decision to prominently display hindi text on currency notes was implemented, with the RBI settling on the recommendation that the plural of 'rupaya' would be 'rupiye'.

    In 1954 the RBI issued high value rupee notes of Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000, and Rs 10,000, which carried images of prominent landmarks like the Tanjore Temple, the Gateway of India, and the Sarnath Ashoka Pillar respectively.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The Rs.1,000 note with an image of the Tanjore Temple.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The Rs.5,000 note with an image of the Gateway of India.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The Rs.10,000 note with an image of the Sarnath Ashoka Pillar.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    Expand
  3. 3. 1980 - 1995: Changes To Include Gandhi & Scientific Excellence

    While most of us living in 2022 expect to see Gandhi on the Indian currency note, his inclusion wasn't always the norm.

    In 1969, the RBI released a commemorative design series to honour the 100-year birth anniversary of Gandhi - which depicted Gandhi seated in front of the Sevagram Ashram in Maharashtra.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The Centenary Series issued in 1969 to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    In 1980, the design of Indian rupee notes changed to include more of the country's scientific achievements and progress. This included symbols of Aryabhatta, India's first satellite, images of the Sagar Samrat oil rig, which was the first Indian oil rig to drill offshore in 1974.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The 1980 series of notes with an image of the Sagar Samrat oil rig.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The 1980 series of notes with an image of Aryabhatta, India's first satellite.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The 1980 series of notes with an image of the Hirakud Dam.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    It also included images of the Hirakud dam and of the progress of farm mechanisation.

    The smaller denomination notes as well changed to include more Indian imagery like the Konark Wheel, Shalimar gardens, the peacock(India's national bird), and more.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The 1980 series of notes with an image of a peacock, India's National Bird.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    The Rs. 500 note was introduced in 1987, becoming the first official recurring currency that carried Gandhi's image.

    Expand
  4. 4. 1996-2016: The Introduction Of The Gandhi Series of Notes

    The official series of currency notes carrying Gandhi's image were issued in 1996, with a range of improved security features including a new water mark, intaglio features for the blind, windowed security threads, and a latent image.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The now-demonetised Rs.500 currency note.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The now-demonetised Rs.1000 currency note.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    Four years after this, in October and November 2000, the RBI issued notes of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 with the upgraded security features and images of Gandhi.

    The notes in the Gandhi series also carried images of the Himalayas, of Parliament, of farm mechanisation, as well as animals like the elephant and the tiger, on their backs.

    In 2005, the security features on these notes were upgraded to include features like wide colour shifting machine-readable magnetic windowed security threads and numeric back-to-back registrations as an identifier on individual notes.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    The Rs. 1 note was reintroduced by the Government of India in 2015.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    In 2011, the decision was made to add the newly introduced Rupee symbol (₹) to all future currency notes.

    In 2015, the government reintroduced Rs. 1 notes, but the largest economic reforms to affect India would be enacted in November 2016, when notes of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 were demonetised and their status as legal tender was nullified.

    Soon after, the government also introduced notes of Rs.2000 and Rs.200, in the Gandhi series of notes.

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    Rs. 200 notes were introduced in the Gandhi series in 2017.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

    Rs. 2000 notes were introduced in the Gandhi series in 2016.

    (Photo courtesy: RBI)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

1949: Independent India and The Design of The New Rupee Note

At midnight on 15 August, 1947, India became independent of colonial British rule. At the time, the Indian rupee was on par with the American dollar, since it was still tied to the British pound India also had a clean balance sheet, devoid of foreign borrowings.

In the words of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), "the transition of currency management from colonial to independent India was a reasonably smooth affair."

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

Pre-independence Indian rupee notes carried photos of George VI, the then-British king.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

But the need for a new currency note was sorely felt since the notes in existence still carried an image of the king of Britain, George VI. By default, since India was a British colony, George VI was also the Emperor of India.

In the period between India attaining independence and India becoming a republic, the RBI would continue issuing the existing notes which carried George VI's image.

In 1949, a year before India became a republic, the Government of India released a new design for the 1 rupee note.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The newly designed 1 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1949.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

While the need to replace George's image was uniformly agreed upon, the imagery to replace him was contested. While initial suggestions leaned towards replacing George's image with that of Gandhi, in the end, the RBI settled on an image of the Ashoka pillar AKA the Lion Capital at Sarnath.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

1950-1975: The Evolution Of The Indian Rupee Note

Before we proceed further about how the rupee's design evolved, let's clear one thing up.

The only body authorized to issue bank notes in India is the RBI, under Section 22 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

Section 25 of the act also adds that the design, form, and material of these bank notes will only be those approved by the Central Government after consideration with the RBI's Central Board.

With that said, onwards.

In 1950, the Indian Republic issued its first bank notes in denominations of Rs. 2, 5, 10, and 100, in different colours and designs. The 1950 series of denominations carried images of bucks, elephants, tigers, gazelles, and other local fauna on their backs.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The 5 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1950.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The 10 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1950.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The 100 rupee note issued by the RBI in 1950.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

In 1953, the decision to prominently display hindi text on currency notes was implemented, with the RBI settling on the recommendation that the plural of 'rupaya' would be 'rupiye'.

In 1954 the RBI issued high value rupee notes of Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000, and Rs 10,000, which carried images of prominent landmarks like the Tanjore Temple, the Gateway of India, and the Sarnath Ashoka Pillar respectively.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The Rs.1,000 note with an image of the Tanjore Temple.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The Rs.5,000 note with an image of the Gateway of India.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The Rs.10,000 note with an image of the Sarnath Ashoka Pillar.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

0

1980 - 1995: Changes To Include Gandhi & Scientific Excellence

While most of us living in 2022 expect to see Gandhi on the Indian currency note, his inclusion wasn't always the norm.

In 1969, the RBI released a commemorative design series to honour the 100-year birth anniversary of Gandhi - which depicted Gandhi seated in front of the Sevagram Ashram in Maharashtra.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The Centenary Series issued in 1969 to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

In 1980, the design of Indian rupee notes changed to include more of the country's scientific achievements and progress. This included symbols of Aryabhatta, India's first satellite, images of the Sagar Samrat oil rig, which was the first Indian oil rig to drill offshore in 1974.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The 1980 series of notes with an image of the Sagar Samrat oil rig.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The 1980 series of notes with an image of Aryabhatta, India's first satellite.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The 1980 series of notes with an image of the Hirakud Dam.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

It also included images of the Hirakud dam and of the progress of farm mechanisation.

The smaller denomination notes as well changed to include more Indian imagery like the Konark Wheel, Shalimar gardens, the peacock(India's national bird), and more.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The 1980 series of notes with an image of a peacock, India's National Bird.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

The Rs. 500 note was introduced in 1987, becoming the first official recurring currency that carried Gandhi's image.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

1996-2016: The Introduction Of The Gandhi Series of Notes

The official series of currency notes carrying Gandhi's image were issued in 1996, with a range of improved security features including a new water mark, intaglio features for the blind, windowed security threads, and a latent image.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The now-demonetised Rs.500 currency note.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The now-demonetised Rs.1000 currency note.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

Four years after this, in October and November 2000, the RBI issued notes of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 with the upgraded security features and images of Gandhi.

The notes in the Gandhi series also carried images of the Himalayas, of Parliament, of farm mechanisation, as well as animals like the elephant and the tiger, on their backs.

In 2005, the security features on these notes were upgraded to include features like wide colour shifting machine-readable magnetic windowed security threads and numeric back-to-back registrations as an identifier on individual notes.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

The Rs. 1 note was reintroduced by the Government of India in 2015.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

In 2011, the decision was made to add the newly introduced Rupee symbol (₹) to all future currency notes.

In 2015, the government reintroduced Rs. 1 notes, but the largest economic reforms to affect India would be enacted in November 2016, when notes of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 were demonetised and their status as legal tender was nullified.

Soon after, the government also introduced notes of Rs.2000 and Rs.200, in the Gandhi series of notes.

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

Rs. 200 notes were introduced in the Gandhi series in 2017.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

How has the rupee note's design evolved over the past 75 years? Here, we trace the note's legacy.

Rs. 2000 notes were introduced in the Gandhi series in 2016.

(Photo courtesy: RBI)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Rupee   Kejriwal   Centre 

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