Curious Case of The One Rupee: Why It’s in Your ‘Shagun’ Envelope
Photo: Flickr/Pushp Deep Pandey
Photo: Flickr/Pushp Deep Pandey

Curious Case of The One Rupee: Why It’s in Your ‘Shagun’ Envelope

As uncommon as it may be, sometimes tradition and banking do come together, making for a delightful page in the book of economic anthropology.

The Reserve Bank Of India plans to put one rupee notes back in circulation, after a gap of 21 years. Printing of Re 1 note was stopped in November 1994 due to the high cost of printing and to free printing capacity for currency notes of higher denomination.

Photo: Flickr/Miran Rijavec
Photo: Flickr/Miran Rijavec

Auspicious

But rupee one was never gone – it was always part of every shagun at every domestic ritual, big or small - sharing space with the bigger 100, 500, and 1,000 rupee notes. Also contributing to the design of the now fashionable shagun envelope.

Money as a token gift, is a must do at most occasions, and it is considered auspicious for the amount gifted, to end in one. It is a blessing for some, and the beginning of a new stage of life for others.

Indivisible

The Guardian reports that because the number one is indivisible, it is seen as a befittingly permanent blessing for the person receiving the shagun.

The ‘Debt’ of Continuity

Another theory goes - an amount that ends in zero suggests the end of a transaction. But the additional rupee connotes continuity and the hope of future exchanges. Here’s how - the lone rupee is a symbolic sign of debt to the receiver. On future social and religious occasions the receiver is expected to attend and return the shagun, complete with the outstanding Rs 1 ‘loan’.

Photo: Flickr/manumint
Photo: Flickr/manumint

Good Karma or Seed Money

Another tale is that the while the bigger amount of the shagun, (i.e. the 500 rupees in a Rs 501 shagun) is for spending, the additional rupee is to be wisely invested, or given in charity, to attract more wealth, or good karma – whatever your priorities are.

But The Coin Stays Too

While the one rupee notes may make a comeback, make no mistake that the rupee coins too are here to stay. Metal, or dhatu comes from the earth and is a form of Lakshmi. And it has always been considered very auspicious to slip in some ‘metal’ rather than ‘paper’ in this game of shagun exchanges.

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