All you need to know about Coinage and Currency notes in India:
The history of Indian currency is as old as the Indian Civilisation and belongs to as early as the 6th century BC. Ancient Indians were one among the earlier issuer of the coins along with the Lydian Staters and the Chinese Wen. The ancient, the medieval, the Mughals and the late pre-colonial all used coins as the currency during coinage. The post below will take you through the interesting facts on evolution and transformation of coins and currency notes in India.
Earlier Evolution and Transformation of Coins
• The Mahajanapadas or the Republic kingdoms of ancient India introduced the first “Punch Marked” coins known as Pana, Puranas or Karshapanas in the 6th century BC. These coins were made of silver and were not in any regular shapes. Different kingdoms had different sculptures and symbols inscribed on the coins.
• Post Mahajanapadas era, came the Mauryas. During Mauryan empire, Gold coins were referred as Suvarnarupa, Lead coins as Sisarupa, Copper coins as Tamrarupa and Silver coins as Rupyarupa by Chanakya, the then prime minister of the first Maurya Emperor, Chandragupta Maurya.
• Then came the Indo-Greeks, the Kushans and the Saka-Pahlavas. The coins introduced by them were termed as dynastic coins and belonged to the era between the 2nd century BC & 2nd century AD. Kushan coins represented pictures from Greek, Zoroastrian, Mesopotamian and Indian mythology. Siva, Kartikeya and Buddha were the major Indian deities inscribed on the coins.
• Gupta Coinage followed the Kushans from 4th to 6th century AD. Large numbers of gold coins were issued during the era. These coins depicted the king on one side and a deity on the reverse side.
• Then came the Post-Gupta coinage (from 6th to 12th century AD). During this era, famous dynasties who issued coins included Harsha (7th century AD), Kalachuri of Tripuri (11th century AD) and early medieval Rajputs (9th to 12th century AD).
• The Notable transformation took place when Sher Shah Suri after defeating Humayun introduced a new civic and military administration during his 5-year rule from 1540 to 1545 AD. A silver coin termed as “Rupiya” was issued by Sher Shah Suri during his rule. The weight of the coin was 178 grains and was split into 40 copper pieces or paisa. It remained in usage during the Mughal period, the Maratha era and during the presence of British India as well. Along with silver “Rupiya”, gold coins (termed as “Mohur”) weighing 169 grains and copper coins termed as “Dam” were also issued.
• In 1600s the British East India Company was set up in India and Britishers wanted to introduce the sterling pound in the country. But, could not succeed due to the growing popularity of the ” Rupiya”. In 1717 AD, after getting the nod from the Mughal emperor Farrukh Siya, the Britishers began to coin Mughal money at the Mumbai mint. During the era, British gold coins were termed as Carolina, copper coins as Cupperoon, silver coins as Anglina and tin coins were named as Tinny.
• Later on, the uniform coinage system was introduced in India as per the Coinage Act of 1835. The new coins had the sculpture of William IV on the face of the coin and the denomination on the flip side in Persian and English. The coins issued after 1840 had the portrait of Queen Victoria.
• In 1911, post accession to the throne of the King-Emperor George V, famous “pig rupee” came into existence. The coin had portrayed the king wearing a chain of the order of the Indian Elephant. But, due to the poor impression, the elephant appeared like a pig. Later on, the image has to be redesigned.
Impact of World War I & II:
During First World War, the silver coins of smaller denominations were issued in cupro-nickel due to the shortage of silver. Also, this led to the launch of the currency notes of One rupee and Two and a half rupees. The Second World War resulted in the replacement of the standard rupee by the “Quaternary Silver Alloy”. These coins were introduced in 1940 and later in 1947 pure Nickel coins fully replaced them.
Post Independence Era:
• The British coinage continued after the independence with one rupee consisting of 192 Pies/64 Pice/16 Annas. The first coinage of the Republic India was introduced on August 15, 1950 with the launch of “Anna Series”.
• The Ashoka’s Lion Capital replaced the King’s Portrait and the Tiger was replaced by the corn sheaf on the one rupee coin.
• Later in 1957, “Decimal” series was introduced as per the 1955 Indian Coinage (Amendment) Act. The act came into effect from April 01, 1957. The rupee was now split into 100 Paisa replacing the 64 Pice or 16 Annas.
• The “Naya Paisa” series coins were then introduced in 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 & 50 paise denominations. Both the “Naya Paisa” and the “Anna” Series was valid for some time. However, in 1964 the “Naya Paisa ” coins were renamed to “Paisa”.
• 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20 and 25 paise coins were in circulation until June 30, 2011, and are no longer in operation. However, 50 paise coins along with 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupee coins are still in circulation. 50 paise coins are called as “Small coins” while the other denominations are termed as “Rupee coins”.
• To celebrate the hosting of 2010 Commonwealth games, commemorative coins of Rs. 2 and Rs. 5 were introduced bearing the logo of the games on one side of the coin and the three lions from the pillar of Ashoka on the other side.
• Also, in 2010, the new rupee symbol (₹) was adopted in India with the new coins launched since 2011 bearing the (₹) symbol. Since then, several other commemorative coins have been launched.
Due to the rise in the commodity prices during the 1960s, small denominations coins made of nickel-brass, aluminium-bronze, bronze and cupro-nickel were replaced by aluminium coins. This resonance resulted in the introduction of the new hexagonal 3 paise coin. In 1968, 20 paise coin was also introduced. Later on, as a result of cost-benefits considerations, 1, 2 and 3 paise coins were discontinued in 1970. In 1988, stainless steel coins of 10, 20 and 50 paise and in 1992, one rupee coin were introduced. In the 1990s, coins with Rs. 1, Rs. 2 and Rs. 5 denominations were introduced.
Evolution and Transformation of Currency notes/Paper money
Currency in paper form was first introduced in the late 18th century during British India rule. General Bank in Bengal, the Bengal Bank and the Bank of Hindostan were the first banks to have issued paper currency. In 1862, the first set of notes introduced in India was the Victoria portrait series notes. These notes were later replaced by the Under print series in 1867.
On April 01, 1935, the Reserve Bank of India was formally set up and authorised to issue Government of India notes. The first currency note issued by RBI was a Rs. 5 denomination note portraying the picture of King George VI in 1938. Later on, RBI released Rs. 10, Rs. 100, Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 10,000 notes in the same year.
Post Independence Era:
• The first currency note printed by RBI after independence was a one rupee note in 1949. The Lion Capital of Ashoka Pillar replaced the King’s portrait in the watermark window. In 1951, Hindi was printed for the first time on the new notes.
• In 1996, the “Mahatma Gandhi Series” notes were introduced. Later in 2005 this series was replaced by the “MG Series” notes which had security features such as security threads, intaglio printing, see through register, electrotype watermark, optically variable ink, fluorescence, latent images and micro letterings.
• As of September 21, 2016, Rs. 10,000 is the highest denomination note printed by RBI. Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 10,000 denomination notes were in circulation between 1938 and 1946 but were demonetized in 1946. These notes along with Rs. 5,000 were re-launched in 1954 but were again demonetized in 1978.
• Bank notes currently in circulation are in the denominations of Rs. 5, Rs. 10, Rs. 20, Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000. Rs. 1 and Rs. 2 notes are also in circulation.
Image Source: Reserve Bank of India & Wikipedia