Contemporary Banknotes of India

Since the beginning of mankind, trading has been one of the most vital daily activities for man in order to sustain an individual’s survival. As no individual person is able to produce everything that he or she requires or desires, trading has become indispensable in overcoming this individual limitation. What one person possesses in excess may be what another person requires very badly. So, trading occurs to enable the first person to get rid of his excess stuff and to allow the second person to fulfill his necessities.

However, how is it possible to accurately determine the value of a particular stuff? How many eggs are equivalent in value to a goat? Here’s where currencies come into play in helping to determine the value of any object more accurately. Throughout history, currencies have existed in many different forms, ranging from simple objects such as sea shells, barley and salt to more valuable pieces of coins made from gold, silver, copper and other precious metals. However, in our modern society, currencies exist principally in two distinct forms, namely coins and banknotes.

Alright, enough of the trivial information about money’s history! Let us now focus on the main topic of this article, that is the banknotes currently utilized in the land of cultural wonders – India.

The official currency of India is known as the rupee, commonly represented as Rs. The word ‘rupee’ originated from the Sanskrit word ‘rupyah’, which means ‘wrought silver.’ Consequently, the Sanskrit word ‘rupyakam’ was derived, which means ‘coin of silver.’ During the reign of Emperor Sher Shah Suri in North India from 1540 to 1545, the term ‘rupiya’ was coined and used to refer to the silver coins utilized during that era. These silver coins were continually used in the following centuries, even during the time when the British colonized and administrated India. As time passed since the initial usage of the term ‘rupiya’, this word eventually came to be known as ‘rupee’, which was then used to generally refer to the currency used throughout the land of India.

Despite the fact that the Indian currency is officially and most commonly known as ‘rupee’, it also has various names in different regions of India, where different Indian languages are spoken. For example, the rupee is known as ‘rupaya’ in Hindi, ‘roopayi’ in Telugu and Kannada, ‘rubai’ in Tamil, ‘roopa’ in Malayalam, ‘taka’ in Bengali, ‘toka’ in Assamese and ‘tongka’ in Oriya.

One rupee is subdivided into a hundred paise (singular: paisa). The sole authorized issuer of the Indian rupee is the Reserve Bank of India, of which its headquarters is situated in the Indian financial city of Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Headquarters of the Reserve Bank of India in Mumbai, Maharashtra

As and when this article was written, there have been four consecutive series of rupee banknotes produced by the Reserve Bank of India since India attained independence from the British in 1947. The latest series, which is also the fourth series of the rupee banknotes, is currently legal tender in all states throughout India. Introduced since 1996, the fourth series is also known as the Mahatma Gandhi series due to the fact that all the banknotes of this series have the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi portrayed on the obverse (front) side.

In this article, I will be giving you a walkthrough on the fourth series of the Indian rupee banknotes, which is also known as the Mahatma Gandhi series and is currently legal tender throughout India. Together with each banknote, I will be providing some brief information on the inscriptions and images that are portrayed on the banknotes.

Before I proceed further into the banknotes, let me first point out to you some essential information pertaining to the inscriptions found on the rupee banknotes.

Look at the obverse side of the banknote above. As you can see, the phrase ‘Reserve Bank of India’ is inscribed in both English and Hindi, which are the two official languages of India. Boxed in blue and labeled ‘EN’ is the phrase ‘Reserve Bank of India’ in English, whereas boxed in yellow and labeled ‘HI’ is the same phrase written in Hindi (भारतीय रिज़र्व बैंक, bhaaratiiy rijrv baink). Circled in red and labeled ‘HI’ is the amount of the banknote inscribed in Hindi, which in this case is ‘five rupees’ (पांच रूपया, paanch roopayaa).

Observe the reverse (back) side of this rupee banknote now. The portion of the banknote which is boxed in white is enlarged as shown above. On the reverse side, the amount of the banknote is inscribed in 15 other Indian languages. Hence, in this case, the phrase ‘ten rupees’ is inscribed in 15 languages on the reverse side. From top to bottom, the languages inscribed are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. In addition to that, the banknote’s amount is written in English at the bottom right corner of the banknote.

Therefore, on every banknote of the Mahatma Gandhi series, the value of the banknote is denoted in Hindi on the obverse side, while on the reverse side, it is denoted in the 15 other Indian languages which I’ve mentioned just now, in addition to English. This reflects the lingual diversity found throughout India.

This is the 5 rupees, or Rs. 5 banknote. On the obverse side, one can see the portrait of the revered and renowned independence leader of India, Mahatma Gandhi. At the bottom left corner of the banknote, one can see the National Emblem of India, which is adapted from the Lion Capital of Asoka.

A familiar face and household name to many, Mahatma Gandhi is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest and most revered leaders. His real name is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, while the honorific title ‘Mahatma’, which means ‘The Great Soul’, was given to him by a famous Indian laureate. Mahatma Gandhi is famed for his principle of satyagraha (opposition against tyranny through mass civil disobedience and non-violence) in fighting for India’s independence from the British. Being the eminent leader of the Indian National Congress and a modest village peasant at the same time, Mahatma Gandhi endeavoured to bridge religious gaps between the different religions existing in India, eliminate poverty, eradicate the discriminative caste system and promote women’s rights. His efforts based on satyagraha culminated with India achieving independence from the British in 1947.

The National Emblem of India is adapted from the Lion Capital of Asoka. The Lion Capital of Asoka is a unique stone sculpture of four Indian lions standing back to back, with all their backs facing the centre of the sculpture and the faces of the lions facing four separate directions. It was once placed on the Asoka Pillar at Sarnath in the state of Uttar Pradesh but it has now been moved to the Sarnath Museum. The Lion Capital of Asoka, as the name suggests, was sculpted and erected under the rule of King Asoka the Great who ruled almost all of present-day India from 273 BC to 232 BC. King Asoka, a great Buddhist emperor of India from the Maurya Dynasty, is frequently recognized not only as one of India’s greatest emperors, but also as one of the world’s most prominent rulers.

Below the Lion Capital of Asoka on the National Emblem, the inscription “Satyameva Jayate” (सत्यमेव जयते) is written. “Satyameva Jayate”, which is the national motto of India, literally means “Truth Alone Triumphs” in Sanskrit.

The reverse side of the Rs. 5 banknote depicts the image of a farmer operating a tractor on a farm, with the sun at its background.

National Emblem of India, adapted from the Lion Capital of Asoka

This is the 10 rupees, or Rs. 10 banknote. The obverse side displays the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi and the National Emblem of India as well.

The reverse side displays the pictures of a rhinoceros, a tiger and an elephant. The Indian rhinoceros, which is also known as the great one-horned rhinoceros, is primarily found in the northeastern region of India and Nepal, particularly at the foothills of the Himalayas. Scientifically known as Rhinoceros unicornis, this species of rhinoceros is at the brink of extinction due to excessive and unscrupulous poaching.

Amongst all species of tigers, the species most commonly found in India and Bangladesh is the Bengal tiger. Alongside the Asiatic lion and the Indian leopard, the Bengal tiger is one of the three major ‘big cats’ found in the land of India. Scientifically known as Panthera tigris tigris, Bengal tigers nowadays are highly vulnerable to extinction as well due to increasing destruction of their natural habitats.

Within Indian culture and history, elephants have been widely used for many purposes, ranging from transportation of logs and goods to religious processions and the procession of great Indian rulers. The Indian elephant, which is also known by its scientific name Elephas maximus indicus, is predominantly found in India. Nevertheless, in this modern era, the Indian elephant population is being threatened due to dwindling numbers of this species as a result of widespread poaching and incessant destruction of their natural habitats.

This is the 20 rupees banknote, equivalent in value to Rs. 20. Once again, the obverse side portrays images of Mahatma Gandhi and the National Emblem of India.

The reverse side, on the other hand, portrays a picturesque scenery of beautiful palm trees lining the seaside. In various parts of India, especially in the southern regions, palm trees are very commonly found beautifully lining the seashores. Such seashores prove to be popular and attractive spots for both locals and tourists alike.

This is the 50 rupees banknote, equal in value to Rs. 50. Needless to say, the obverse side shows images of Mahatma Gandhi and the National Emblem of India.

On the reverse side, you can see a picture of the Parliament of India. The Parliament of India, located in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is the sole supreme legislative entity at the federal level of governance. It is also known as ‘Sansad’, which means ‘House’ in Sanskrit. The Parliament of India comprises of three components, namely the office of the President of India (the head of state of India), the lower house (Lok Sabha) and the upper house (Rajya Sabha).

India, being the second largest nation in terms of population size, is also presently the world’s largest democratic nation. This is so because China, which is the world’s most populous country, does not practice absolute democracy in its administration and as such, is not recognized as a democratic nation. Hence, the Parliament of India stands as a symbol of the people’s power in the world’s largest democracy. This is seen in the parliamentary system where members of the Lok Sabha, or the lower house of parliament, are directly elected by the general electorate of India. With that, the Lok Sabha is also known as the House of the People according to the Constitution of India.

The Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, is the upper house of the Parliament of India. Known also as the Council of States, it has a limited membership of 250 people, of which all of its members except for 12 are chosen by the respective legislatures of each state and territory throughout India. The remaining 12 members, however, are selected by the President of India based on their expertise in specific areas and disciplines.

This is the 100 rupees, or Rs. 100 banknote. Needless to mention, once again, that Mahatma Gandhi and the National Emblem of India are portrayed on the obverse side.

This time, an image of the Himalaya Mountains is portrayed on the reverse side of the banknote. The Himalayas is a long and extensive mountain range in the central region of Asia, being the home to some of the world’s highest mountains. In fact, two of the planet’s highest peaks, namely Mount Everest and Mount K2, stand majestically within the Himalayas.

The Himalaya range runs across six different countries, which are Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. As far as India is concerned, the Himalaya range stretches across the northern and northeastern region of the country. Three of India’s main rivers, which are the Indus River, the Brahmaputra River and the Ganges River, source directly from the Himalayas. In terms of religion, this majestic mountain range is considered to be sacred to both Hinduism and Buddhism, whereby numerous temples and shrines of both religions have been constructed at various spots throughout the said range. Literature-wise, the Himalayas has also been one of the ultimate sources of inspiration for many poems and epics in the Indian culture.

Now, this is the 500 rupees banknote, equivalent to Rs. 500. Do I have to mention what’s on the obverse side again?

Observe the reverse side and you’ll see an image of Mahatma Gandhi leading a long procession. This, actually, is the well-known Salt March, which is also known as the Salt Satyagraha. Basically, the ultimate aim of the Salt March was to peacefully and non-violently oppose the system of salt taxation imposed by the British ruling India.

Led by Mahatma Gandhi and later on Sarojini Naidu as well, the Salt March commenced on the 12th of March, 1930 from Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi’s humble abode situated in Ahmadabad, Gujarat. The long procession that Gandhi led marched all the way until they reached the seaside village of Dandi, Gujarat on the 5th of April, 1930. The Salt March came to its peak the following day when Gandhi publicly and proudly produced salt from seawater without paying taxes to the British, which was a clear-cut act of breaking the British laws governing salt production at that time. This event consequently brought about mass civil disobedience against the British salt laws when Indians all over the country started following Gandhi’s example and manufactured their own salt without paying taxes to the British.

Actually, the entire event of the Salt March led by Mahatma Gandhi promises a rather interesting story in itself. Think about it. While many other nations of the world at that time used various deadly weapons to fight for their independence, Gandhi chose to use salt as a ‘weapon’ against the British to fight for India’s independence. Of all things, why would he use SALT??? If you’d like to find out more, feel free to read another article of mine in this blog entitled “The Salt March – the March towards Independence.”

Lastly, this is the 1000 rupees, or Rs. 1000 banknote. By now, you’d be able to tell me what the images that appear on the obverse side are.

The reverse side of the banknote generally illustrates the current economy of India. The economy of India is said to be presently the twelfth largest economy worldwide in terms of market exchange rates. It, however, is also considered to be one of the currently fastest growing economies in the world. As a matter of fact, in recent years, the Indian economy has experienced a rapid and tremendous boom, effectively transforming it into one of the world’s economic superpowers. In contrast to this, the Indian economy was characterized by poor and inefficient growth from the 1950s to the 1980s, when extensive regulation and public ownership of the economy prevailed.

Currently, agriculture forms the main backbone of employment for the people of India. Nevertheless, this sector also contributes the least to India’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Common agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, tea, fish, poultry, cattle and sheep.

India also possesses flourishing industries which majorly contribute to its rapid and effective economic growth. Besides being famed for its recent spurt of growth in the information technology (IT) and software development industries, the nation is also involved in many other fast-growing industries. Among these industries are food processing, chemicals, textiles, petroleum, mining, machinery and transportation equipment.

Many a times, we tend to take the banknotes in our pockets for granted, since we use them so frequently in our daily lives. So, if you have some Indian rupee banknotes or any other banknotes in your pocket right now, try taking them out and spend some time scrutinizing them carefully, from front to back. You’ll be surprised at how much you can actually learn about a country just by looking at its banknotes.

1 comment:

  1. These is critical information that all of us should know about notes of India.. thanks for sharing..

    Old notes of India