Manish Desai writes: July 15, 2010 turned out to be a historic day, as the Indian Rupee got the much awaited symbol, just like other leading currencies of the world viz – Dollar, Euro, Pound Sterling and the Yen. The new symbol is an amalgamation of Devanagari –‘Ra’ and the Roman ‘R’ without the stem. Till now, the rupee was written in various abbreviated forms in different languages.
The new symbol designed by IIT Bombay post-graduate Shri D.Udaya Kumar, was approved by the Union Cabinet on July 15. “It’s a big statement on the Indian currency… The symbol would lend a distinctive character and identity to the currency and further highlight the strength and global face of the Indian economy,” said Information and Broadcasting Minister Smt. Ambika Soni, while briefing the media on the Cabinet decision.
The new symbol will not be printed or embossed on currency notes or coins, but it would be included in the ‘Unicode Standard’ to ensure that it is easily displayed and printed in the electronic and print media. The encoding of the rupee symbol in the Indian Standards is estimated to take about six months while encoding in the Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646 will take about 18 months to two years. It will also be incorporated in software packages and keyboards in use in India .
On March 5, 2009 the Government announced a contest to create a symbol for the Rupee, inviting entries for the symbol, which would reflect and capture the Indian ethos and culture. Over 3000 entries were received, which were evaluated by a Jury headed by the Deputy Governor, RBI, which also included experts from three reputed art and design institutes. The Jury selected five entries and also gave its evaluation of these five entries to the Government to take a final decision.
Shri Udaya Kumar’s entry was the ‘Best of Five’. He will get an award of Rs. 2.5 lakh and more than that an incredible fame, as the designer of the Rupee symbol. ” My design is a perfect blend of Indian and Roman letters — capital ‘R’ and Devanagri ‘Ra’ which represents rupaiah, to appeal to international and Indian audiences… It is based on the tricolour, with two lines at the top and white space in between,” a visibly-happy Kumar said.
The genesis of the word ‘rupee’ is in the Sanskrit word ‘raupya’ which means silver. Indian Rupee is variously called ‘rupaya’ in Hindi, ‘rupiyo’ in Gujarati, ‘roopayi’ in Telugu and Kannada, ‘rubai’ in Tamil and ‘rupyakam’ in Sanskrit. However in Eastern India it is called ‘Taka/Toka’ in Bengali and Assamese and ‘Tanka’ in Oriya.
India was one of the earliest issuers of coin, and as a result it has seen a wide range of monetary units throughout its history. There is some historical evidence to show that the first coins may have been introduced somewhere between 2500 and 1750 BC. However, the first documented coins date from between the 7th/6th century BC to the 1st century AD. These coins are called ‘punch-marked’ coins because of their manufacturing technique.
Over the next few centuries, as traditions developed and empires rose and fell, the country’s coinage designs reflected its progression and often depicted dynasties, socio-political events, deities, and nature. This included dynastic coins, representing Greek Gods of the Indo-Greek period followed by the Western Kshatrapa copper coins from between the 1st and the 4th Century AD.
In 712 AD, the Arabs conquered the Indian province of Sindh and brought in their influence. By the 12th Century, Turkish Sultans of Delhi replaced the longstanding Arab designs and replaced them with Islamic calligraphy. This currency was referred to as ‘Tanka’. The Delhi Sultanate attempted to standardize this monetary system and coins were subsequently made in gold, silver and copper.
In 1526, the Mughal period commenced, bringing forth a unified and consolidated monetary system for the entire Empire. Afghan King Sher Shah Suri (1540 to 1545) introduced the silver Rupayya or the Rupee coin. The princely states of pre-colonial India minted their own coins, all which mainly resembled the silver Rupee, but held regional distinctions depending on where they were from.
During the late 18th Century, agency houses developed banks such as the Bank of Bengal, The Bank of Hindustan, Oriental Bank Corporation and The Bank of Western India. These banks also printed their own paper currency in Urdu, Bengali and Devnagari languages.
For 100 odd years, the issue of bank notes by the private and presidency banks continued but with the formation of The Paper Currency Act in 1861, the issue of notes was monopolized by the Government. The British Government initially appointed the presidency banks as their agents to help it with the circulation of bank notes as it was a tough job to promote the use of common note over a wide stretch of area. In 1867, the famous Victoria Portrait series of bank notes was issued in honour of Queen Victoria. The notes in the series were uni-faced and were issued in 5 denominations.
The Reserve Bank of India took over the authority to print and circulate banknotes from the Government in1935. The notes bearing the portrait of George V was replaced by the notes bearing the portrait of George VI in 1938. The notes with the portrait of George VI were in circulation till 1947 and were taken off the money market with the Independence of India . The Lion Capital at Sarnath replaced George VI.
Indian rupee did not use the decimal system and rather was subdivided into 16 annas till 1957. In 1957, the decimal monetary system was adopted and one unit of rupee was restructured equivalent to 100 equal paise. In 1996, the Mahatma Gandhi series of paper notes was introduced, which is currently in circulation.
In order to overcome the challenge of the counterfeit currency, several security features have been incorporated in the Indian Rupee. White side panel of notes has Mahatma Gandhi watermark. All notes have a silver security thread, with inscriptions ‘RBI’ in English and ‘Bharat’ in Hindi. These inscriptions are visible when held against the light. Notes of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 have their numerals printed in optically variable ink. Number appears green when note is held flat but changes to blue when viewed at an angle.
The language panel on Indian rupee banknotes display the denomination of the note in 15 of the 22 official languages of India . They are from top to bottom – Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu.
Rupee is the name given to the official currency that is used in several countries including India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mauritius, Maldives and Indonesia. Among all the countries mentioned above, the Indian rupee is the most important with respect to value, preference and popularity.
Acquiring the new symbol, the Indian Rupee now finds a place with the world’s leading currencies – Dollar, Euro, Pound Sterling and the Yen, which also have symbols. The new symbol, also heralds emergence of a new, confident India, with a special place in the world economic order.