Take note of the stories these currencies have to tell

Take note of the stories these currencies have to tell

collector’s pride Old currencies.

The Indian currency notes that we use today have gone through lot of changes in their design and security features over the years. From the British India series bearing the pictures of King George VI to the Republic India series VII, the Indian currency notes have gone a long way with Reserve Bank of India’s assurance “I Promise to Pay”…
It was a rare opportunity to go down memory lane at a recent currency note exhibition in Jaipur held by the regional branch of Reserve Bank of India on the occasion of RBI’s Platinum Jubilee Celebrations. “It is so fascinating to see the old currency notes we have not seen in our lives and to learn how the notes have changed shapes, colours and themes with the passage of time,” a group of students visiting the exhibition said.

One could gather the changes that Indian society has undergone in terms of contemporary needs, security concerns and nationalistic fervour with the changes in the features of Indian currency notes. When RBI came into being on April 1, 1935, notes with the portrait of King George V were in circulation. The first issues of RBI were with the side profile of King George VI in rupees five denominations. The change in the watermark and obverse design from the profile bust of King George VI to his frontal portrait was necessitated after high quality forgeries, largely of Rs 10 notes, and efforts to destabilise Indian currency by the Japanese during World War II. The security thread was introduced for the first time in 1944 as an added feature and two years later, high denomination notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 were demonetised to curb unaccounted money.  

From the fauna motif of a roaring tiger on Rs 100 notes, bucks and doe on Rs Five note to a Himalayan scene on Rs 1000 note in 1948, the Brihadeshwara Temple at Thanjavur on Rs 1,000 note and the Gateway of India on the Rs 5,000 note, the RBI has made changes in designs and series keeping up with the international practice of change after six-seven years. The new series in 1975 shows a distinct inclination towards Indian art forms and colours.

Like the Rs 10 note replaced the sail boat with “two peacocks perched on the branches of a tree enclosed in a circle, flanked by the pictures of a deer, horses, a bird in flight and designs of the lotus.” Similarly, the Rs 100 note mirrored the country’s agricultural sector with a collage of a composite vignettes on the reverse side depicting a sheaf of corn in the centre, a tea plantation and a hydro-electric power project in lieu of the Hirakud Dam.
The RBI issued its first and only commemorative note on October 2, 1969, to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birth centenary in the denomination of Rs 2, Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 100.
The selection of the portrait of Gandhiji in a sitting posture, as in a prayer meeting was approved through a prize competition scheme.

After 1947, the King George VI series was discontinued to be issued only as a frozen series till 1950 when post-independence notes were issued. From large size notes to present raised intaglio printing (130 micron depth) and dual coloured optical fibre and fluorescent ink, the latest RBI innovation is the star series issued in 2006 to avoid the cost involved in the reprint of the same serial number notes in the event of a defect.

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