By Savitha Hira
Images: courtesy ‘The Paper & The Promise’ publication by Reserve Bank of India
|Mahatma Gandhi series of notes in a changed|
colour scheme with additional security features.
Ever wondered why your rupee note looks different every few years? The change in colour, motifs, and size of the paper? Here’s a peak into the introduction and growth of paper money in India and how it has evolved to meet the challenges of the day!
While currency is one of the most mass produced commodities in the world, it is also so taken-for-granted that apart from a cursory nod of appreciation for a new coin or note, and maybe a disparate comment or two on the changes made therein, no one really bothers to know or even see what the design change has effected.
Paper money, in the modern sense, traces its origins to the 18th century, when notes were issued as ‘promises to pay’ in lieu of physical silver coins possessing intrinsic/token value.
The historical references to the introduction and growth of the bank note from being merely a promissory note in private circulation to a common token of monetary exchange are not only intriguing but also trace the evolution in its design. Mainly attributable to the socio-political conditions that had a direct relation to the economy of the nation; bank note design has evolved from being unifaced (one-sided printing) to being printed on both sides; from long references with payees’ name on each note to a generic monetary token; doing away with status paraphernalia and incorporating enhanced security measures to deter forgeries.
An early unifaced note of the Bank of Bengal
Notes carrying the portrait of Queen Victoria - the first
series of notes issued by Govt. of India (1861 – 1867)
Green Underprint to Red Underprint designs replaced the Victoria
Portrait notes and carried enhanced security features.
The design of the bank note traces important milestones in the country’s socio-cultural, political and economic structure and has grown to interblend security considerations with aesthetics together with the intended messages the issuer may wish to convey. Thus, any design of bank note attempts to blend the watermark, guilloche design, multi-tonal printing, intaglio printing, and the security thread etc. With advancement of reprographic techniques, new features likeclear text security threads, windowed security threads, fluorescent planchettes, holograms, anti-copier devices, magnetic readable inks, optically variable inks, etc. have been devised and variably incorporated into the design of contemporary bank notes.
Motif of an agricultural scene on a Rupee One Thousand Note of King George V series
|The size of notes was reduced in 1967 along with design changes|
Notes issued in the mid 1970’s carried symbols of progress e.g., the
Rupees Five notes issued in 1975 celebrated the Green Revolution.
The motifs appearing on the Indian currency note reflect the changing socio-cultural ethos and world-view of the times: buccaneering mercantilism, colonial consolidation, and domineering imperialism to symbols of national independence followed by allegories of progress and finally in the latest series, reminiscing Gandhian values.
A Variation of the Hirakud Dam design depicted on
notes issued in 1967 when the size of notes was changed.
Notes with intaglio printing were first introduced in 1975.
These notes marked a distinct change in motif and note design.
The Rupees Ten & Twenty notes issued in 1975 marked a change
in note design with an emphasis on Indian art forms.