closeup of indian rupee coins and banknotesThe rupee is the official form of currency of the Republic of India and is issued by the Reserve Bank of India. It is subdivided into 100 paise. The rupee is represented by the symbol ₹, and its ISO code is INR. Here is a brief history or the Indian rupee, and a description of its banknotes and coins.

A Brief History

Unlike many forms of currency circulating around the world today, the rupee has a history dating back to ancient times. The rupee was originally a silver coin in ancient India. At the 6th century BCE, ancient India was one of the world’s few issuers of coins, along with the Chinese and the Greeks. By the 4th century BCE, Indian coinage included not only silver coins, but also coins of gold, copper, and lead. During his five-year reign from 1540 to 1545, Afghan king Sher Shah Suri introduced a silver coin called the Rupiya, which remained in use over the centuries and into British India (1612–1947). The first paper rupees of the region were introduced by the Bank of Hindustan (1770–1832), the General Bank of Bengal and Bihar (1773–1775), and the Bengal Bank (1784–1791).

Indian coinage remained intact even in 1825 when the imperial order-in-council attempted to introduce British coinage to British colonies. Then in 1835, British India adopted a mono-metallic silver standard, where all coinage would be struck from silver. This would heavily influence British India’s economy because within a few decades, large quantities of silver discovered in the United States and imperial colonies would cause a decline in the value of silver relative to gold. In addition, the strongest economies of the world had adopted a gold standard, all making for a sharp decline in value for the rupee.

After the independence of British India in 1947 and the union of the various states within the region, the Indian rupee replaced all the currencies of the previously autonomous states. During the first decade of independence, the rupee was divided into various subdivisions, such as 1 rupee being equal to 16 anna, 1 ardharupee equal to 8 anna, 1 pavala equal to 4 anna, and 1 bed equal to 2 anna. Then in 1957, the rupee was decimalised and divided into 100 paise.


Today, rupee banknotes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 rupees. They vary in color depending on denomination, with colors such as pink-green, orange-violet, amber-red, and blue-green. They all feature Mahatma Gandhi on the obverses and various images of wildlife, landscapes, and technologies on the reverses.


Though smaller denomination coins have existed in the past, since 2011 rupee coins have come in denominations of 50 paise, and 1, 2, 5, and 10 rupees. The 50 paise, 1 rupee, and 2 rupee coins are generally made from ferritic stainless steel, while 5 and 10 rupee coins have varied in metallic makeup but are now nickel-brass and bimetallic, respectively.