Rupee is the common name for the currencies of India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka, and of former currencies of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE (as the Gulf rupee), British East Africa, Burma, German East Africa, and Tibet. In Indonesia and the Maldives the unit of currency is known as rupiah and rufiyaa respectively.

Purple: Countries using a rupee as an official currency
India, Indonesia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka
Orange: Countries where a foreign country's rupee is legal tender
Indian rupee: Bhutan, Nepal
Indonesian rupiah: East Timor

The Indian rupees () and Pakistani rupees () are subdivided into one hundred paise (singular paisa) or pice. The Mauritian, Seychellois, and Sri Lankan rupees subdivide into 100 cents. The Nepalese rupee subdivides into one hundred paisa (singular and plural) or four sukaas.


The Hindustani word rupyā is derived from the Sanskrit word rūpya, which means "wrought silver, a coin of silver",[1] in origin an adjective meaning "shapely", with a more specific meaning of "stamped, impressed", whence "coin". It is derived from the noun rūpa "shape, likeness, image". The word rūpa is further identified as related to the Dravidian root uruppu, which means "a member of the body".[2] Also, the word rūpam is rooted in Tamil as uru (shape) derived from ur (form) which itself is rooted in ul meaning "appear".[3]


Rūpyarūpa issued by the Maurya Empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd century BC.
Rupiya issued by the Sher Shah Suri, 1540–1545 CE.
The French East India Company issued silver Rupee in the name of Muhammad Shah (1719–1748) for Northern India trade, minted in Pondicherry.
The British Raj issued 1 Rupee banknote, 1917.

The history of the rupee traces back to Ancient India circa 3rd century BC. Ancient India was one of the earliest issuers of coins in the world,[4] along with the Lydian staters, several other Middle Eastern coinages and the Chinese wen. The term is from rūpya, a Sanskrit term for silver coin,[5] from Sanskrit rūpa, beautiful form.[6]

Arthashastra, written by Chanakya, prime minister to the first Maurya emperor Chandragupta Maurya (c. 340–290 BCE), mentions silver coins as rūpyarūpa, other types including gold coins (rūpya-suvarṇa), copper coins (tāmrarūpa) and lead coins (sīsarūpa) are mentioned. Rūpa means form or shape, example, rūpyarūpa, rūpya – wrought silver, rūpa – form.[7][8][9] This coinage system continued more or less across the Indian subcontinent well till 20th century.

In the intermediate times there was no fixed monetary system as reported by the Da Tang Xi Yu Ji.[10]

During his rule from 1537 to 1545, Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri of the Sur Empire set up a new civic and military administration and issued a coin of silver, weighing 178 grains, which was also termed the Rupiya.[11][12] Suri also introduced copper coins called dam and gold coins called mohur that weighed 169 grains (10.95 g).[13] The use of the rupee coin continued under the Mughals with the same standard and weight, though some rulers after Akbar occasionally issued heavier rupees.[14][15]

The European powers started minting coinage as early as mid-17th century, under patronage of Mughal Empire. The British gold coins were termed Carolina, the silver coins Anglina, the copper coins Cupperoon and tin coins Tinny. The coins of Bengal were developed in the Mughal style and those of Madras mostly in a South Indian style. The English coins of Western India developed along Mughal as well as English patterns. It was only in AD 1717 that the British obtained permission from the Emperor Farrukh Siyar to coin Mughal money at the Bombay mint. By early 1830, the British had become the dominant power in India and started minting coinage independently. The Coinage Act of 1835 provided for uniform coinage throughout India. The new coins had the effigy of William IV on the obverse and the value on the reverse in English and Persian. The coins issued after 1840 bore the portrait of Queen Victoria. The first coinage under the crown was issued in 1862 and in 1877 Queen Victoria assumed the title the Empress of India. The gold silver ratio expanded during 1870–1910. Unlike India, her colonial master Britain was on the gold standard.

The 1911 accession to the throne of the King-Emperor George V led to the famous "pig rupee". On the coin, the King appeared wearing the chain of the Order of the Indian Elephant. Through poor engraving, the elephant looked very much like a pig. The Muslim population was enraged and the image had to be quickly redesigned. Acute shortage of silver during the First World War, led to the introduction of paper currency of One Rupee and Two and a half Rupees. The silver coins of smaller denominations were issued in cupro-nickel. The compulsion of the Second World War led to experiments in coinage where the standard rupee was replaced by the "Quaternary Silver Alloy". The Quaternary Silver coins were issued from 1940. In 1947 these were replaced by pure Nickel coins. Even after independence, the British coinage was continued in India. The Monetary System remained unchanged at One Rupee consisting of 64 pice, or 192 pies.

In India, the "Anna Series" was introduced on 15 August 1950. This was the first coinage of the Republic of India. The King's Portrait was replaced by the Ashoka's Lion Capital. A corn sheaf replaced the Tiger on the one Rupee coin. The monetary system was retained with one Rupee consisting of 16 Annas. The 1955 Indian Coinage (Amendment) Act, that came into force with effect from 1 April 1957, introduced a "Decimal series". The rupee was now divided into 100 'Paisa' instead of 16 Annas or 64 Pice. The "Naye Paise" coins were minted in the denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Naye Paise. Both the Anna series and the Naye Paise coins were valid for some time. From 1968 onward, the new coins were called just Paise instead of Naye Paise because they were no more naye(new).

With high inflation in the sixties, small denomination coins which were made of bronze, nickel-brass, cupro-nickel, and aluminium-bronze were gradually minted in Aluminium. This change commenced with the introduction of the new hexagonal 3 paise coin. A twenty paise coin was introduced in 1968 but did not gain much popularity. Over a period, cost-benefit considerations led to the gradual discontinuance of 1, 2 and 3 paise coins in the 1970s. Stainless steel coinage of 10, 25 and 50 paise, was introduced in 1988 and of one rupee in 1992. The very considerable costs of managing note issues of Rs 1, Rs 2, and Rs 5 led to the gradual coinisation of these denominations in the 1990s.

East Africa, Arabia, and MesopotamiaEdit

In East Africa, Arabia, and Mesopotamia, the rupee and its subsidiary coinage was current at various times. The usage of the rupee in East Africa extended from Somaliland in the north to as far south as Natal. In Mozambique, the British India rupees were overstamped, and in Kenya, the British East Africa Company minted the rupee and its fractions, as well as pice.

The rise in the price of silver immediately after the First World War caused the rupee to rise in value to two shillings sterling. In 1920 in British East Africa, the opportunity was then taken to introduce a new florin coin, hence bringing the currency into line with sterling. Shortly after that, the florin was split into two East African shillings. This assimilation to sterling did not, however, happen in British India itself. In Somalia, the Italian colonial authority minted 'rupia' to exactly the same standard and called the pice 'besa'.

The Indian rupee was the official currency of Dubai and Qatar until 1959, when India created a new Gulf rupee (also known as the "external rupee") to hinder the smuggling of gold.[16] The Gulf rupee was legal tender until 1966, when India significantly devalued the Indian rupee and a new Qatar-Dubai riyal was established to provide economic stability.[16]

Straits SettlementsEdit

The Straits Settlements were originally an outlier of the British East India Company. The Spanish dollar had already taken hold in the Straits Settlements by the time the British arrived in the 19th century. The East India Company tried to introduce the rupee in its place. These attempts were resisted by the locals, and by 1867 when the British government took over direct control of the Straits Settlements from the East India Company, attempts to introduce the rupee were finally abandoned.


Until the middle of the 20th century, Tibet's official currency was also known as the Tibetan rupee.[17]


The original silver rupee, .917 fine silver, 11.66 grams (179.9 grains; 0.375 troy ounces),[citation needed] was divided into 16 annas, 64 paise, or 192 pies. Each circulating coin of British India, until the rupee was decimalised, had a different name in practice. A paisa was equal to two dhelas, three pies, or six damaris. Other coins for half anna (adhanni, or two paisas), two annas (duanni), four annas (a chawanni, or a quarter of a rupee), and eight annas (an athanni, or half a rupee) were widely in use until decimalization in 1961. (The numbers adha, do, chār, ātha mean respectively half, two, four, eight in Hindi and Urdu.[18]) Two paisa was also called a taka, see below.

Decimalisation occurred in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1969, in India in 1957, and in Pakistan in 1961. Since 1957 an Indian rupee is divided into 100 paise. The decimalized paisa was originally officially named naya paisa meaning the "new paisa" to distinguish it from the erstwhile paisa which had a higher value of 164 rupee. The word naya was dropped in 1964 and since then it is simply known as paisa (plural paise). The issuance of the Indian currency is controlled by the Reserve Bank of India, whereas in Pakistan it is controlled by State Bank of Pakistan. The most commonly used symbol for the rupee is "₨". India adopted a new symbol () for the Indian rupee on 15 July 2010.

In most parts of India, the rupee is known as rupaya, rupaye, or one of several other terms derived from the Sanskrit rūpya, meaning silver.

Ṭaṅka is an ancient Sanskrit word for money. While the two-paise coin was called a taka in West Pakistan, the word taka was commonly used in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), alternatively for rupee. In the Bengali and Assamese languages, spoken in Assam, Tripura, and West Bengal, the rupee is known as a taka, and is written as such on Indian banknotes. In Odisha it is known as tanka. After its independence, Bangladesh started to officially call its currency "taka" (BDT) in 1971.

In India presently (from 2010 onwards), the 50 paise coin (half a rupee) is the lowest valued legal tender. Coins of 1, 2, 5, and 10 rupees and banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 2000 rupees are commonly in use for cash transaction.

Large denominations of rupees are traditionally counted in lakhs, crores, arabs, kharabs, nils, padmas, shankhs, udpadhas, and anks. Terms beyond crore are not generally used in the context of money; for example, an amount would be called ₨ 1 lakh crore (equivalent to 1 trillion) instead of ₨ 10 kharab.


The rupee sign is a currency sign used to represent the monetary unit of account in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mauritius, Seychelles, and formerly in India. It resembles, and is often written as, the Latin character sequence "Rs" or "Rs.". Currency signs exist for other countries that use the rupee but not this sign: their usage is also described at the main article.


In Latin script, "rupee" (singular) is abbreviated as Re.[citation needed] and "rupees" (plural) as . The Indonesian rupiah is abbreviated Rp. In 19th century typography, abbreviations were often superscripted:   or  . In Brahmic scripts, rupee is often abbreviated with the grapheme for the first syllable, optionally followed by a circular abbreviation mark or a latin abbreviation point: रु૰ (Devanagari ru.),[19][20] રૂ૰ (Gujarati ru.),[20] රු (Sinhala ru), రూ (Telugu ).

Rupee abbreviation in other languages
Language Word Transliteration Abbrev. Unicode
Malayalam രൂപ rūpāa രൂ ( U+0D30 MALAYALAM LETTER RA ) + ( U+0D42 MALAYALAM VOWEL SIGN UU )
Tamil ரூபாய் rūbāy ரூ ( U+0BB0 TAMIL LETTER RA ) + ( U+0BC2 TAMIL VOWEL SIGN UU )
Telugu రూపాయి rūpāyi రూ ( U+0C30 TELUGU LETTER RA ) + ( U+0C42 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN UU )
Gujarati રૂપિચો, રૂપિયા rūpiyo, rūpiyā રૂ૰ U+0AB0 + U+0AC2 + U+0AF0
Kannada ರೂಪಾಯಿ rūpāyi ರೂ U+0CC4 KANNADA VOWEL SIGN VOCALIC RR


The history of the rupees can be traced back to Ancient India around the 6th century BC[citation needed]. Ancient India had some of the earliest coins in the world,[4] along with the Chinese wen and Lydian staters. The rupee coin has been used since then, even during British India, when it contained 11.66 g (1 tola) of 91.7% silver with an ASW of 0.3437 of a troy ounce[21] (that is, silver worth about US$10 at modern prices).[22] Valuation of the rupee based on its silver content had severe consequences in the 19th century, when the strongest economies in the world were on the gold standard. The discovery of vast quantities of silver in the United States and various European colonies resulted in a decline in the value of silver relative to gold.

At the end of the 19th century, the Indian silver rupee went onto a gold exchange standard at a fixed rate of one rupee to one shilling and fourpence in British currency, i.e. 15 rupees to 1 pound sterling.

Country Currency Symbol ISO 4217
Rupees per U.S. dollar
(As of 1 October 2021)[23]
Established Preceding currency
  India Indian rupee INR ₹74.2527 1540
  Indonesia Indonesian rupiah Rp IDR Rp 14,264.9 1949 Netherlands Indies gulden
  Maldives Maldivian rufiyaa Rf, MRf, MVR, .ރ or /- MVR Rf 15.2867 1945 Ceylonese rupee
  Mauritius Mauritian rupee ₨, रु MUR ₨ 41.5865 1876 Indian rupee, pound sterling, Mauritian dollar
    Nepal Nepalese rupee रु NPR रु117.201 1932 Nepalese mohar
  Pakistan Pakistani rupee PKR ₨ 170.173 1947 Indian rupee (prior to partition)
  Seychelles Seychellois rupee SR, SRe SCR SR 12.1585 1976 Mauritian rupee
  Sri Lanka Sri Lankan rupee ₨, රු, ரூ LKR ₨ 198.230 1885 Indian rupee, pound sterling, Ceylonese rixdollar

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Etymology of rupee". 20 September 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2008.
  2. ^ Robert Caldwell. A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languages. ISBN 9781113662552. Tamil noun uruppu, a member of the body, the body itself, a form – e.g., the sign of a case is called the uruppu of the case. Dr. Gundert does not doubt that the Sanskrit rūpa is derived from this Dravidian uruppu, even though uruppu may be a tadbhava of rūpa.
  3. ^ Devaneya Pavanar (January 2002). A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Tamil Language. Directorate of Tamil Etymological Dictionary Project,Government of Tamil Nadu (India), W-605, Anna Nagar Western Extension, Madras 600 101. p. உ.94.
  4. ^ a b Subodh Kapoor (January 2002). The Indian encyclopaedia: biographical, historical, religious ..., Volume 6. Cosmo Publications. p. 1599. ISBN 81-7755-257-0.
  5. ^ Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley (1985) [London: Oxford University Press, 1962–1966.]. "A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages". Includes three supplements, published 1969–1985. Digital South Asia Library, a project of the Center for Research Libraries and the University of Chicago. Retrieved 26 August 2010. rū'pya 10805 rū'pya 'beautiful, bearing a stamp' ; 'silver'
  6. ^ Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley (1985) [London: Oxford University Press, 1962–1966.]. "A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages". Includes three supplements, published 1969–1985. Digital South Asia Library, a project of the Center for Research Libraries and the University of Chicago. Retrieved 26 August 2010. rūpa 10803 'form, beauty'
  7. ^ D. R. Bhandarkar (1990). Lectures on Ancient Indian Numismatics. Asian Educational Services. p. 129. ISBN 9788120605497.
  8. ^ D.C. Sircar (10 September 2021). Studies in Indian Coins. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 277. ISBN 9788120829732.
  9. ^ Rajaram Narayan Saletore. Early Indian Economic History. N.M Tripathi. p. 614.
  10. ^ Trübner’s Oriental Series DA TANG XIYU JI Great Tang Dynasty Records of the Western World, translated by Samuel Beal TWO VOLUMES Kegan, Paul, Trench, Teubner & Co. London • 1906 [First Edition ‐ London • 1884]
  11. ^ (20 September 2008). "Etymology of rupee". Retrieved 20 September 2008.
  12. ^ "Mughal Coinage". Archived from the original on 5 October 2002. Sher Shah issued a coin of silver which was termed the Rupiya. This weighed 178 grains and was the precursor of the modern rupee. It remained largely unchanged till the early 20th Century
  13. ^ Mughal Coinage Archived 16 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine at RBI Monetary Museum. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
  14. ^ Mohammad Idris (2004). Foreign Trade Under Mughals. Shree Publishers & Distributors. p. 55.
  15. ^ Mughal Coinage at Reserve Bank of India Monetary Museum. Retrieved 1 Dec 2019.
  16. ^ a b Richard F. Nyrop (2008). Area Handbook for the Persian Gulf States. Wildside Press. ISBN 978-1-4344-6210-7. ... The Indian rupee was the principal currency until 1959, when it was replaced by a special gulf rupee to halt gold smuggling into India ...
  17. ^ Theodore Roosevelt; Kermit Roosevelt (1929). "Trailing the giant panda". Nature. Scribner. 124 (3138): 944. Bibcode:1929Natur.124R.944.. doi:10.1038/124944b0. S2CID 4086078. ... The currency in general use was what was known at the Tibetan rupee ...
  18. ^ See, for example,
  19. ^ Deka, Rabin (25 January 2010). "Additions to Deva-Nagariscript and Bengali script" (PDF). This proposal contains two attestations with a solid dot instead of a circle. Deka also points out that रु. is printed with a shorter head bar when used as the abbreviation for rupee.
  20. ^ a b Pandey, Anshuman (7 October 2009). "L2/09-331 Proposal to Deprecate Gujarati Rupee Sign" (PDF). Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  21. ^ Krause, Chester L.; Clifford Mishler (2004). Standard Catalog of World Coins: 1801–1900. Colin R. Bruce II (senior editor) (4th ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 0873497988.
  22. ^ "Equivalent of 0.343762855 troy ounce of silver in U.S. dollar". 2 October 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2006.
  23. ^ "Historical exchange rates". OANDA.COM. Retrieved 5 October 2021.

Sources and external linksEdit