Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Story of Twenty Rupees

Every Note Has A Story To Tell
The Story of Twenty Rupees

- by Rezwan Razack

Government of India – Rupees Twenty

After the early issues by Presidency and Private Banks of 1770-1861, the Government of India introduced the denomination of Rupees Twenty in 1861 after the Indian Paper Money Act of 1861 came into existence.  The first series had the Portrait of Queen Victoria.

Government of India - Portrait Note of Queen Victoria – 20 Rupees

The most intriguing part of the Uniface Portrait Issue of Queen Victoria is the watermark on Portrait Series First Issue Notes.  They have the signature of Sir James Wilson, The Finance Member along with Lord Canning, The Governor General.  Sir James Wilson died in 1860 and the Queen Victoria Portrait notes were first issued in 1861.

The practice of serial numbers on either side of the note was prevalent in early banknotes because they were cut in half and sent by post for security reasons.  And on acknowledgement of the receipt of the first half, the second half of the note was then also sent by post.  Both halves were then joined together and presented for encashment.

Some notes were for dual Circles and these notes were signed by two Signatories.

Uniface Notes – Rupees Twenty

The design of Queen Victoria Portrait notes was changed afterwards to an Uniface Underprint Series due to its simplistic nature.  The system widened its basis through important structural changes such as introduction of a fiduciary component and “Universalization” of notes that effectively increased their circulation.  These notes were printed and supplied from England.

Government of India – Uniface Green Underprint 20 Rupees

The Rupees Twenty in the Green Underprint Series were printed until 1910.  Rupees Twenty were never universalized and there was no Rupees Twenty denomination in the Red Underprint Series.  However, printing of Rupees Twenty as a denomination was discontinued thereafter as it was not popular with the people and this denomination was not considered in the Portrait Series of King George V and King George VI.

Reserve Bank of India – Rupees Twenty
The Reserve Bank of India reintroduced Rupees Twenty for the first time after Independence on 1st June 1972 and this denomination has been in existence since.  This denomination was issued to contain the volume of note pieces in circulation and to some extent provide a substitute for the Rupees Ten notes.
  Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees obverse

Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees reverse

The reverse of this series of notes was with the vignette of the Parliament House in the centre.  The Parliament House of Delhi, commonly known as the Sansad Bhavan is situated at the end point of the Sansad Marg in New Delhi.  The Parliament House is a circular structure designed by Herbert Baker and was opened in 1927.  The huge structure of the Parliament House has 247 pillars with a broad corridor.  The Parliament House of New Delhi is the Legislative Assembly of India.

The article titled “The colour of moneydated 3rd September 2010 in Business Standard written by Mr. Dilip Chaware, Mumbai makes interesting reading on how the colour of the note was finalised.

Notes from the Mint” (August 28) by Gargi Gupta and Manojit Saha reminded me of a story about the Rs 20 currency note I had heard several years ago.  The article makes a passing reference to the orange colour of the Rs 20 note. This colour and shade selection has an interesting background.  How was this colour combination finalised and who selected it?

Maharashtra’s former Chief Secretary P. D. Kasbekar told me this story. It has been recorded by me for audio-visual documentation.

The story relates to a meeting then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had convened to launch the Rs.20 note.  Several top officers of the ministry and the mint attended the meeting, carrying bulky files and different sets of designs for Mrs Gandhi to see and finalise one. 

As a joint secretary in the banking department, Kasbekar also attended.  Those who are now over 60 years old will remember that nylon was quite popular in those days. In fact, for certain classes, it was a status symbol. Kasbekar was wearing a nylon shirt. Suddenly, Mrs Gandhi looked at his pocket and her gaze stayed transfixed there. Kasbekar and others grew uneasy, suspecting that something had displeased her. To everybody’s surprise, Mrs Gandhi ordered Kasbekar to take out a colourful envelope from his shirt pocket.  At a loss to understand why, Kasbekar gave it to her with trembling fingers. Mrs Gandhi’s face lit up and she said, “This is the colour scheme and design I like.” That was the end of the meeting and the selection had been made. With a twinkle in his eye, Kasbekar told me, “It was a nimantran patrika” (wedding invitation). 

In Maharashtra and adjoining Karnataka and Goa, the colour orange, with a dash of red and saffron, is considered auspicious. Almost all wedding invitation cards are printed using differing combinations of these colours.  The otherwise excellent article is marred by one mistake. The authors have used the verb “forge” with respect to currency notes. The accurate verb is counterfeit.

This Series of Rupees Twenty with the vignette of The Parliament House on the reverse was replaced in 1975 with the vignette of the Chariot Wheel of the Konark Sun Temple on the reverse and the obverse also had a new design.  

Interestingly, the vignette of The Parliament House was incorporated on the reverse of the new series of Rupees Fifty in the same year.

  Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees obverse

Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees reverse

Konark is a small town in Puri district in the state of Odisha (Orissa), India, on the Bay of Bengal, sixty-five kilometers from Bhubaneswar.  It is the site of the 13th century Sun Temple, built in black granite by King Narasimhadeva-I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.  The temple is a World Heritage Site.  It takes the form of the chariot of Surya (Arka), the Sun God, and is heavily decorated with stone carving.  The entire complex was designed in the form of a huge chariot drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels.  The entrance is guarded by two lions, which are each shown crushing a war elephant.  Each elephant in turn lies on top of a human body.  The temple symbolizes the majestic stride of the Sun God.
The new design of Rupees Twenty depicting a chariot wheel from the Konark Sun Temple, Orissa built in the 13th century, an UNESCO World Heritage Site on the rivers.  This was first issued in March 1975 signed by the Governor S. Jagannathan.

Mahatma Gandhi Portrait Series – Rupees Twenty

  Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees obverse

Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees reverse

The reverse has the vignette of the seashore with palm trees in the foreground and a lighthouse amongst the trees in the background. 

With the advent of reprographic techniques, the traditional security features of Indian banknotes such as the watermark, intaglio print, guilloche patterns, and the security thread were rendered inadequate.  A new series of banknotes, the Mahatma Gandhi series, was issued in June 1996 with additional security features.  The watermark was changed from the Ashoka Pillar to a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Gandhi series Rupees Twenty denomination was issued in August 2001 even though the denominations of Rupees 10, 50, 100 and 500 were issued earlier in 1996.  All the banknotes of this series have the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi on the obverse, in place of symbol of Lion Capital of Ashoka Pillar, which has also been retained and shifted to the left side next to the watermark window. These banknotes contain the Mahatma Gandhi watermark as well as Mahatma Gandhi's portrait.

I read this interesting online article with photographs by Arvind Passey titled “The lighthouse on North Bay Island on a twenty rupee note”.  Some excerpts from this detailed below of the author’s visit to Andaman Islands, which confirm that the vignette on the reverse of the Mahatma Gandhi Series Rupees Twenty is of a location in the Andaman Islands:

It was when we had reached almost halfway to Mount Harriet that the driver Mohan stopped and asked us to walk across the road with him. We were puzzled, but did as he said.  ‘Do you have a twenty rupee note?’ he asked.

This was getting more intriguing and though my wife gave me a glance that said ‘Be careful now’, she opened her purse and took one note out and handed it over to Mohan.

‘See this lighthouse here?’ Mohan was obviously enjoying himself now and continued, ‘No one will tell you this story. But I know all about it and I will tell you.’
The lighthouse was certainly there on the note and when I looked towards where he was pointing, I nearly choked with excitement, ‘Hey! This is the same lighthouse that is there on the note.’

The lighthouse on North Bay island is the one on our twenty rupee note!

A close-up of the distant lighthouse...

‘And we’ve never known this fact though we’ve been using this note for all our lives now!’ chipped in my wife, ‘This is incredible.’ 
‘Yes, incredible indeed,’ I said and examined the lighthouse on the note carefully before comparing it with what was there in front of my eyes, ‘This is making me feel like an explorer now. I’m thrilled.’
Mohan then told us that the spot where we stood was the place where the actual photograph was taken. ‘There is another spot on Mount Harriet where other tourists who are aware of this fact generally go to take snaps,’ he said, ‘but they go to the wrong spot. I know this because my father told me so. He was with the forest department and was there when the photograph was taken.’
We were in the presence of a man whose father had witnessed history being created! This was fascinating!!

Forthcoming Rupees Twenty: Change in design being contemplated

A new Series of notes is contemplated by the Reserve Bank of India and is pending approval. The vignette on the reverse for the 20 rupees is rumoured to be changed to Red Fort at Delhi. 

The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal Emperor of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857.  It is located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the Emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political centre of Mughal Government and the setting for events critically impacting the region. 

Constructed in 1648 by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the palace of his fortified capital Shahjahanabad, the Red Fort is named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone and is adjacent to the older Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Behisht). The fort complex is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity under Shah Jahan and although the palace was planned according to Islamic prototypes, each pavilion contains architectural elements typical of Mughal buildings that reflect a fusion of Timurid and Persian traditions. The Red Fort’s innovative architectural style, including its garden design, influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir, Braj, Rohilkhand and elsewhere. With the Salimgarh Fort, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 as part of the Red Fort Complex.


·       Mint Road Milestones RBI at 75
·       Wikipedia
·       Business Standard
·       Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money

Rezwan Razack
co-Author – ‘The Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money’
Chairman - IBNS India Banknote Collectors’ Chapter; IBNS # 9733

URL:; Blog:
Tel: +91-80-25591080 / +91-80-25001124


Unknown said...

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