Indian History


A History of Indian Paper Money


Notes of the Early Private & Semi-Governmental Banks


Banking in India owes it ’s origins in the remote past. Buddhist religious texts dating back to 500 BC indicate that Banking existed as a commercial activity among the tradesmen of the time. However, relevant to the context of Bank Notes, Banking in India started as an activity among the European traders, chiefly the East India Company in the early 18th century. Private Banks were set up in the province of Bengal. The idea of paper currency was not new to the European traders as it was already in existence in their own countries. The first bank to employ the concept of paper money was a bank set up in Calcutta by Governor Warren Hastings in c. 1770 AD. However, no issues of this bank survive.

The next bank to issue notes and circulate them on a wider basis was the Bank of Bengal. It was the first bank in India having a government share in its working capital. Consequently, its notes were accepted to a certain extent in payment of government dues. The earliest known note of this bank bears the date of September 9, 1812. The notes of this bank were later printed by Perkins, Heath & Co. in England. They can be distinguished into at least 10 different types. They were issued in a wide range of denominations, from Rs. 10 to Rs. 1000. The notes depict the personified figure of "Commerce" sitting on articles of merchandise. In 1858, following instances of forgeries, the designs of the notes was completely changed. The new design showed "Britannia" seated in the centre, flanked by "Commerce", "Trade" and "Agriculture". The small vignettes on the sides represent constituent provinces of the Bengal Presidency. These include the Hooghly river scene, the Assamese Rhino, the tomb of Sher Shah in Bihar and the Palms of Orissa Coast.

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