Languages on Indian currency notes

To give someone an idea of the number of languages used in India, I tell them that on every currency note, the denomination is written in at least 15 languages besides English and Hindi. If someone shows interest beyond that, I have a 20-rupee note available to show them.
This is another matter that having these languages on the currency notes is more of a formality than something actually useful. I don’t know if anyone actually notices the text in those languages, and definitely no one reads the denomination in their own language. Still, let us take a look at the languages on my twenty rupee note. I can recognize most of the scripts, except I can’t tell between the four south Indian languages. Telling Asomiya (Assamese) from Bangla is also hard. Fortunately, the languages are in alphabetical order, so it is not hard to take a good guess. So, I am filling in what I can read. I would appreciate any help from people who can read the rest of them, or can correct what I have written.
languages on an Indian RupeeAsomiya – kudi taka
Bangla – kudi taka
Gujarati – vees rupiya
Kannada – ??? ippattu rupaayigalu*
Kashmiri – vuh rop’yi
Konkani – vees rupaya
Malayalam – ??? irupat rupaa**
Marathi – vees rupaye
Nepali – bees rupiyan
Oriya – ??? bakaadas takaa***
Panjabi – veeh rupaye
Sanskrit – vimshati rupyakaaNi
Tamil – ??? irupadu rupaay*
Telugu – ??? iruvadi rupaayalu*
Urdu – bees rupaye
Another thing worth noticing is that (at least) in Assamese and Bangla, the word Taka is written instead of Rupee. Taka seems to be the generic word for a currency note in Bangla, and is the currency of Bangla Desh. But, shouldn’t the Rupee officially be called a Rupee no matter what the language? If someone asked a Bangla speaker what the currency of India was, what would they say – Rupee or Taka? What about Oriya? And Maithili, a newly added official language? Call a dollar a buck or a smacker or a greenback, but officially it remains a dollar.
Looking at the latest list of national languages of India, my rupee bill is missing four languages – Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali. Looks like the newer notes are going to have a smaller font.
Another interesting bit of info from Wikipedia on the origin of the word “dollar”:

The name Thaler (from thal, or nowadays usually tal, “valley” or Sanskrit “bottom”) came from the German coin Guldengroschen (“great guilder”, being of silver but equal in value to a gold guilder…

Related: This post in Hindi | Mile Sur Mera Tumhara

30 replies on “Languages on Indian currency notes”

You have identified the four south indian languages correctly. As for how they are pronounced —
In Kannada, you say “Ippattu Rupaayigalu”
Telugu – Iruvadi rupaayalu
Tamil looks like – Irupadu Rupaay.
Malayalam is most probably pronounced almost like Tamil is – but I am sure someone else can tell you better!

Nice post! You are correct, Assamese and Bangla scripts are very similar.
Incidently, Bongs have always been calling their rupee/paise as taakaa, poeshaa. Often Taakaa-Poeshaa is used in combination to denote price or wealth. It’s nothing to do with admonishing the Indian currency, more of a linguistic approach.

You got the Telugu one right – given what appears on the note itself. However, in Telugu itself now (I am not sure of an earlier usage) 20 rupees would be Iruvai rupaayalu and not Iruvadi rupaayalu.

The Oriya one reads : bakaadas takaa I think.
As for Bodo dogri, Maithili etc there are a lot more languages not on the note or on the official list. Khasi, Tulu, Mundari, Mizo, Sikkimese etc.

As you can see above, they are ordered in the alphabetical order based on their English spelling — Assamese, Bangla, and so on.

Thanks for your comment. I am glad this page helped you. You should be happy to be learning in the age of the internet, where so much information is available on everyone’s fingertips.

Raman Ji,
My two paise on this post (I thought it quite appropriate to use a monetary metaphor in this context!) —
1) Malayalam
രൂപ is not exactly ‘equivalent’ to रूपा.
രൂപ is pronounced [rʲuːba], with the letter പ (transliteration = प), being pronounced as ब (this is in accordance with the phonetic rules of Malayalam & Tamil).
Also, transliterating letter-for-letter, പ = प and പാ = पा. So transcribing/romanising രൂപ as ‘rupaa’ is open to discussion.
At the moment, the only ‘neutral’ and unambiguous way of depicting the pronunciation of these words in various languages seems to be the IPA. On that note –
ഇരുപത് രുപ – [irʲubət̪ɯ rʲuːba]
Also, it is രൂപ, not രുപ (as mentioned in the comments above).
2) Oriya
କୋଡ଼ିଏ ଟଙ୍କା [koɽie ʈɔŋka] (a rough Devanagari-Hindi equivalent would be कोड़िए टॉङ्का).

I wish to get some more information from u, hope u have, like what is the process they use to add language at the language panel? As u can see there was only 15 language before which is now 18. I know its useless but being a Boro(Bodo) i would love to see rupee written in boro language which will be “Nwizee Rang” in devonagri script.

Maithili speakers also call rupees–“taka”–maithili script too is quite difficult to distinguish from assamese and bengali…………….
secondly “taka” had always been used since the mughal times…
“paay” was the term for paisa
“rupya/rupees” must have evolved b’coz of silver coinns
silver==rupa coins==paay
silver coins====rupaay
and the britishers made it rupees

In addition to 15 languages in the box in the currency note, there are two more ie. Hindi & English which are not mentioned. Thus making atotal of 17 languages on an Indian currency note.

In dia derives it’s name from INDUS the famous river ,from which HINDU religion is named but the language Sindhi is missing on currency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *