What is the INR (Indian Rupee)?

The INR (Indian Rupee) is the currency of India. The issuance of INR is controlled by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Many South Asian countries including Pakistan circulate rupee currencies, but only the Indian rupee carries the three-letter abbreviation INR and, since 2010, the symbol ₹. The symbol is derived from the Devanagari script letter “ra” but with double horizontal lines, and is also meant to suggest the Latin letter “R.”

In recent years the Indian rupee has converted to between one and two U.S. cents. The rupee is composed of 100 paise, or paisa singular, but given the low relative value of the rupee, in 2011 the government stopped backing coins of 25 paise or less, which were worth more as scrap steel than the coin itself.

Key Takeaways

  • INR is the currency of India and is controlled by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • As of 2021, 1 INR is equal to between one and two U.S. cents.
  • INR has been pegged to the USD since 1966 and trades on a “managed float,” meaning the rate is market-determined, but somewhat protected from volatility by the buying and selling conducted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Understanding the INR (Indian Rupee)

INR (Indian Rupee) dates to the 6th century BCE, when India was one of the first countries, along with China, to issue coins. The word derives from the Sanskrit rupiya which means silver coin. Sher Shah Suri introduced a fixed monetary system in the 16th century. At this time, a silver rupee equaled 40 pieces of copper.

Paper rupees began to be issued in 1770, but the currency remained on the silver standard even when most of the world had gold-based currencies. This caused a sharp devaluation of the rupee in the 18th century when many of the European colonies discovered silver, increasing the supply of the metal and thus shrinking its price relative to gold.

The rupee which previously consisted of 16 annas was split into 100 paise beginning in 1957. The Indian government pegged the rupee to the British pound (GBP), and then to the U.S. dollar (USD) in 1979. Before 2010, the Indian government used the symbol Rs, or Re, to refer to the rupee. Today, other non-Indian rupee currencies use those Latin symbols.

On foreign exchanges, the Indian rupee trades on a “managed float,” meaning the rate is market-determined, but somewhat protected from volatility by the buying and selling conducted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Modern Coins and Banknotes

The Reserve Bank of India mints rupee coins in various metals, and in denominations of 50 paise, as well as one, two, five, and 10 rupees. Most coins feature an obverse image of the four-lion capital of Ashoka, the emblem if India.

As of 2021, the RPI issues banknotes in one, two, five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000 and 2,000 denominations. All feature an image of Mahatma Gandhi on the obverse, except the one-rupee note which carries an image of the rupee coin. The reverse image varies from historic architecture, such as the Konark Sun Temple on the 10-rupee note, to India’s Mars Orbiter Mission on the 2,000-rupee note.