The ‘Pig Rupee’ was forced into use by the British Raj

Numismatist recounts the saga of a coin withdrawn from circulation after a public controversy

According to a well-known numismatist in the city, a one-rupee coin struck by the erstwhile British Raj over a century ago was met with considerable mockery in the country because the depiction of an elephant on the King’s robes resembled a pig.

“The people of India refused to honour a one-pound silver coin with a bust of King George V produced by the erstwhile British Raj in 1911, believing that the elephant figure’s feet and short tail resembled a pig, which is considered unclean by Indians“.

Only 7 lakh of the 9 crore coins were created, forcing the government to pull them from circulation“, says G.K. Subrahmanyam, a retired lecturer and enthusiastic numismatist at Dr V.S. Krishna Government College.

While the rest of the coins were recalled and burned, two pieces stayed in private hands and were added to his collection.

In 1912, the withdrawn coins were melted down and reintroduced with a redesigned elephant figure“. The British Raj was obliged to withdraw the ‘pig rupee,’ as it became known, due to popular pressure.

“My parents and senior elders used to tell me about how people used to collect silver coins and then melt them down to make silver plates”.

“As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence with ‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav,’ I felt this 110-year-old coin and the tale of an aware public forcing the government to yield to their wishes would serve as an inspiration for the younger generations”, Mr Subrahmanyam said.

The numismatist also has several rare images of Mahatma Gandhi, which he has been collecting for the previous two decades.

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu praised the collection and offered him an appointment during his recent visit to the city.

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