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Friday, 12 April 2013

95) Currency and coinage of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan: Ngultrums and Chhertums:



95) Currency and coinage of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan: Ngultrums and Chhertums:

Background:
Bhutan is a tiny Himalayan kingdom which until the1960s was only accessible on foot. It is known as “the last Shangri-la” and the “Druk Gul” or “The Land of the Thunder Dragon”, primarily due to its severe snow storms. Bhutan’s citizens are Buddhists and treasure their spectacular environment as the source of all life and the home of the Gods.

Bhutan ranges in elevation from 600 feet to over 21000 feet in the majestic Himalayas. It is home to several exotic wildlife, including,  tigers, red pandas, blue sheep, takins (goat-antelopes), elephants and snow leopards.

History of the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) Bhutan:

The Central Banking functions were earlier conducted by three Agencies: the Ministry of Finance, State Trading Corporation of Bhutan and Bank of Bhutan.

The division of functions between the three Organisations was as follows:

a)   The Ministry of Finance was then the currency issuer of Ngultrum (the Bhutanese currency).

-      The Ministry also functioned as the custodian of Foreign Exchange balances received as aid which were kept with correspondent Banks abroad in the name of the Ministry of Finance.

b)   The State Trading Corporation of Bhutan, handled exports to countries other than India and repatriation of foreign exchange balances received essentially as aid, which was kept with correspondent Banks abroad in the name of the Finance Ministry.

c)   The Bank of Bhutan handled all commercial banking business in Bhutan and extended credit to the Government, financed other Government Organisations against Government Guarantees and was the distribution channel for Ngultrum notes and Chhetrum coins to the public.

From 1982, the Central Banking functions have been taken over by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA).

History of Currency and coinage development in Bhutan:

-      Bhutan first produced silver coins towards the end of the 18th century, primarily for use in trade with the plains. Prior to that, a system of barter in rice, butter, cheese, meat, wool, hand woven cloth and other local produce was in vogue.

-      Later, coins minted in silver alloy, copper or brass were circulated and were used mainly for local purchases. These coins known as “Ma-trum” or “Chhe-trum” were struck by several local chieftains, rather than at a centralised set-up.

-      At the beginning of the 20th century, the quality of striking of coins improved under the first King, Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck (1907 – 1926).

-      In 1928, during the reign of the second King Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuck (1926 – 1952), fine machine struck silver and copper coins were circulated – marking the beginning of the age of modern coinage in Bhutan.

-      Despite these measures, barter system still remained the primary means of carrying out transactions and even Government officials were paid in kind, rather than in cash.

-      In the mid-1950s, during the reign of the third King Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1952-1972), the economy gradually became more monetised and the number of silver coin issues (nickel alloys) was increased.

-      In 1968, the Bank of Bhutan was established as a step towards further monetisation and most salaries were paid in cash, rather than in kind.

-       In 1974, the first Ngultrum Notes in the denominations of Nu. 1, 5, 10 and 100 in the year the Fourth “Druk Gyalpo” or the “Dragon King”, Jigme Singhye Wangchuk, was crowned. Later other Notes in the denominations of Nu.2, 20, 50 and 500 were added. The currency was standardised with 100 Chhetrum  being equal to 1 Ngultrum.    
The above is the image of the Front of a one Ngultrum Bank Note issued during the reign of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo issued by the "Bank of Bhutan", under authority from the Ministry of Finance, Government of Bhutan.

   The above is the image of the back the one Ngultrum Bank Note issued during the reign of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. The picture on this face shows the "Simtokha Dzong" ("Dzong" means a "fortress" in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). 
   The size of this note is 155 mm x 67mm (larger than the one Ngultrum notes presently issued).


Obverse of a 10 Chetrum aluminium coin showing the portrait of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, King Jigme Singhye Wangchuk issued in the year of his coronation in 1974. This coin had made its way into India and had got mixed up with small coin – change of ten paise, sometime in the 1970s, when I was studying at the Lucknow University. This coin was returned to me by a vendor as not circulating currency. I had it lying around in my “shoe box coin collection”, till I remembered about it when researching this post. Can you believe it!!

Reverse of the coin exhibits the “Palbheu” endless knot geometric design which symbolises the nature of reality (details given under Note on the “Tashi Tagye”: the eight auspicious symbols at the bottom of this post). The coin also bears the denominational value “10” in numerals and “Chetrums” in English and in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan).

-      Present day – Notes are issued in denominations of Nu. 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 and coins were issued in denominations of Ch. 5, 10, 25, 50 and Nu 1, however, the issue of Chhetrum 10 and 5 has been discontinued due to the prohibitive cost of minting these denominations and inflationary trends.

-      In the present series the Nu.2 currency note has not been included and the printing of Nu.1 has, also, been discontinued and replaced by Nu 1 coins.

-      All the earlier notes which are still in circulation still remain legal tender.

Currency Notes (present series or second series):


The Front of the one Ngultrum Note has a “Khorlo” (the Wheel of Dharma, one of the eight auspicious signs – details given under Note on the “Tashi Tagye”: the eight auspicious symbols at the bottom of this post) in the centre with a dragon each on the left and right hand sides of the Note. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2006” issues.


-      The Back of the one Ngultrum Note shows the “Simtokha Dzong” (Dzong means a “fortress”).  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned on top in English on the Note. On the bottom are mentioned “1” in numerals and “one Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

-      The size of the Note is 120 mm x60 mm.

Other features on the one Ngultrum Note:

Lithographic: There is an anti-scanner and anti-copier line structure micro-lettering.

Intaglio: “Incorporated Guilloches Micro Text Recognition Feature” (embossed/raised lettering) for the visually challenged persons. Intaglio line front “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”.

When the Bank Note is held at different angles, the denomination figure appears dark on a light background or light on a dark background, depending on the angle of vision.

Letterpress: Black magnetic serial numbers. The front side has phosphorescent block.

Flexigraphic: Two layer varnishes applied on front and reverse side to prevent soiling of Notes.



The Front of the Five Ngultrum Note has the Government crest in the centre with two mythical birds (“Bja Tshering” or “the bird signifying long life”) on either side of the emblem. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2011” issues.





-      The Back of the Five Ngultrum Note shows the “Paro Taktsang”.  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned on top in English on the Note. On the bottom is mentioned “5” in numerals and “Five Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

-       The size of the Note is 125 mm x60 mm.

Other features on the five Ngultrum Note:

Lithographic: Rainbow printing, Rainbow printing with fluorescence (on the Back only). Anti-scanner and anti-structure Micro lettering. Letterpress, Intaglio and Flexographic – same as in the one Ngultrum Note.


 The Front of the Ten Ngultrum Note has a portrait of the Fourth King Jigme Singhye Wangchuk on the right and the “Dungkar” (conch shell) one of the eight auspicious signs in the centre (details given under Note on the “Tashi Tagye”: the eight auspicious symbols at the bottom of this post). There is a water-mark window on the left having the Fourth King’s watermark portrait on it. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2011” issues.


-      The Back of the Ten Ngultrum Note shows the “Paro Rinpung Dzong”.  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned in English on top of the Note. On the bottom is mentioned “10” in numerals and “Ten Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

-      The size of the Note is 125 mm x65 mm.

Other features on the Ten Ngultrum Note:

Other Features, viz, Lithographic, Intaglio, Letterpress, Flexpgraphic etc are the same as in the five Ngultrum Note.


The Front of the Twenty Ngultrum Note has a portrait of the Third  King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck on the right and the “Khorlo” (the Wheel of Dharma) one of the eight auspicious signs in the centre (details given under Note on the “Tashi Tagye”: the eight auspicious symbols at the bottom of this post). There is a water-mark window on the left having the Fourth King’s watermark portrait on it. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2006” issues.


-      The Back of the Twenty Ngultrum Note shows the “Punakha Dzong”.  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned in English on top of the Note. On the bottom is mentioned “20” in numerals and “Twenty Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

-      The size of the Note is 132 mm x65 mm.

    Other features on the Twenty Ngultrum Note:

Other Features, viz, Lithographic, Intaglio, Letterpress, Flexpgraphic etc are the same as in the five Ngultrum Note.



The Front of the Fifty Ngultrum Note has a portrait of the Fifth  King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on the right and the “Khorlo” (the Wheel of Dharma) one of the eight auspicious signs in the centre (details given under Note on the “Tashi Tagye”: the eight auspicious symbols at the bottom of this post). There is a water-mark window on the left having the Fifth King’s watermark portrait on it. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2008” issues.


-      The Back of the Fifty Ngultrum Note shows the “Trongsa Dzong”.  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned in English on top of the Note. On the bottom is mentioned “50” in numerals and “Fifty Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

-      The size of the Note is 139 mm x65 mm.

   Other features on the Fifty Ngultrum Note:

-      Other Features, viz, Lithographic, Intaglio, Letterpress, Flexpgraphic etc are the same as in the five Ngultrum Note.

 The Front of the Hundred Ngultrum Note has a portrait of the Fourth King Jigme Singhye Wangchuk on the right and there is a water-mark window on the left having the Fourth King’s watermark portrait on it. In the centre there is the Government crest  with two mythical birds (“Bja Tshering” or “the bird signifying long life”) on either side of the emblem. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2011” issues.


-      The Back of the Hundred Ngultrum Note shows the Tashichho Dzong”.  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned in English on top of the Note. On the bottom is mentioned “100” in numerals and “Hundred Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

The size of the Note is 146 mm x70 mm and paper quality is 100% cotton.

   Other features on the Hundred Ngultrum Note:
-      Other Features, viz, Lithographic, Intaglio, Letterpress, Flexpgraphic etc are the same as in the five Ngultrum Note.

-      In addition, the lettering on the back is in Intaglio. There is a Watermark running along the border of Notes at the top and bottom showing part of the wordings “Royal Monetary Authority”. Also, there is a fluorescence yellow fibre which is visible only under U.V. light. 



The Front of the Five Hundred Ngultrum Note has a portrait of the First King Ugyen Wangchuk on the right. In the centre there is the Government crest in the centre with two mythical birds (“Bja Tshering” or “the bird signifying long life”) on either side of the emblem. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2011” issues.


-      The Back of the Five Hundred Ngultrum Note shows the “Punakha Dzong”.  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned in English on top of the Note. On the bottom is mentioned “500” in numerals and “Five Hundred Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

The size of the Note is 130 mm x 62 mm and paper quality is 100% cotton.

-         Other features on the Five Hundred Ngultrum Note:

-      Other Features, viz, Lithographic, Intaglio, Letterpress, Flexpgraphic, running watermark, Fluorescence etc are the same as in the 100 Ngultrum Note.


The Front of the One thousand Ngultrum Note has a portrait of the Fifth  King  Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on the right wearing the Raven crown. In the centre there is the Government crest in the centre with two mythical birds (“Bja Tshering” or “the bird signifying long life”) on either side of the emblem. On top is mentioned “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan”, in Dzongkha (the language of Bhutan). This Note was printed under the “Series 2008” issues.


-      The Back of the One thousand Ngultrum Note shows the “Tashichho Dzong”.  The “Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan” is mentioned in English on top of the Note. On the bottom is mentioned “1000” in numerals and “One thousand Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha, which is the denominational value of this Note.

The size of the Note is 130 mm x 62 mm and paper quality is 100% cotton.    Other features on the Five Hundred Ngultrum Note:

-      Other Features, viz, Lithographic, Intaglio, Letterpress, Flexpgraphic, running watermark, Fluorescence etc are the same as in the 100 Ngultrum Note.

Coins:

Coins are presently issued in the denominations of Nu.1, Ch.50, Ch.25 and Ch.20.

 

Obverse of a one Ngultrum coin showing the “Khorlo” (the Dharma Chakra) in the centre of the coin. On the periphery are mentioned “Royal Government of Bhutan” and the year of issue “1979”.


 Reverse of the one Ngultrum coin showing in the centre, the Tashi Tagye” or the “eight auspicious symbols” On the periphery is mentioned the denomination of the coin “One Ngultrum” both in English and Dzongkha.



Obverse of the twenty five Chhertum coin showing the “Sernya” (a pair of golden fishes) which is one of the eight auspicious symbols representing good fortune in the centre. On the periphery are mentioned “Royal Government of Bhutan” and the year of issue “1979”.




Reverse of the 25 Chhertum coin. On the periphery is mentioned the denomination of the coin “25 Chhetrum” both in English and Dzongkha.





Obverse of a ten Chhertum coin showing a “Dungkar” (conch shell) which is one of the eight auspicious symbols used as a horn. On the periphery are mentioned “Royal Government of Bhutan” and the year of issue “1979”.



Reverse of the 10 Chhertum coin showing the eight auspicious symbols. On the periphery is mentioned the denomination of the coin “25 Chhetrum” both in English and Dzongkha.

Note on the “Tashi Tagye”: the eight auspicious symbols:

The set of eight auspicious symbols is very popular and is found everywhere – in dzongs (fortresses), monasteries, and temples and in everyday life. In Sanskrit it is known as the “Ashtamangala” (meaning eight auspicious signs). Each one carries a special meaning.

They are:

“Bumpa” (treasure vase) symbolises inexhaustible riches available in Buddhist teachings as well as long life, wealth, prosperity and comforts of the material World.

“Lotus” (padma) symbolises complete purification of body, speech and mind and the blossoming of wholesome deeds. An open blossom signifies full enlightenment while a closed blossom signifies the potential for enlightenment.

“Khorlo” (Dharma chakra) represents Buddhist teachings.

“Dungkar” (conch shell) is used as a horn and symbolises the deep, far reaching and melodious sound of universal teachings, awakening the disciples from ignorance to knowledge and to work towards the common welfare of all human beings. The conch is mostly blown in commemoration of an event or the beginning of a religious discourse.  

“Dug” (parasol) which embodies notions of wealth or royalty. It also symbolises the wholesome activities to keep human beings from harm.

“Sernya” (a pair of golden fishes) originally symbolic of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna, but generally represent good fortune for Buddhists, Hindus and Jains.

 “Palbheu” (endless knot) is a geometric design symbolising the nature of reality where everything is inter-related and only exists as part of a web of karma and its effect. It also represents the illusory character of time and long life.

“Gyaltsen” (victory banner) symbolises the victory of Buddha’s teachings over death, ignorance, disharmony and over all the negativity of this World. 

A photo-journey of the Dzongs of Bhutan, contributed by Jayant Biswas from his trip to Bhutan for this post:
 
 Paro Dzong:

                                The Paro Dzong
        Intricate woodwork inside the Dzong with a riot of colours.

Punakha Dzong:





 Entrance to the Dzong
Courtyard of the Dzong
 Intricate woodwork

Simtokha Dzong: 

                       Yak cheese

Taktsanga dzong:

Also known as the Tiger's Nest.


                       View from the Dzong
 Tashichho Dzong:


                       The Dzong lit up at night

                       Buddhist Prayer Wheels
                       Buddhist Tankhas









Miscellaneous photos: 

Cross-Roads in the town square - Thimpu
 Bhutanese mother and child.


(The above Notes and coins have been brought by Jayant Biswas during his recent trip to Bhutan for my collection.   The images of the  one Ngultrum Note issued during the 1970s have been contributed for this post by Dr. P.V.Satyaprasad. The 10 chetrum coin from 1974 is from my collection, while the 10 chhertum from 1979 is from Ajit George's collection. Article researched and images scanned by Rajeev Prasad)

Links: 
1)A Fairy Tale Royal Wedding at Bhutan on 13.10.2011 

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