South Asian: August 2010 Archives

New Rupee Symbol May Now Be U+20B9


As mentioned in this blog's previous entry, the government of India has designated a new rupee symbol. One the the more interesting questions is how quickly it could be integrated into Unicode and other standards.

According to Live, the symbol has been voted into Unicode at code point U+20B9. That would be in the currency block right after the Tenge currency sign. I do not see any official conformation from Unicode, but it was on the agenda for that meeting.

You can read some of the discussion on the issue from late July which includes information about multiple proposals, the source of the new rupee design and comparisons to the design of the euro (€) symbol. Fascinating if somewhat heated.


A New Rupee Symbol


In case you've ever wondered whether the Unicode standard will ever be "complete", the answer is probably not. This was highlighted by the fact that India adopted a new rupee currency symbol just last month (July 2010).

Indian_Rupee_symbol, front part of capital R with 2 horizontal bars near top

Winning design by Shri D Udaya Kumar. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Actually, the government of India sponsored a contest and got some interesting entries which you can see in the linked slideshow.

Design History

Actually, there had been a rupee symbol already () and it was in Unicode at codepoint U+20A8, but if you see the character, you'll see that it's a rather boring ligature of Western Capital R plus s. The new symbol melds Western R and Devanagari ("Ra") and adds a currency bar to boot - very clever.

Actually the rupee story gets more complex because there are "rupee" signs for different scripts/countries.

Rupee Other Scripts for Bangali, Tamil, Gujarati

The "Bengali" rupee is actually the "Taka" sign of Bangladesh, but I am perplexed by the Tamil and Gujarati versions since they would be regions of India and/or Sri Lanka. I am guessing that they are regional "informal" characters, but enough in use to be included in Unicode.

What Now

Even though the Government of India has signed off on the symbol, there's a long road ahead. There are fonts to be retooled, but the rupee sign won't be in its Unicode code point...because one hasn't been assigned to it (although they're working on it...). That means that even though this sign was born in the era of Unicode, a "legacy" pre-Unicode system will be in place which will have to be corrected later. Ah well.

Other systems that will have to be retrofitted include currency databases, Excel formatting options, and probably cash registers (at least what prints out on the receipt). And that's no doubt the tip of the iceburg. Interestingly, there are no plans to put the symbol on bills and coins, but as this Times of India piece article notes, most bills/coins don't have a currency symbol. Americans can pull out a dollar bill to check - no $ in sight.

A final comment is how speakers in non-Devanagari areas will react. The crossed bar shape actually works for many Northern Indian scripts such as Devanagari () and Gujarati but R looks very different in a lot of scripts including Tamil (Tamil R with 2 vertical lines and 1 horizontal) and others. I occasionally run into comments from Tamil writers about not assuming that Devanagari is a universal script in India. I wonder what the impact here will be.

Pictures instead of Text?

Some of you may be interested to note that the Tamil/Gujarati/Bengali text are actually images. For some reason the MT CSS is insisting on font selections and I haven't been able to override it yet, not even with !important!. Not sure how to troubleshoot, but this does not happen to me in Web 1.0...


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I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage ( for a profile.


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