Thousand Rupees, Hundred Mistakes.

I came back from my previous holiday and handed over a new thousand rupee note to one of my buddies as a souvenir. “Maan, this tourist note looks so real, it’s even got a silver strip..!” he exclaimed, while thanking me for remembering him.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. (I had similar thoughts when I first got hold of the new note, I wasn’t sure if the note was genuine and legitimate. Besides, I was changing some dollars at a dodgy place in Welawatte.)

I told him that the note was not a ‘tourist souvenir’ but a real currency note. He honestly couldn't believe that we had such bad designs mass produced.

Currency notes are like stamps. Some people collect them, cherish them, save them and show them off occasionally. In their vast collections, these notes represent a nation and the level of intelligence of the natives. It’s like the Olympics of the currency notes and this time we have sent an imbecile to run the marathon for us.

The new note looks as if the designer had absolutely no understanding of the colour wheel, or any idea of complimentary/contrasting colours. There are floating objects all over the place, the colour combination looks like puke that comes out of an eighth grader at the Big Match. The designer has no sense of design, and he has no clue of scale or proportion. It is virtually impossible to find a human being with no imagination, how original is it to portray the raising of the flag this way? If the intention behind the design was to encourage someone sitting in a small print shop in Weeraketiya to produce counterfeits, the Central Bank has done a wonderful job.

Enough bashing the new note, Indi’s post here has done a good job of it, already.

We have produced some fabulous notes in the past – the flora and fauna collection with the salmon-pink two rupee note being one of my favourites. We have also been progressive and innovative in our design – the plastic Rs 200 note even had the denomination imprinted in Braille.

So I took this ugly note to a beauty treatment, a quick 5 minute in Photoshop – only to manipulate the colours and make something decent out of it. I added a few touches like the shadow beneath the floating soldiers and fixed the sheath of rice and the pot (pun-kalasa) inside the outline of Sri Lanka. It was very clear to me that this could have been improved a hundred times, if there were people of some intelligence taking care of the business. Easily.

Here’s glimpse of my favourite Sri Lankan currency collection from 1979:


  1. this was interesting. i hadn't thought about it before. i totally see what you mean, the note 'is' terribly tacky, embarrassing even.

    but that being said, thank you for the neat idea. i can bring back a few of these for my friends here :p

  2. Tell me about it man! It's so horrible on the eyes if nothing else. If our King wanted to be remembered, he could at least have pick someone with half a brain to do a decent job.

    Btw, my favorite is that Rs.50/= note. I got one of them back home along with some others I think.

  3. Hmmmm.... note bad for a "pimp my banknote" attempt... but some things are beyond the help of makeovers!

    I *love* the old Sri Lankan notes... they are so beautifully designed!

  4. Your suggestion for Rs 1000 is great. Love the others too. Who ever the 1000 Rs designer and the approver should be fired or made to wear clothes that look like the note! :)

  5. Well its an improvement, but a lot more needs to be done before it becomes acceptable.

    Personally, I don't care for the other notes taht you've pictured here, they are miles better designed and are nice as postcards but they don't really look like money either. The even older notes are much nicer and the later notes are acceptable, except for the one you highlight here.

  6. You'll have to fire the prez then, Magerata. Wijitha, the prob is, unlike those older notes which depict nature, the new thousand-rupee note is a political one, and so probably had a dozen different comittees which gave their own input, before the prez said, "put more blue" and "make this bigger". If you notice, the portrait of MR is totally different in style from everything else, and is probably all that is left of the original design.

    Having worked on GoSL brands, I can vouch for the process of anti-design that exists.

  7. Good job on the Photoshopping - I think indi or somebody else pretty much got it right when he described it as an election bill with value..

    if i am not mistaken Laki Senanayake designed most of the currency notes. it used to give me immense pleasure in showing off the quality and colours in our currency especially to Europeans..

  8. The old collections is beautiful

  9. @Dandelion: Yes, I often give away the coins and notes to my foreign friends and they love it. And they thought this one was fake! LOL.

    @Sach: I know. But I’m not so sure if this is the King’s blunder, or Mr Cabraal’s. That guy is an idiot for sure.

    @Angel: Yeah. But the design shows that it was done by an amateur – it cannot be fixed but redone from scratch.

    The old ones are just gorgeous; makes me so proud to show them off – specially compared to the Indian notes!

    @ Magerata: LOL. Yes, they should be made to pay for their stupidities! ;)

    @Jack Point: Agree. But wot to do no – we can lament all we want but the harm is already done. ;)

    @David: Good point David, but sometimes they make the initial mistake in giving the job to the wrong people. Like the SAF Games 2006 mascot for example. (http://wijitha.blogspot.com/2006/07/of-mascots-and-their-creators.html).

    Even Bandaranaike had his face on our notes, Premadasa went for a coin – MR surely would have interfered, but I think the designer is also not that clever. His renditions on the reverse side as as bad, I wouldn’t think the prez had anything to do with that.

    @maf: Thank you. Yes, I know what you mean. The old notes were fantastic.

    @santhoshi: Yeah, I’m sad the new ones are just currency notes – there is no aesthetic value. ;(

  10. That new note is indeed a a step in the wrong direction. Reminds me of funny money lol. Previous notes were works of art.

  11. I've NEVER seen those parana notes before...
    thanks for showing em..:)

  12. @sigma delta: yes the old notes are a work of art. The new one... LOL.

    @LD: Oh yes, you are welcome. ;)

  13. I like the colorfulness of the new note but not to much else about it. The map of your country behind the pot makes the whole thing look too "busy,"--there is too much going on--too many conflicting elements. Maybe take out the map and the pot? Or make them smaller and put them somewhere in a less conspicuous place?

    The older notes you posted are great! It is nice to see that some good art is being distributed by your government.

  14. What use is the broken line down the middle of the note?

  15. Anonymous: The broken line down in the middle is a security feature – a security thread – woven in to the paper. Usually it is made of metal foil and often with some text or numbers engraved. It is to protect against counterfeiting, you could read more about this feature on wikipedia:

  16. @Anon1: yeah the current note is too busy and very cluttered without adding much to the design. Too many symbolic elements that only make sense to the natives, meaningless to others. I guess the map outlines an area with a certain security feature, but could have been the lion symbol or something else more aesthetic and relevant to the govt.

    Well, as you can see, it used to be some good art. Not anymore. ;(

    Thank you for your comment.

  17. To be fair though...the note design is a very accurate reflection of our current government...something as beautiful as the previous ones wouldn't really 'go' if you know what I mean. :)

  18. @N: LOL, it is indeed a reflection of the government. ;)

  19. OMG..thats the first time i've seen those notes...feel like a traitor..going to start collecting nice notes for my kiddies and grand kiddies to see someday..(hopefully....)
    Thanks a million....
    I remember when this note came out..people used to exchange it back to the old Rs.1000 note..hhehehe...nice photo-shopping..;)

  20. Nice photoshopping, you've actually made it look good... Putting your face on a currency note is something that a living President should never do, but even if you do it do it with some class without going all Powerpoint on it! ;) lol

    I haven't seen those notes in a long time... I once watched a documentary about the artist who drew them, but I've forgotten his name...

  21. There seem to be quite a few reptiles depicted in the old notes. Maybe the government wants to downplay their existence for tourism reasons; thus, one reason to create a different kind of note?

    A butterfly on a note is pretty, but maybe not a snake?

  22. @Penny: Hopefully you could find those notes... ;)

    @Chavie: Thanks, I also think it was Lucky Senanayake. Not sure tho.

    @Anonymous: Good point, but our govt is not smart enough to think that far to promote tourism. The creatures in the notes are endemic to Sri Lanka – that’s why even the snakes are there.

  23. Yep, I think it was Mr. Senanayake... Thanks! :D

  24. Seen a lot of comments on the old notes, unfortunately except for numismatists (are there none now?) the even older notes (which I prefer) seem to be completely unknown. For those interested have a look at the links below:




  25. Thanks Jack Point..:)needed the links..:)

  26. Wow! the old notes are beautiful. Two rupee notes! Wow!

  27. Yes... remove that beastly yellow from that damn note!

  28. Wow. The old notes were beautiful. And your make over on the new one makes it look almost decent, so congratulations, given that you didn't have much to work with! I hate this note - so much so that I use it whenever I have to pay cash just so that I can get rid of it, lol. Cool post.