Indian Postal History

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In India a system of carrying messages was in existence during the reign of Allauddin Khilji in 1296. Its was Sher Shah Suri, who during his short reign of 5 years, built the 2000 mile long road from Bengal to Peshawar for the use of his postal services. He built 1700 “serais”, relay posts where horses were changed. He died on May 22, 1545. His postal system was improved by later rulers of India.

The East India Company established post offices in Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras) and Calcutta in 1766. Warren Hastings made the postal service available to the general public. The common man could send a letter a distance of 100 miles for a 2 annas. Copper Tokens were minted for this and could be used for posting a letter. The letter was hand stamped “post paid” if it was paid for, else it was stamped “post unpaid” or “bearing”.

Bartle Ferere, the Commissioner of Sind, introduced paper stamps in token of prepayment of postage in 1852. These were the first stamps in Asia and are called “Scinde Dawks”. The stamps bore the East India Company mark. The Red Coloured Scinde Dawk is shown in the stamp. These stamps were on brittle paper and therefore later replaced by white on white and later still in blue.

After the Scinde Dawk, Colonel Forbes of Calcutta Mint came up with an essay for a postage stamp. It showed a Lion and Palm tree. This stamp was never printed, as the colonel could not ensure an adequate supply with the limited machinery at his command.

After Colonel Forbes failed, Captain HL Thuillier, Deputy Surveyor General of Survey office, Calcutta, took up the task of printing stamps. He came up with a 1/2 anna blue coloured stamp having Queen Victoria’s head on it. This first all India stamp brought out in October 1854 is shown in the stamp issued during Inpex 1982.

In 1875 the General Postal Union was formed to strengthen postal relations between nations. The membership grew so quickly that in a period of three years its name was changed to Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1878. India became a member of UPU in 1876.

After attaining independence on August 15, 1947 India brought out its first stamp. There was delay and this first stamp was brought out on November 21,1947.

Post in India was carried by various means as shown in the stamps below. Harkaras or foot-runners carried post tied to a stick. He was armed with a spear to protect himself from wild animals. The Harkaras still carry posts in the remote inaccessible parts of India ! Bullock drawn carts carried mail between 1846 and 1904 in India. The last bullock route, between Ambala and Simla, was closed in October, 1904. A mobile camel post office was started on October 27, 1977 at Mithariya in Bikaner district. The postmaster was given an allowance of Rs 80 per month to maintain the camel.

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