Cochin is a small state in the south-west of the Indian peninsula, which is presently known as Kerala Sate. Malayalam is the language of this region and all the stamps of this State are bilingual, displaying both Malayalam and English.
Cochin had the highest literacy rate of any state during the British period, and the people of Cochin were very fond of writing letters.
For collectors who use the Scott catalogue, there are 112 varieties of regular and 116 varieties of official (overprinted). And the Stanley Gibbons catalogue examines the series of portraits in more detail, resulting in 179 varieties of regular and 197 varieties of official issues. And still there are many varieties which are not listed in these catalogues.
Raja Kerala Varma is not represented on the stamps of Cochin. In Cochin Postage were introduced in 1865, and the first adhesive Stamps were issued during the reign of Kerala Varma in 1892.
Raja Rama Varma I resigned in 1914 because of differences with the British Empire. A set of eight values (2p, 3p, 4p, 9p, 1, 1 ½, 2, 3a) were printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co. From 1911 to 1913. Inverted and sideways watermarks are frequently found in the 1898 and 1902-3 issues. Advanced collectors can look into the inverted and sideways watermarks. Nine stamps were overprinted for official use, in 1913.
Raja Rama Varma II, from 1921 his name was changed as Maharaja Rama Varma II. A set of 11 values (2p, 4p, 6p, 8p, 9p, 10p, 1 bis, 1 ½, 2 bis, 2 ¼, 3a) were printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co. From 1916 to 1930.
Between 1922 and 1933, a range of supplements were overprinted on Rama Varma II stamps. Four varieties of 2p surcharges were overprinted on 3p blue (1922-29), a type 1a surcharge is found on the 2 ¼ of a yellow-green (1928), a surcharge 3p appears both on the green and 4p the 8p sepia (1932 – 33), a surcharge 9p was overprinted on 10p blue (1932-33), and finally an additional 6 pa been on the sepia 8p and 10p blue (1934).
A large number of Rama Varma II stamps are found overprinted for official use. The entire base (1919-33) is composed of 12 values. 2p and the 1a have never used for officials, and 6a, 12a and 1½r are only found overprinted.
Maharaja Rama Varma III, In 1938 Perkins, Bacon & Co. stop the contract with the state of Cochin, and an Indian firm began by printing stamps lithographic printing. Thus, two very different impressions are found during the reign of King Rama Varma III- those nicely printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co., and those less attractive offset printed variety. Cochin’s all stamps after 1938 were offset printing.
Between 1933 and 1938, 11 values (2p, 4p, 6p, 1a, 1a8p, 2a, 2 ¼, 3a, 3a4p, 6a8p, 10a) were printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co. The ensemble is quite feasible in both used and unused condition. In 1938, five values (2p, 4p, 6p, 1a, 2 ¼ a) were offset printed by The Associated Printers of Madras. The brown-orange 1a [Sc 57A/SG 70] is rare.
In 1939, 1a stamps were overprinted ‘ANCHAL’ for postal purposes (those who are not overprinted were used for revenue purposes).
Maharaja Kerala Varma II, was the younger brother of the former leader. His portrait on stamps gross rather unfortunate, because its true appearance is much more clean and elegant. He had a short white beard, which had to be difficult to illustrate. Kerala Varma II reigned for two years. The stamps were printed in 1943 and then overprinted for official use in 1944.
Six values (2p, 4p, 6p, 9p, 1a, 2 ¼ a) were offset printed by The Associated Printers. The 2p, 4p, and 1a values were first printed on paper with the watermark umbrella of the earlier stamps. A new watermark was then presented and used with all six values in this together. The new watermark had a broad conception, resulting in stamps showing various parts or none of the watermark.
All Nine varieties of surcharge overprints are common.
Maharaja Ravi Varma was the younger brother of the former leader, who was, in turn, the younger brother of the ruler before him. Like the previous leader, his reign was short-only three years. From 1944 to 1948 the three values (9p, 1a3p, and 1a9p) were offset printed by The Associated Printers. In this set, the Maharaja is shown with head turned slightly toward the right side of the stamp design. Between 1946 and 1948, eight values (2p, 3p, 4p, 6p, 9p, 1a, 2a, 3a) were printed with the Maharaja’s head is slightly turned to the left side of the design. The first set of three is fairly common. And the second set in mint condition is rare and valuable.
In 1949, five were overprinted surcharges on stamps of Ravi Varma – 6p (on 1a3p) and 1a (on 1a9p) with the right head, and 3p (on 9p), 6p (on 1a3p), and 1a (on 1a9p) Head facing to the left. Later that same year, another type of surcharge was introduced – 6p (on 1a) and 9p (on 1a), the head facing left. These are rare in mint condition and even rarer in used condition.
The three values in the first category (head facing right) has been overprinted for official use. Nine values in the second category (head facing left) are overprinted for the official use.
Maharaja Kerala Varma III, was the last ruler of Cochin to represent on the stamps. As the two leaders before him, his reign is also two years only. Eight values (2p, 3p, 4p, 6p, 9p, 2a, 3a, 3a4p) were offset printed by The Associated Madras Printers from 1948-1950. Several values in this set are rare in mint condition. Surcharges are found two types of 3p (on 9p) and 6p (on 9p).
Eight values were overprinted for official use in 1949, 2p was not overprinted, and an additional 2 ¼ value was only issued with the official overprint. In the same year, three have been overprinted surcharges on 6p (on 3p), 9p (on 4p) and 3p (on 9p).
In 1949, two new stamps were introduced, which are like no other in the series of portraits of the Maharaja. They are in the horizontal format, and the leader of the image is reduced to the upper right corner. The main part of the design pictorial showing fishnets on a Chinese (2a value) and a Dutch palace on the other (2 ¼ value). They are not surcharged or overprinted for official use.
Maharaja Rama Varma IV, was the last official leader of the Empire Cochin. He is not represented on the stamps of the State. Some stamps depicting the former leader was still in production during his reign. In 1949 Travancore and Cochin merged and his kingdom has ended. He ruled for only one year. Under the Reorganization Act of 1956 the State, Travancore-Cochin lost a few districts, and gained a few others, to form a new state, Kerala, which is still in existence today.