Alwar #1 (1877)

Alwar #1 (1877)

Alwar #1 (1877)
Alwar #1 (1877)

Alwar (अलवर) was a princely state in northern India.  It was named after a Khazada ruler, Ulawar Khan, who established his kingdom in the region in 1412.  Formerly spelt as “Ulwar” in British India which placed it in last position in alphabetically ordered lists, a ruler changed the spelling to “Alwar” to bring it to the top.  It became a recognized Rajput kingdom in 1771 when Pratap Singh conquered the city of Alwar and broke from under the rule of the Maratha Empire. It was ruled by the Rajput dynasty during the period of the British Raj in India. Alwar became the first Indian State to sign an alliance with the British East India Company following the Battle of Laswari in 1803.

British colonial authorities ruled India with two administrative systems. About 60 percent of the Indian sub-continent were provinces and territories directly under British colonial administration – known as Convention States – while the remaining 40 percent were native Indian – Princely, or Feudatory – States under direct treaty relations with British India. Feudatory States, such as Alwar, ran their own postal systems and issued stamps which were valid only in that particular state. Convention States had an agreement with the British India postal system to handle internal postage.

The first stamps of Alwar State appeared in February 1877 but may have been issued as early as September 1876. They were valid until 1 July 1902 when the postal service was taken over by the British Imperial Post. The design remained virtually unchanged during this 25-year period and features a native dagger known as a Kandjar pointing to the right. This is a fiendish weapon that, when squeezed by the user, the blades open like scissors inside the victim. The state name, Raj Alwar, is written above the dagger and below it the denomination, both in Devanagari script.

Alwar’s stamps were printed in two denominations, ¼ anna and 1 anna, printed by lithography. Those of the first issue were produced from a single master die for the ¼a value. Six transfers were taken from this to produce an intermediate matrix stone and that was transferred numerous times onto the actual printing stone. Perhaps twenty-five transfers were made from the matrix stone to the printing stone for the ¼a value, resulting in a sheet of 150 stamps each inscribed in Hindi “pav anna” (quarter anna). There were two separate printings.

The first issue of 1877 was rouletted, but this was not always perfect and pairs are known of both denominations which are imperforate between stamps, either horizontally or vertically. The frame lines at the left and bottom of the stamps are thick. The ¼a was issued in various shades of blue and the 1a in several shades of brown. Scott lists two varieties for the ¼a (Scott #1 in ultramarine and #1a in blue) and three for the 1a (Scott #2 in brown, #2a is yellow brown, and #2b in red brown).  I’m sometimes terrible at determining shades, so today’s stamp could be Scott #1a.

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