The Republic of India (Bhārat Gaṇarājya), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country (with over 1.2 billion people), and the most populous democracy in the world. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast. It shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia. India is a federal constitutional republic governed under a parliamentary system and consists of 29 states and 7 union territories. It is a pluralistic, multilingual and multi-ethnic society and is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.
The name India is derived from Indus, which originates from the Old Persian word Hindu. The latter term stems from the Sanskrit word Sindhu, which was the historical local appellation for the Indus River. The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ἰνδοί), which translates as “The people of the Indus”. The geographical term Bharat, which is recognized by the Constitution of India as an official name for the country, is used by many Indian languages in its variations. It is a modernization of the historical name Bharatavarsha, which traditionally referred to the Indian subcontinent and gained increasing currency from the mid-nineteenth century as a native name for India. Scholars believe it to be named after the Vedic tribe of Bharatas in the second millennium B.C.E. It is also traditionally associated with the rule of the legendary emperor Bharata. Gaṇarājya (literally, people’s State) is the Sanskrit/Hindi term for “republic” dating back to the ancient times. Hindustan is a Persian name for India dating back to the third century B.C.E. It was introduced into India by the Mughals and widely used since then. Its meaning varied, referring to a region that encompassed northern India and Pakistan or India in its entirety. Currently, the name may refer to either the northern part of India or the entire country.
The earliest authenticated human remains in South Asia date to about 30,000 years ago. Nearly contemporaneous Mesolithic rock art sites have been found in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, including at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh. Around 7000 BCE, the first known Neolithic settlements appeared on the subcontinent in Mehrgarh and other sites in western Pakistan. These gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation, the first urban culture in South Asia; it flourished during 2500–1900 BCE in Pakistan and western India. Centered around cities such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Dholavira, and Kalibangan, and relying on varied forms of subsistence, the civilization engaged robustly in crafts production and wide-ranging trade.
During the period 2000–500 BCE, in terms of culture, many regions of the subcontinent transitioned from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age. The Vedas, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism, were composed during this period, and historians have analyzed these to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Gangetic Plain. Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent. The caste system arose during this period, creating a hierarchy of priests, warriors, free peasants and traders, and lastly the indigenous peoples who were regarded as impure; and small tribal units gradually coalesced into monarchical, state-level polities. On the Deccan Plateau, archaeological evidence from this period suggests the existence of a chiefdom stage of political organization. In southern India, a progression to sedentary life is indicated by the large number of megalithic monuments dating from this period, as well as by nearby traces of agriculture, irrigation tanks, and craft traditions.
In the late Vedic period, around the sixth century BCE, the small states and chiefdoms of the Ganges Plain and the north-western regions had consolidated into 16 major oligarchies and monarchies that were known as the mahajanapadas. The emerging urbanization gave rise to non-Vedic religious movements, two of which became independent religions. Jainism came into prominence during the life of its exemplar, Mahavira. Buddhism, based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha attracted followers from all social classes excepting the middle class; chronicling the life of the Buddha was central to the beginnings of recorded history in India. In an age of increasing urban wealth, both religions held up renunciation as an ideal, and both established long-lasting monastic traditions. Politically, by the third century BCE, the kingdom of Magadha had annexed or reduced other states to emerge as the Mauryan Empire. The empire was once thought to have controlled most of the subcontinent excepting the far south, but its core regions are now thought to have been separated by large autonomous areas. The Mauryan kings are known as much for their empire-building and determined management of public life as for Ashoka’s renunciation of militarism and far-flung advocacy of the Buddhist dhamma.
The Sangam literature of the Tamil language reveals that, between 200 BCE and 200 CE, the southern peninsula was being ruled by the Cheras, the Cholas, and the Pandyas, dynasties that traded extensively with the Roman Empire and with West and South-East Asia. In North India, Hinduism asserted patriarchal control within the family, leading to increased subordination of women. By the fourth and fifth centuries, the Gupta Empire had created in the greater Ganges Plain a complex system of administration and taxation that became a model for later Indian kingdoms. Under the Guptas, a renewed Hinduism based on devotion rather than the management of ritual began to assert itself. The renewal was reflected in a flowering of sculpture and architecture, which found patrons among an urban elite. Classical Sanskrit literature flowered as well, and Indian science, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics made significant advances.
The Indian early medieval age, 600 CE to 1200 CE, is defined by regional kingdoms and cultural diversity. When Harsha of Kannauj, who ruled much of the Indo-Gangetic Plain from 606 to 647 CE, attempted to expand southwards, he was defeated by the Chalukya ruler of the Deccan. When his successor attempted to expand eastwards, he was defeated by the Pala king of Bengal. When the Chalukyas attempted to expand southwards, they were defeated by the Pallavas from farther south, who in turn were opposed by the Pandyas and the Cholas from still farther south. No ruler of this period was able to create an empire and consistently control lands much beyond his core region. During this time, pastoral peoples whose land had been cleared to make way for the growing agricultural economy were accommodated within caste society, as were new non-traditional ruling classes. The caste system consequently began to show regional differences.
In the sixth and seventh centuries, the first devotional hymns were created in the Tamil language. They were imitated all over India and led to both the resurgence of Hinduism and the development of all modern languages of the subcontinent. Indian royalty, big and small, and the temples they patronized, drew citizens in great numbers to the capital cities, which became economic hubs as well. Temple towns of various sizes began to appear everywhere as India underwent another urbanization. By the eighth and ninth centuries, the effects were felt in South-East Asia, as South Indian culture and political systems were exported to lands that became part of modern-day Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Java. Indian merchants, scholars, and sometimes armies were involved in this transmission; South-East Asians took the initiative as well, with many sojourning in Indian seminaries and translating Buddhist and Hindu texts into their languages.
After the tenth century, Muslim Central Asian nomadic clans, using swift-horse cavalry and raising vast armies united by ethnicity and religion, repeatedly overran South Asia’s north-western plains, leading eventually to the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206. The sultanate was to control much of North India, and to make many forays into South India. Although at first disruptive for the Indian elites, the sultanate largely left its vast non-Muslim subject population to its own laws and customs. By repeatedly repulsing Mongol raiders in the thirteenth century, the sultanate saved India from the devastation visited on West and Central Asia, setting the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, learned men, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from that region into the subcontinent, thereby creating a syncretic Indo-Islamic culture in the north. The sultanate’s raiding and weakening of the regional kingdoms of South India paved the way for the indigenous Vijayanagara Empire. Embracing a strong Shaivite tradition and building upon the military technology of the sultanate, the empire came to control much of peninsular India, and was to influence South Indian society for long afterwards.
In the early sixteenth century, northern India, being then under mainly Muslim rulers, fell again to the superior mobility and firepower of a new generation of Central Asian warriors. The resulting Mughal Empire did not stamp out the local societies it came to rule, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites, leading to more systematic, centralized, and uniform rule. Eschewing tribal bonds and Islamic identity, especially under Akbar, the Mughals united their far-flung realms through loyalty, expressed through a Persianized culture, to an emperor who had near-divine status. The Mughal state’s economic policies, deriving most revenues from agriculture and mandating that taxes be paid in the well-regulated silver currency, caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets. The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the seventeenth century was a factor in India’s economic expansion, resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture. Newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience. Expanding commerce during Mughal rule gave rise to new Indian commercial and political elites along the coasts of southern and eastern India. As the empire disintegrated, many among these elites were able to seek and control their own affairs.
By the early eighteenth century, with the lines between commercial and political dominance being increasingly blurred, a number of European trading companies, including the English East India Company, had established coastal outposts. The East India Company’s control of the seas, greater resources, and more advanced military training and technology led it to increasingly flex its military muscle and caused it to become attractive to a portion of the Indian elite; both these factors were crucial in allowing the company to gain control over the Bengal region by 1765 and sideline the other European companies. Its further access to the riches of Bengal and the subsequent increased strength and size of its army enabled it to annex or subdue most of India by the 1820s. India was then no longer exporting manufactured goods as it long had, but was instead supplying the British Empire with raw materials, and many historians consider this to be the onset of India’s colonial period. By this time, with its economic power severely curtailed by the British parliament and itself effectively made an arm of British administration, the company began to more consciously enter non-economic arenas such as education, social reform, and culture.
Historians consider India’s modern age to have begun sometime between 1848 and 1885. The appointment in 1848 of Lord Dalhousie as Governor General of the East India Company set the stage for changes essential to a modern state. These included the consolidation and demarcation of sovereignty, the surveillance of the population, and the education of citizens (English Education Act 1835). Technological changes — among them, railways, canals, and the telegraph — were introduced not long after their introduction in Europe. However, disaffection with the company also grew during this time, and set off the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Fed by diverse resentments and perceptions, including invasive British-style social reforms, harsh land taxes, and summary treatment of some rich landowners and princes, the rebellion rocked many regions of northern and central India and shook the foundations of Company rule. Although the rebellion was suppressed by 1858, it led to the dissolution of the East India Company and to the direct administration of India by the British government. Proclaiming a unitary state and a gradual but limited British-style parliamentary system, the new rulers also protected princes and landed gentry as a feudal safeguard against future unrest. In the decades following, public life gradually emerged all over India, leading eventually to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.
The rush of technology and the commercialization of agriculture in the second half of the nineteenth century was marked by economic setbacks — many small farmers became dependent on the whims of far-away markets. There was an increase in the number of large-scale famines, and, despite the risks of infrastructure development borne by Indian taxpayers, little industrial employment was generated for Indians. There were also salutary effects: commercial cropping, especially in the newly canaled Punjab, led to increased food production for internal consumption. The railway network provided critical famine relief, notably reduced the cost of moving goods, and helped nascent Indian-owned industry.
After World War I, in which approximately one million Indians served, a new period began. It was marked by British reforms but also repressive legislations, by more strident Indian calls for self-rule, and by the beginnings of a nonviolent movement of non-co-operation, of which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would become the leader and enduring symbol. During the 1930s, slow legislative reform was enacted by the British; the Indian National Congress won victories in the resulting elections. The next decade was beset with crises: Indian participation in World War II, the Congress’s final push for non-co-operation, and an upsurge of Muslim nationalism. All were capped by the advent of independence in 1947, but tempered by the partition of India into two states: India and Pakistan.
Vital to India’s self-image as an independent nation was its constitution, completed in 1950, which put in place a secular and democratic republic. In the 60 years since, India has had a mixed record of successes and failures. It has remained a democracy with civil liberties, an active Supreme Court, and a largely independent press. Economic liberalization, which was begun in the 1990s, has created a large urban middle class, transformed India into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and increased its geopolitical clout. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture. Yet, India is also shaped by seemingly unyielding poverty, both rural and urban; by religious and caste-related violence; by Maoist-inspired Naxalite insurgencies; and by separatism in Jammu and Kashmir and in Northeast India. It has unresolved territorial disputes with China and with Pakistan. The India–Pakistan nuclear rivalry came to a head in 1998. India’s sustained democratic freedoms are unique among the world’s newer nations; however, in spite of its recent economic successes, freedom from want for its disadvantaged population remains a goal yet to be achieved.
The history of India’s postal system begins long before the introduction of postage stamps. The antecedents have been traced to the systems of the Persian Empire instituted by Cyrus the Great and Darius I for communicating important military and political information. The Atharvaveda records a messenger service. Systems for collecting information and revenue data from the provinces are mentioned in Chanakya’s Arthashastra (c. third century BC).
“In ancient times the kings, emperors, rulers, zamindars or the feudal lords protected their land through the intelligence services of specially trained police or military agencies and courier services to convey and obtain information through runners, messengers and even through pigeons. The chief of the secret service, known as the postmaster, maintained the lines of communication … The people used to send letters to [their] distant relatives through their friends or neighbors.”
For centuries, it was rare for messages to be carried by any means other than a relay of runners on foot. A runner ran from one village or relay post to the next, carrying the letters on a pole with a sharp point. His was a dangerous occupation: the relay of postal runners worked throughout the day and night, vulnerable to attacks by bandits and wild animals. These mail runners were used chiefly by the rulers, for purposes of gathering information and wartime news. They were subsequently used by merchants for trade purpose. It was much later that mail runners came to be in use for the carriage of private mail.
The postal history of India primarily began with the overland routes, stretching from Persia to India. What began as mere foot-tracks that more than often included fords across the mountainous streams, gradually evolved over the centuries as highways, used by traders and military envoys on foot and horses, for carriage of missives.
The Arab influence of the Caliphate came about with the conquest of Sind by Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 A.D. Thereupon, the Diwan-i-Barid or Department of Posts established official communication across the far-flung empire. The swiftness of the horse messengers finds mention in many of the chronicles of that period.
The first Sultan of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din Aybak (قطب الدین ایبک) was Sultan for only four years, 1206–1210, but he founded the Mamluk Dynasty and created a messenger post system. This was expanded into the dak chowkis, a horse and foot runner service, by Alauddin Khilji in 1296. Sher Shah Suri (1541–1545) replaced runners with horses for conveyance of messages along the northern high road, today known as the Grand Trunk Road, which he constructed between Bengal and Sindh over an ancient trade route at the base of the Himalayas, the Uttarapatha. He also built 1700 ‘serais’ where two horses were always kept for the dispatch of the Royal Mail, Akbar introduced camels in addition to the horses and runners.
In the South of India, in 1672 Raja Chuk Deo of Mysore began an efficient postal service which was further improved upon by Haider Ali.
The East India Company took constructive steps to improve the existing systems in India when, in 1688, they opened a post office in Bombay followed by similar ones in Calcutta and Madras. Lord Clive further expanded the services in 1766 and in 1774 Warren Hastings made the services available to the general public. The fee charged was two annas per 100 miles. The postmarks applied on these letters are very rare and are named ‘Indian Bishop Marks’ after Colonel Henry Bishop, the Postmaster General of the United Kingdom who introduced this practice in Britain. The Post Office Department of the East India Company was first established on March 31, 1774, at Calcutta, followed in 1778 at Madras and in 1792 at Bombay. After 1793, when Cornwallis introduced the Regulation of the Permanent Settlement, the financial responsibility for maintaining the official posts rested with the zamindars. Alongside these, private dawk mail systems sprang up for the commercial conveyance of messages using hired runners. Also, the East India Company created its own infrastructure for the expansion and administration of military and commercial power. The runners were paid according to the distance they traveled and the weight of their letters.
Carrying the mail was dangerous work:
“With the exception of such parts as may be infested by tigers, the post seldom or never fails of arriving within an hour of its appointed time, except, as has been observed, when the waters are out. In this case, many circuitous roads must be followed, whereby the way is considerably lengthened. Taking the average, a hundred miles per day may be run over by the dawk, or post, in fair weather. Each mail-bag is conveyed by an hurkaru (or runner) who is attended by one or two doogy-wallahs, or drummers, who keep up a kind of long-roll, as they pass any suspicious place.”
The Post Office Act XVII of 1837 provided that the Governor-General of India in Council had the exclusive right of conveying letters by post for hire within the territories of the East India Company. Section XX required all private vessels to carry letters at prescribed rates for postage. A handstamp was applied to preadhesive ship letters. The mails were available to certain officials without charge, which became a controversial privilege as the years passed. On this basis the Indian Post Office was established on October 1, 1837.
The urgent European mails were carried overland via Egypt at the isthmus of Suez. This route, pioneered by Thomas Waghorn, linked the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, and thence by steamer via Marseilles, Brindisi or Trieste to European destinations. The Suez Canal did not open until much later (November 17, 1869). The time in transit for letters using the Overland Mail route was dramatically reduced. Waghorn’s route reduced the journey from 16,000 miles via the Cape of Good Hope to 6,000 miles; and reduced the time in transit from three months to between 35 and 45 days.
The use of the Scinde Dawk adhesive stamps to signify the prepayment of postage began on July 1, 1852, in the Scinde/Sindh district, as part of a comprehensive reform of the district’s postal system. A year earlier Sir Bartle Frere had replaced the postal runners with a network of horses and camels, improving communications in the Indus river valley to serve the military and commercial needs of the British East India Company.
The new stamps were embossed individually onto paper or a wax wafer. The shape was circular, with SCINDE DISTRICT DAWK around the rim and the British East India Company’s Merchant’s Mark as the central emblem. The paper was either white or greyish white. The blue stamp was printed onto the paper by the die during the embossing, while the wax version was embossed on a red sealing wax wafer on paper; but all had the same value of ½ anna. They were used until October 1854, and then officially suppressed. These are quite scarce today, with valuations from US$700 to $10,000 for postally used examples.
The first stamps valid for postage throughout India were placed on sale in October 1854 with four values: ½ anna, 1 anna, 2 annas, and 4 annas. Featuring a youthful profile of Queen Victoria, all four values were designed and printed in Calcutta, and issued without perforations or gum. All were lithographed except for the 2 annas green, which was produced by typography from copper clichés or from electrotyped plates. The 4 annas value was one of the world’s first bicolored stamps, preceded only by the Basel Dove, a beautiful local issue.
These stamps were issued following a Commission of Inquiry which had carefully studied the postal systems of Europe and America. In the opinion of Geoffrey Clarke, the reformed system was to be maintained “for the benefit of the people of India and not for the purpose of swelling the revenue.” The Commissioners voted to abolish the earlier practice of conveying official letters free of postage (“franking”). The new system was recommended by the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, and adopted by the East India Company’s Court of Directors. It introduced “low and uniform” rates for sending mail efficiently throughout the country within the jurisdiction of the East India Company. The basic rate was ½ anna on letters not more than ¼ tola in weight. The stamps were needed to show the postage was prepaid, a basic principle of the new system, like the fundamental changes of the British system advocated by Rowland Hill and the Scinde reforms of Bartle Frere. These reforms transformed mail services within India.
The East India Company already had attempted a ½ anna vermilion stamp in April 1854, known as the “9½ arches essay”. This could not be produced in quantity because it required an expensive vermilion pigment not readily available from England, and the substituted Indian pigment destroyed the printing stones.
A new design for stamps, with Queen Victoria in an oval vignette inside a rectangular frame, was inscribed EAST INDIA POSTAGE. These stamps were recess printed by De La Rue in England (who produced all the subsequent issues of British India until 1925). The first of these became available in 1855. They continued in use well after the British government took over the administration of India in 1858, following the 1857 Rebellion against the East India Company’s rule. From 1865 the Indian stamps were printed on paper watermarked with an elephant’s head.
The volume of mail moved by the postal system increased relentlessly, doubling between 1854 and 1866, then doubling again by 1871. The Post Office Act XIV introduced reforms by May 1, 1866, to correct some of the more apparent postal system deficiencies and abuses. Postal service efficiencies also were introduced. In 1863 new lower rates were set for “steamer” mail to Europe at 6 annas 8 pies for a ½-ounce letter. Lower rates were introduced for inland mail, as well.
New regulations removed the special postal privileges which had been enjoyed by officials of the East India Company. Stamps for official use were prepared and carefully accounted for to combat the abuse of privileges by officials. In 1854, Spain had printed special stamps for official communications, but in 1866 India was the first country to adopt the simple expedient of overprinting ‘Service‘ on postage stamps and ‘Service Postage‘ on revenue stamps. This innovation became widely adopted by other countries in later years.
Shortages developed, so these stamps also had to be improvised. Some of the “Service Postage” overprinted rarities of this year resulted from the sudden changes in postal regulations. New designs for the 4 annas and “6 annas 8 pies” stamps were issued in 1866. Nevertheless, there was a shortage of stamps to meet the new rates. Provisional six annas stamps were improvised by cutting the tops and bottoms from a current Foreign Bill revenue stamp, and overprinting POSTAGE.
Another four new designs appeared, one at a time, between 1874 and 1876.
A complete new set of stamps was issued in 1882 for the Empire of India that had been proclaimed five years earlier, in 1877. The designs consisted of the usual Victoria profile, in a variety of frames, inscribed INDIA POSTAGE. The watermark also changed to a star shape. These stamps were heavily used and are still quite common today.
Three stamps, featuring a detail from Heinrich von Angeli’s 1885 portrait of Queen Victoria, in 2, 3 and 5 rupee denominations, were introduced in 1895. Other existing designs were reprinted in new colors in 1900.
British India had hundreds of Princely States, some 652 in all, but most of them did not issue postage stamps. The stamp-issuing States were of two kinds: the Convention States and the Feudatory States. The postage stamps and postal histories of these States provide great challenges and many rewards to the patient philatelist. Many rarities are to be found here. Although handbooks are available, much remains to be discovered.
The Convention States are those which had postal conventions (or agreements) with the Post Office of India to provide postal services within their territories. The adhesive stamps and postal stationery of British India were overprinted for use within each Convention State. The first Convention State was Patiala, in 1884, followed by others in 1885. The stamps of the Convention States all became invalid on January 1, 1951, when they were replaced with stamps of the Republic of India valid from January 1, 1950.
The Feudatory States maintained their own postal services within their territories and issued stamps with their own designs. Many of the stamps were imperforate and without gum, as issued. Many varieties of type, paper, inks and dies are not listed in the standard catalogues. The stamps of each Feudatory State were valid only within that State, so letters sent outside that State needed additional British India postage.
In 1902 a new series depicting King Edward VII generally reused the frames of the Victoria stamps, with some color changes, and included values up to 25 rupees. The higher values were often used for the payment of telegraph and parcel fees. Generally, such usage will lower a collector’s estimation of a stamp’s value; except those from remote or “used abroad” offices.
The 1911 stamps of King George V were more florid in their design. It is reported that George V, a philatelist, personally approved these designs. In 1919 a 1½ anna stamp was introduced, inscribed ONE AND HALF ANNA, but in 1921 this changed to ONE AND A HALF ANNAS. In 1926, the watermark changed to a pattern of multiple stars.
The first pictorial stamps appeared in 1931. The set of six, showing the fortress of Purana Qila, Delhi and government edifices, was issued to mark the government’s move from Calcutta to New Delhi. Another pictorial set, also showing buildings, commemorated George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935.
The stamps issued in 1937 depicted various forms of mail transports, with King George VI’s effigy appearing on the higher values. A new issue in 1941, constrained by the austerity of World War II, consisted of rather plain designs using minimal amounts of ink and paper. As Indian Post Offices annually required some billions of stamps for postage, as a measure of economy the large pictorial stamps were immediately withdrawn and smaller stamps were issued. Even this did not ease the paper situation and it was thought desirable to reduce the size even more.
A victory issue in 1946 was followed in November 1947 by a first Dominion issue, whose three stamps were the first to depict the Ashoka Pillar and the new flag of India (the third showed an airplane).
Postage stamps were generally issued separately from the revenue stamps. However, in 1906, the set of King Edward VII stamps were issued in two values, half anna and one anna with the caption INDIA POSTAGE & REVENUE. The George V Series (1911 to 1933) added two more values, two annas and four annas to the Postage & Revenue stamps. These dual-purpose issues were an exception and generally the two types were issued separately.
The First Stamp of Independent India was issued on November 21, 1947. It depicts the Indian Flag with the patriots’ slogan, Jai Hind (Long Live India), on the top right hand corner. It was valued at three and one-half annas.
A memorial to Mahatma Gandhi was issued on August 15, 1948, on the first anniversary of Independence. Exactly one year later a definitive series appeared, depicting India’s broad cultural heritage, mostly Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh and Jain temples, sculptures, monuments and fortresses. A subsequent issue commemorated the inauguration of the Republic of India on January 26, 1950.
Definitives included a technology and development theme in 1955, a series all showing the map of India in 1957, denominated in naye paisa (decimal currency), and a series with a broad variety of images in 1965. The old inscription of INDIA POSTAGE was replaced in 1962 with भारत INDIA. India has printed stamps and postal stationery for other countries, mostly neighbors such as Burma (before independence), Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Portugal, and Ethiopia.
The Department of Posts, operating as India Post, is a government-operated postal system, simply referred to within India as “the post office”. With its far-flung reach and its presence in remote areas, the Indian postal service provides many services such as small savings banking and financial services. As of 31 March 2011, the Indian Postal Service has 154,866 post offices, of which 139,040 (89.78%) are in rural areas and 15,826 (10.22%) are in urban areas. It has 25,464 departmental POs and 129,402 ED BPOs. At the time of independence, there were 23,344 post offices, which were primarily in urban areas. Thus, the network has registered a sevenfold growth since Independence, with the expansion primarily in rural areas. On an average, a post office serves an area of 21.23 square kilometers and a population of 7,114 people. India is believed to have the most widely distributed system in the world (China has 57,000, Russia 41,000 and the United States 38,000 offices). This proliferation of offices results from India’s history of having many disparate postal systems, eventually unified in the Indian Union after Independence.
India has been divided into 22 postal circles, each circle headed by a Chief Postmaster General. Each Circle is further divided into Regions comprising field units, called Divisions, headed by a Postmaster General, and further divided into units headed by SSPOs & SPOs and Sub Divisions headed by ASPs and IPS. Other functional units like Circle Stamp Depots, Postal Stores Depots and Mail Motor Service exist in various Circles and Regions. Besides the 22 circles, there is a special Base Circle to provide the postal services for the Armed Forces of India. The Base Circle is headed by an Additional Director General, Army Postal Service holding the rank of a Major General.
On March 9, 2011, India Post launched an online e-post office. The portal provides electronic money orders, instant money orders, stamps for collectors, postal information, tracking of express and international shipments, PIN code search and registration of feedback and complaints online.
Scott #162 is a 1-rupee definitive bearing the portrait of King George VI. It was released in 1937, printed using typography in brown and slate. It is perforated 13½x14.
George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from December 11, 1936, until his death in February 1952. He was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth.
Known as Albert until his accession, George VI was born on December 14, 1895, in the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria, and was named after his great-grandfather Albert, Prince Consort. As the second son of King George V, he was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward. He attended naval college as a teenager, and served in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force during the First World War. In 1920, he was made Duke of York. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. In the mid-1920s, he had speech therapy for a stammer, which he never fully overcame.
George’s elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII upon the death of their father in 1936. However, later that year Edward revealed his desire to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advised Edward that for political and religious reasons he could not marry a divorced woman and remain king. Edward abdicated in order to marry, and George ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor.
During George’s reign, the break-up of the British Empire and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations accelerated. The parliament of the Irish Free State removed direct mention of the monarch from the country’s constitution on the day of his accession. The following year, a new Irish constitution changed the name of the state to Ireland and established the office of President. From 1939, the Empire and Commonwealth — except Ireland — was at war with Nazi Germany. War with Italy and Japan followed in 1940 and 1941, respectively. Though Britain and its allies were ultimately victorious in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union rose as pre-eminent world powers and the British Empire declined. After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, George remained king of both countries, but relinquished the title of Emperor of India in June 1948. Ireland formally declared itself a republic and left the Commonwealth in 1949, and India became a republic within the Commonwealth the following year. George adopted the new title of Head of the Commonwealth. He was beset by health problems in the later years of his reign. He was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Elizabeth II.