Postal History of India

Postal system in India existed from time immemorial. The story of a dog ‘Sarama’ carrying a message is narrated in RIG VEDA. Dhrupad Maharaja sent a message through the Royal Priest to Dhritharashtra. Sree Rama entrusted Hanuman with the task of conveying his message to Sita. However the objective was chiefly communication, relating to war and ‘Yagnas’

In the Mauryan period, the postal system was more organised and Pigeon Post served as a communication link, the mention of which is found in Kautilya’s Artha Shasthra. The Cholas too, had a regular communication system through their territory and South East Asia.

Warren Hastings became the first Governor General of India to organize the Post Office in a stable manner. Prior to the issue of Copper Tickets, Under Bye-Rules of the consultations Authority India’s First Postmark appears from 1775. Colonel Bishop introduced hand struck Postmarks known as Bishop Marks.

In 1837, first Post Office Act was passed, known as ACT XVII of 1837. This Act gave the British Govt. the sole right of postal system and private post was banned except for very few under license. Sevral Indian Princely States had their own Postal System, which were also under the supervision of British Political Agent.

1st July 1852 Issue of “ Scinde Dawk” for use in Sind Province under the authority of Sir Bartle Frere, for the province of Sind which were the forerunner of the General issues for whole of India. Issued on 1st October 1854, Lithographed in Calcutta at the office of the Surveyor – General.

For the first time Perforated and gummed stamps were issued in India in November 1855, Printed by de la Rue & Co., London. & continued to print Indian Stamps upto 1926 , until Indian Security Press at Nasik started functioning. Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India in 1877, and the inscription on the stamp was altered from “ EAST INDIA “ to “ INDIA “

Indian post office has an established fame of being a historical center from which have radiated organized postal communications throughout the Middle East comprising Arabia, Persia and Turkey, and in the Far East to the Straits Settlement, Sarawak and Borneo. India Has been pioneer of modern postal progress throughout Asia, for the Indian post office in Turkish Arabia and the Persian Gulf, dated back to over 125 years. The first Indian Post office established in Foreign Countries were at BUSHIRE and MUSCAT and were opened as regular post office on 1st May 1864. British Indian Stamp was used in French and Dutch Territories also.

Indian stamps were also overprinted for use in Bahrain, British East Africa, British Somaliland, Burma, Kuwait, The Straits Settlement, Tanganyika, Zanzibar etc.

On attainment of Independence on 14th August 1947,Rrepublic of India issued its first Stamp on 21st November 1947,  depicting Indian Flag in the series of three stamps.

Courtesy: Sangeeta Deogawanka.

History of Early Indian Philately

The early history of stamp collecting in India is lost in the mists of time. After the introduction of the world’s first postage stamp ‘Penny Black’ in Great Britain on May 1, 1840, an appeal was made to the kEast India Company government to introduce uniform postage stamps in India as well. Later on, that appeal took the form of a movement. And as a result, uniform postage stamps were issued in India on 1st October, 1854. However, on 1 July 1852, Sir Bartle Frere issued the first postage stamp in Sindh, known as the Scinde DistrictDawk.

In India, rajas-maharajas, rich people, scholars, used to collect manuscripts and other rare objects as collectors. Common people would preserve the letters exchanged with relatives or merchants, often carried down generations.Although philatelists with a passion for collectingmailevolved over time, an active interest in modern stamp collecting is only about six decades old.

It is said that stamp collecting started in England on the day the first stamp ‘Penny Black’ was issued. But collecting stamps in India started about three decades later. Althoughthe British colonials were the first stamp collectors of India, very soon the hobby caught the fascination of Indians.

Lieutenant Colonel George Byres Mainwaring may be considered India’s first stamp collector. While in Darjeeling he compiled a list of postage stamps issued in India up to 1871 with authentic information from official sources. The list appeared in The Stamp-Collector’s Magazine in 1874 under the title ‘Descriptive List of East India Postage Stamps’. This was the first compilation of postage stamps of India.

The next in the list of stamp collectors in India is G. J. Hynes. When he was Assistant Director-General of Post Office in India, he published a catalogue titled ‘Descriptive List of Indian Postage Stamps from 1853, the date on which they were introduced in India, to March 1885’, from the Office of the Director-General of the Post Office of India, in 1885. This catalogueis the first officially published catalogue in India.

Between the publication of these two catalogues, stamp shops were established in various cities. The Universal Stamp Exchange (18, Gora Chand Road, Entally, Calcutta), established in Calcutta in 1878, is probably the first stamp shop in India. N. D. Batliwala& Co. was established in Bombay Fort in 1882.

In the nineties of the 19th century, stamp collecting began gaining momentum in India. Many stamp clubs and philatelic societies were established.Philatelic magazines and journals were also published. Then began the philatelic exhibitions.

The first philatelic society in India ‘Bombay Philatelic Society’ was established in Bombay, in 1892. A report of this society appeared in the Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal, September 30, 1892 issue. The report is as follows:


A preliminary meeting of collectors was convened at the Presidency Surgeon’s office, Bombay, on Monday, the 29th August, 1892, at 7.30 p.m., with a view to establish a Philatelic Society in Bombay, when the following gentlemen were present: Mr. E. S. Gubbey (in the chair), Mr. J. Seymour Summers, Mr. N. H. Mama, Mr. Dorabji B. Khandalawala, Mr. N. D. Batliwala, Mr. DadabhaiMahadevrao, Mr. J. Rebeirio, Mr. Rustomjei Karaka (visitor).

Communications from Mr. W. R. Nicholson, Mr. J. M. Moses, and Mr. Jesse Eccles were read, in which they stated their inability to attend the meeting, but wished the Society every success.

The second was ‘The Philatelic Society of Bengal’ established in Calcutta, in 1894. In London Philatelist, Vol. 4, 1895, a long report of this society was published. Some parts of the report are given here.


The Philatelic Society of Bengal was constituted on the 19th February, 1894, and its seventeenth meeting took place in Calcutta on 17th April, 1S95. The membership roll now contains the names of fifty–seven collectors. The Society was fortunate in securing as its first President Mr. G. J. Hynes, Deputy- Director- General of the Post-office of India, who resigned in the course of a few months on his retirement to England. The meeting-place of the members has hitherto been chiefly at the Adelphi Hotel.

The names of fifty-seven collector-members were also published in the London Philatelist. They are: President.—C. Stewart-Wilson, Esq., c.s. (Deputy Director-General of the Post Office of India.); Vice-President.—Alfred A. Lvall, Esq.; Hon. Secretary.—E. Berthond, Esq.

Members: Major Anderson, G. Lane Anderson. R. Bignell. W. M. Briggs. W. W. Bryant. Major P. A. Buckland. G. G. Burnell. Wilmot Corfield. J. Cornwall. E. A. Doran. A. S. Gladstone. E. Gohner, Dr. E. Fowler Greenhill, Walter Gregory, E. S. Gubbay, H. Holmwood, c.s. G. J. Hynes, J. Jackson, Lieut. C. Kaye, R. D. Kedslie, P. J. Lancaster, C. F. Larmour, F. A. Larmour, J. H. Lewes, Lieut. T. H. Madden, C. D. Mangos, M. Manasseh, L. S. Mazza, M. Mazza, D. F. Minghis, Goodwin Norman, Captain J. G. Olifent, T. B. J. Overend, M. Palomba, E. W. S. Russell, Miss Sandel, Dr. R. S. Sanders, J. O’B. Saunders, A. Schauenburg, Walter Schenck, F. N. Schiller, A. Shrager, P. A. Simpson, A. Simson, F. Stiefelhagen, C. J. Stavridi, G. J. Stavridi, R. J. P. Thomas, Captain Slade Thomson, Hon. E. V. Westmacott, c.s. E. G. Stone Wigg, A. Vonck, & W. R. Yule.

The most notable name on this list is Miss Sandel,peehaps India’s first woman stamp collector.

Since then many philatelic societies and stamp clubs were born in different parts of India. For example: North-West Provinces (India) Philatelic Club (1895, Silchar, Assam);Kasauli Stamp Club (1896, Calcutta circle); The Philately Society of India (6 March 1897, Calcutta);The Dum-Dum Stamp Club (revival in November 1898); Ganges Stamp Club; etc.From a report published in The Philatelic Journal of India, Vol. III, No. 2, March, 1899, we come to know that Wetherall was running two clubs, viz., the Deccan and the Bangalore. The former was limited to twelve members and there were four vacancies. The latter was a big concern with 45 members.

India’s first philatelic journal isIndian Philatelist, (Vol. 1, No. 1, May, 1894), edited by Julio Ribeiro, Bombay. The second philatelic journal is The Philatelic World, (Vol. 1, No.1, July, 1894), the monthly official organ of The Philatelic Society of Bengal, published by Mr. B. Gordon Jones, andedited by Mr. C. F. Larmour and Mr.Wilmot Corfield. It is noteworthy that The Philatelic Journal of India(Vol. 1, No.1, January, 1897, Bombay), the Official Organ of the Philatelic Society of India, is still published today.

Probably India’s first Philatelic Exhibition was held in Calcutta by the Philatelic Society of Bengal. “The Society’s first public exhibition of postage stamps was held in the Fine Arts Annexe of the Imperial Museum, Chowringhee Road, on 26th and 27th December, 1894, and proved a decided success.” (London Philatelist, Vol. 4, 1895).

Courtesy: Babul Dey.