A Glimpse Into India: One Stamp At A Time

A Glimpse Into India: One Stamp At A Time
An elephant stamp from 1973 , Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Are you a philately enthusiast?

Roop Sawhney, Simrran Gill
November 10 , 2020
04 Min Read

While many of us were chasing the 'rangoli stamp' on Google Pay sometime ago, we thought of something: how many of us actually still use actual stamps?

Did you know that the first stamps valid for postage throughout India were put on sale in October 1854? The stamps, designed and printed in Calcutta, and issued without perforations or gum, were worth four values that is half anna, 1 anna, 2 annas, and 4 annas. They featured a profile of Queen Victoria aged 15. Did you know that the first stamps to be produced in India after Independence were a set of three? They depicted the Ashoka pillar, the national flag and a Douglas DC-4 plane.

Apart from that, the 4 annas value (illustrated) was one of the world's first bicoloured stamps, preceded only by the Basel Dove. Another interesting thing to note is that 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.

In order to revisit the history of India through stamps, we visited the National Philatelic Museum of India. It was inaugurated on July 6, 1968. Besides a rather large collection of postage stamps, the museum also houses proofs and colour trials, a collection of Indian stamps "used abroad", early Indian postcards, postal stationery and thematic collections. The first stamp issued in India by the Sindh Dak (1854) and stamps issued before Independence by the rulers of Princely States are a must-see in this museum.

Here is a quick look at India through many of its stamps:

Kovalam beach on the stamp

Anjuna Beach

Issued in 1997, these stamps are a reminder of the gorgeous beaches that India is home to. The set features Anjuna Beach in Goa, perhaps the most popular beach in the country. The stamp set also features Bogmalo Beach in Goa, the Kovalam Beach in Kerala and Gopalpur on Sea, an ancient seaport in Odisha.

Landmark Bridges of India
Issued in 2007 to commemorate the landmark bridges in India, these stamps feature the Mahatma Gandhi Setu in Bihar, built over the river that Mahatma Gandhi crossed to enter Champaran, where roots of the freedom struggle began. Other bridges displayed include the Howrah Bridge and Vidyasagar Setu in Kolkata, and the Pamban Bridge in Tamil Nadu. 

Waterfalls of India Souvenior Sheet
These four stamps beautifully capture that cascading waterfalls of India. Issued in 2003, the stamps feature the scenic Athirapally Falls in Kerala, the glorious Jog falls in Karnataka, the Kakolat waterfall in Bihar and perhaps the most well-known, the Kempty Falls in Mussorie.

Kaziranga National Park India Stamp from 2007
Celebrating over 30,000 species of fauna in the country, these stamps were issued in 2007 and feature five of the national parks. The stamps showcase the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka, Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu, Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Periyar National Park in Kerala and not to miss, home to the one-horned rhino, the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

Miniature sheet of the Bhog or Prasad

A miniature sheet of the festive cuisine of the country

Issued in 2017, 24 stamps commemorate the many diverse cuisines in the country. Divided into categories of festival cuisine, popular cuisine, regional cuisine and bhog prasad, the stamps feature savoury snacks such as dhokla and vada pav and sweets like gujhiya and seviyan.

A miniature sheet of the traditional textiles
If there’s one thing that India is famous for, besides its diverse cuisines that is, it is its textiles. From intricate embroideries to soft silk sarees, Indian textiles are a class apart. Issued in 2009, these four stamps display four of the most well-known textiles: Kalamkari, Apa Tani weaves, Kanchipuram silk and Banaras silk.

A miniature sheet of Railway Stations
Boasting of the largest rail network in the Asia and the second largest in the world, the Indian railways are the lifeline of the country. Indian railways are testimony to the rapid industrialisation and modernisation that India has gone through. This has been captured in four stamps that feature the heritage railway stations in the country. Issued in 2009, these include the Mumbai CST station, the Howrah station, the Chennai Central station and the Old Delhi station. 

And you, do you collect stamps?

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