A Journey through India's Iconic Post Offices

A Journey through India's Iconic Post Offices
India is home to the world’s largest postal network, Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

India is home to some pretty incredible post offices, starting from Kashmir in the north to Munnar in the south. What makes each one of them stand out? Let’s find out

Aashna Dhiman
July 24 , 2021
10 Min Read

Waiting for that one letter to arrive with the postman on their doorstep to penning down their next without any expectations of receiving an immediate reply, there was a time when Indians happily treasured their relationship with post offices, until telephones and e-mails entered their lives. 

The history of postal services in India dates back to the 18th century when Warren Hastings, the then Governor-General of British India established the first postal service for the public in March 1774 in Kolkata. In 1854, the country became the first one in Asia to issue postage stamps from its post office in Sindh (now in Pakistan). It was the year of those half anna stamps, the Indian Post Office Act, and mail deliveries through railway and seaways.

Currently managing more than one lakh post offices in the country, India Post has become the world’s largest postal network. Last year, when most businesses switched their operations online (after the government-imposed lockdown to combat COVID-19 infection), the red postal vans maximised their road services and began delivering medical equipment – COVID-19 tests, ventilators, medicines, and N95 masks — across states as part of their ‘essential services’. 

The best way to recognise the rich legacy of post offices in India is to go on a journey across the country. Established at different points in time, India is home to some of the oldest and unique post offices in the world. 

Srinagar: The Floating Post Office 

 
 
 
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Starting top north, we have an intricately designed post office in the serene Dal Lake in Kashmir that opens to breathtaking views of the snow-clad Pir Panjal mountains. Known as the floating post office, it was initially known as the Nehru Park post office. Constructed on a handmade houseboat, the post office provides regular postal and banking services to around 50,000 residents on the lake. 

A seal of a man rowing a shikara on the Dal Lake is used on every letter posted from the post office. It makes the letter even more special for the person receiving it as it reflects a culture that Srinagar (and India) holds dear to its heart. 

Read | Local Experiences in Kashmir

Hikkim: The Highest Post Office

 
 
 
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Driving further down from Srinagar, we have the world’s highest post office established at 15,500 ft in Hikkim district in Himachal Pradesh. Established in 1983, the small cottage with a red postbox placed outside is the only conduit for villagers in the area who otherwise do not have easy access to phone networks and internet connection. 

Nestled near iconic travel destinations, Kaza and Spiti, the post office also attracts hundreds of travellers every year who take pride in sending out letters from the highest Daak Ghar in the country. 

Kolkata: The First Post Office 

 
 
 
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Skip to the eastern parts, and we come across the country’s first-ever post office that was launched in Kolkata in 1774 by Warren Hastings. Back in the day, the postal services were limited to officers of the East India Company who would use it to communicate with each other. However, on October 2, 1868, the city got its own General Post Office (GPO) which catered to the general public and their needs. Constructed in four years, the building was designed by Walter B Granville who charged 6.5 lakh rupees in those days. 

The Kolkata GPO is adorned with a high white domed roof, 220 feet tall Ionic-Corinthian pillars, and an in-house museum that celebrates a rich collection of old artefacts and stamps. It is also the place that introduced the hand stamp postmarks called ‘Indian Bishop Marks’ (named after C H Bishop of UK). 

Munnar: The Oldest Postal Number 

Down south in Kerala, a small metal postbox completed 100 years of its service last year. Known as Postal Number 9 (PB No 9), it was set up during the 1920s when the country was witnessing a national uproar along with a substantial growth of local tea plantations. 

The oldest postal number in the country has helped generations of locals in Munnar send their letters to people residing outside. Despite technological advancements, the post office continues to deliver mail to about 50,000 workers and their families in the hill station.

Read | History of Postcards

Nagpur: The Heritage Post Office

 
 
 
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Moving up west, we have the Nagpur GPO, the mother institution of the postal circle of the Central Provinces. Located in Maharashtra, the GPO is a Victorian-style two-storey building situated at the heart of the city. The 1921 property is a construction of brick walls, steel columns, beams, and ribs with a pitched roof in country tiles and battens encased in lime concrete. The outside, by comparison, has spacious verandahs, Tuscan columns, stone screens, and a Roman arch capped by a 12-column pavilion bearing a clock tower. 

Declared a national heritage by the Indian government in 1994, the post office comprises a postmaster residence, a parcel hub, a postal depot a recreation club, and a canteen. 

Mumbai: The Biggest Post Office 

 
 
 
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Lastly, on the west coast of Maharashtra, we have the Mumbai GPO established in 1794 by the then Postmaster General, Mr. Charles Elphinstone. Designed in Indo-Saracenic style, the post office was envisioned by architect John Begg in 1902. It took nine years to build the 120,000 square feet property that houses two-spacious floors, a business hall with 101 counter positions, and a central hall that rises to a large dome. Currently delivering to 50,000 addresses, the GPO receives a voluminous amount of mails from different states every day that it sends across to smaller post offices in the city.  

 

 

 

 

 

 


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