India, located in South Asia, has the second-largest population in the world, behind only China. To the south of India lies the Indian Ocean. With Pakistan on its western border and China, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar to the east and northeast, India contains 29 separate states and seven union territories. New Delhi is the capital of India, and the country has been an independent nation since 1947. Exploring the country of India and its history through its postage stamps offers a unique perspective on this thriving nation.
India's Initial Stamps and Mail System
India traces its initial private mail system back to 1793, when hired runners transported messages. They were paid based on the distance they traveled and the weight of the letters they carried. The first Indian post office was opened in 1837, and in 1852, adhesive stamps were required to prepay for delivery of letters. These first stamps were circular, and they were embossed onto a wax wafer or onto paper. These stamps were used until 1854, when stamps were released that had no gum or perforations. Queen Victoria's profile was featured on these stamps.
Indian History Told in Stamps
The Great Rebellion occurred in 1857, when Indians rose up and rebelled against the rule of the British East India Company. At the conclusion of the rebellion, the Crown Colony of India was established. India's stamps were changed to read "India Postage," and stamps bore this phrase for the next 90 years. When World War II ended and India received dominion status, stamps were again revamped so they did not feature portraits of monarchs. At the formation of the Republic of India, new stamps were again issued.
India Landmarks and History on Commemorative Stamps
Philatelists who wish to explore India through postage stamps have a variety of options, one of which is collecting commemorative stamps featuring aspects of the country's history. The number of stamps with historical themes grows every year. A souvenir sheet of commemorative postage stamps was issued in 2004 that feature the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, and it is a symbol of eternal love. Stepwells are wells of water surrounded by descending steps, and western India has a number of stepwells, which are used for irrigation and water storage. Commemorative stamps of the stepwells of India were released in 2017. Another set of commemorative stamps details India's transportation history, starting with palanquins and moving on to carts, rickshaws, and automobiles. These stamps were released in 2017 as well. A strip of service stamps depicting Mahatma Gandhi was sold at a private auction in 2017, achieving the title as the most expensive Indian stamps ever sold. These stamps have a high value because they were some of the first printed stamps after India achieved its independence.
- Learning Through Stamps
- Know Your Stamps
- Introduction to Stamp Collecting
- A Beginner's Guide to Stamp Collecting
- India Stamp History
- A Stamp of History
- Brief Postal History of India
- Why Collect Indian Stamps?
- India's Most Expensive Stamps
- Indian States Stamps (PDF)
- Postage Stamps and Postal History of Portuguese India
- Follow the Story of India's Transport Heritage on Postage Stamps
- Brief History of Philately (PDF)
- Birds on Indian Postage Stamps (PDF)
- Indian Army Postal Service in World War I (PDF)