Postal History of Gujarat
Ilyas Ahmed Patel
Gujarat is one
of the proudest States in India that has the longest postal history dating back
to Indus Valley Civilization. Lothal, near Ahmadabad, was a flourishing port
and was the only port with dry dock facility for ship repairs in the world
during those days. This provides sufficient proof that people of Indus Valley
Civilization had vast trade relations with other countries and in turn some
sort of rudimentary postal (communication) system was exist between them.
first recorded history of postal system in Gujarat is available with the
extension of Maurya Dynasty (322 BC to 220 BC) by Chandragupta Maurya (322 BC
to 298 BC) up to Junagadh in Gujarat from Patliputra in Maghadh (present day
Bihar). He established a rudimentary form of postal (communication) system
through “Kasid” (present day form of courier) to collect information and
transmit commands from his capital Patliputra. Rock edicts at Girnar in
Junagadh (Ill. 1) by Maurya King Samrat Ashoka provides ample proof of postal
system in Gujarat as Samrat Ashoka was sending his commands and message of
Buddha to his son and daughter who were stationed at Junagadh. The subsequent
dynasties who ruled over Gujarat used the similar form of rudimentary postal system.
authenticate and reliable postal system in India including Gujarat was
established by the Delhi Sultan Alla-ud-din Khilji (1296 – 1316 AD). He
established a well organized and responsible postal system throughout his
empire and opened a separate department for it. The Mughals extended and
refined his postal system with due modifications. The same system was further
adopted by first, East India Company and later on by the British Empire. The British
Empire made extensive changes in the postal system and gave it a legal structure.
Being the recorded history, it is not repeated here. India gained
its independence on August 15, 1947. Post independence, one of the finest
stories in which we philatelists are interested is the postal history of United
State of Saurashtra (USS) about which very little information is recorded. The
history of USS begins with the history of independent India. It is the history
of merging of postal administration of the Princely States, which were more
than 202 in numbers in Saurashtra region alone with Posts and Telegraph
Department of Government of India.
more than 202 Princely States in Saurashtra region of Gujarat working
independently during the British Empire. The story was similar with other
Princely States elsewhere in India. On the day of independence, they were given
the option of joining Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan. Some of the
Princely States desired to join Dominion of Pakistan, which resulted in a
public outburst and political instability there upon. Amongst these States, one
of them was Junagadh (postally known as Soruth), the Nawab of which wished to
join Pakistan but the public of the state opted to stay with India.
Ill. 1 – Rock edicts at Girnar in Junagadh
outburst resulted in formation of Arzi Hakumat (provisional government of Junagadh State)
by the natives of Junagadh in Bombay on September 25, 1947, to liberal the
State. Three days later, it’s headquarter was shifted to Rajkot from Bombay.
The army of Arzi Hakumat marched towards Junagadh and occupied few villages in
its first attempt. The Nawab of Junagadh fled to Pakistan on October 27, 1947
leaving charge of the State with the Diwan Shahnawaz Bhutto. The Diwan informed
the Regional Commissioner, Western India States Agency about his desire to go
to Pakistan on November 8, 1947. Consequently, Mr. N.M. Buch, Regional
Commissioner took over the administration of the State on November 9, 1947 from
Captain Harvey Jones, Senior Member of Junagadh State Council of
Administration, and the tri-colour flag of India was hoisted there. An
Administrator was appointed as provisional arrangement by the Government of
India and later on public referendum was taken on February 21, 1948, which was
in favour of India. To run the administration, the Government of India, formed
an Executive Council under the Presidency of the Administrator on June 1, 1948.
UNITED STATES OF SAURASHTRA
meanwhile, attempts were made to form an independent State of Kathiawar by
merging all the Princely States
of Saurashtra. Mr. Krishnakumarshinji, the Maharaja of Bhavnagar (Ill. ) took the lead and declared his State to be
run by public. Consequent to this, Mr. Balvantrai Mehta became the first Chief
Minister of Bhavnagar State (Ill.). The Political Council of Kathiawar made an
elaborate effort to convenience all the rulers of the Princely States.
Consequently, all the rulers agreed upon and shown their willingness to
transfer their administration to public representatives. For smooth
administration of these States who desired to join the Union of Saurashtra, the
United State of Kathiawar was formed on February 15, 1948 with its headquarter
at Rajkot. The Maharaja of Nawanagar became the President and the Maharaja of
Bhavnagar became the Vice president. Subsequently, all the heads of the States
transferred their powers to the United State of Kathiawar. Consequent to this,
Mr. U.N. Dhebar was elected as Chief Minister and Mr. Balwantrai Mehta, Mr.
Rasiklal Parikh, Mr. Nanabhai Bhatt, Mr. Jagubhai Parikh and Mr. Manubhai Shah joined
as ministers. The administration of the United State of Kathiawar came in to
effect from April 15, 1948. The name of the state was changed to the United
State of Saurashtra (USS) in November 1948. For the smooth administration, the
USS was divided into five districts with Collector as head of each district.
Since Junagadh was under the direct administration of the Central Government,
Collectors for four Districts were appointed. In the meanwhile elected
representatives of the Junagadh State decided to join with the USS and
accordingly, Junagadh was merged with the USS on January 20, 1949. The USS was
later on merged into State of Bombay on November 1, 1956. With the bifurcation
of the Bombay State, the USS became an integral part of Gujarat State with
effect from May 1, 1960.
SAURASHTRA POSTAL SYSTEM AND ITS MERGER
With this political history of the USS, we are
now turning to the most curious and interesting history of postal
administration of the Saurashtra Postal System. Prior to independence, all the
States were running their own postal system exclusively for the dispatch of
their “official” mails except the Junagadh (Soruth) State. The Junagadh State
had its own postal system well established since 1862 and was dealing with the
public mail also very satisfactorily. Within the State, the Saurashtra Postal
System was very popular being cheaper than the Imperial Post. Both the postal
systems were existing and working independently within the State, The State was
running 75 post offices with its head post office at Junagadh and had 52
numbers of postal staff on regular pay-roll. So when India became independent,
the taking over and merging of postal system of all the States barring Junagadh
State did not pose a serious problem because there was no regular postal staff
employed by those States. On the other, the Junagadh State had well-established
postal administration, the cadre of which was significantly different from the
Indian Postal System. An elaborate communication and merger procedure took
place to absorb the postal staff of Saurashtra Postal System and its merger
with India Post. These details are not discussed here.
POST-INDEPENDENCE ISSUES BY SAURASHTRA POSTAL SYSTEM
While the merger process was going - on, it is
interesting to note that how Saurashtra Postal System continued functioning
till March 31, 1950 i.e. from August 15, 1947 to March 31, 1950 as an
independent postal system with its own postage stamps and postal stationary.
This poses a great question how the State of Junagadh managed to operate its
postal system for nearly 32 months even after the independence. The available
records and material reveals that it resulted in variety types of overprints
and surcharged issues during this period to run the system. From the available
records, we learnt that the State was lucky enough to receive its stamps
printed by the Indian Security Printing Press, Nasik just few months before the
independence. After the independence, their indent was terminated, as the Nasik
Press was fully loaded to print new Indian postage and fiscal stamps and other
As the time passes, the State authorities were
forced to surcharge the stamps from their available stocks to meet the daily
needs. We briefly summaries the surcharges that took place during this period.
The surcharge was applied to both; general and official issues.
1949 Surcharged ONE ANNA on TWO ANNAS
surcharge was in two lines “POSTAGE & REVENUE/ ONE ANNA” applied at the
Juangadh State Press in “Black”.
May 1949 Surcharge ONE ANNA on HALF ANNA.
Same as (1) above the surcharge was applied at the Junagadh State
Press in “Red” using capital letters throughout (Ill. 2).
Bhavnagar State Court Fee Stamps.
meet the further requirements, the Junagadh authorities sent a request to the
authorities of United States of Saurashtra for assistance. They were given
permission to buy and overprint surplus one Anna Bhavnagar Court Fee Stamps for
both postal and revenue use. The Bhavnagar stamps were already overprinted
“SAURASHTRA” and therefore, they were overprinted with a three line overprint
in black as U.S.S./REVENUE & / POSTAGE (Ill 3).
Surcharged ONE ANNA on THREE PIES.
meet the demands, the State authorities called all the remaining three pies
stamps and surcharged them in black similar to half Anna. It was surcharged as
“POSTAGE & REVENUE/ONE ANNA” (Ill. 4).
Ill. 2 Ill. 3
Surcharged ONE ANNA
the official use, the official “SARKARI” was overprinted. As the stock of the
official stamps started running short towards the end of 1948, the authorities
recalled the excess stocks of the 2,3,4 and 8 Annas official stamps and
together with the available stock in the treasury, all these stamps were
surcharged “ONE ANNA” in capital letters. For 2 Annas stamps it was in blue (Ill.
5) whereas for 3, 4 and 8 Annas stamps it was applied in black ink.
Hand Surcharged ONE ANNA on One Rupee.
November 1948, the excess stock of one rupee official stamps was recalled, and
with available stock in the treasury, all the stamps were surcharge “ONE ANNA”
in black by hand stamp. The surcharge measures 17 x 4 mm in size (Ill. 6).
(3) 1949 SARKARI Overprints with Serifs
January 1949, the SARKARI overprinted stamps again started running low. The
authorities recalled the 3 pies, half Anna and one Anna surcharged on 2 Anna
stamps and then overprinted “SARKARI” in red using type with serifs (Ill. 7).
(4) Manuscript Official
stock of official stamps again started running low, the Government Offices at
Gadha and Una were authorized the manuscript writing on stamps with the words
“SERVICE” or “SARKARI” in English, Devnagari or Gujarati. It was applied in red
Ill. 5 Ill. 6 Ill. 7 Ill.
varying types of surcharge and overprints, the state authorities kept their
system running till March 31, 1950. However, in spite of the official
declaration by the P & T Department of Government of India to take over the
Junagadh State Postal System with effect from April 1, 1950, the postal system
continued beyond this date and worked for one more month i.e. till April 30,
1950. From the available records, it is learnt that though the system was taken
over on April 1, 1950, its accounts were not taken over by the P & T Department
due to certain administrative anomalies, and therefore, it continued beyond the
stipulated date. Due to this reasons, the system continued and letters posted
during this month were not marked “Due” or “Cancelled”. From available
material, it is learnt that April 30, 1950 was the last date till which
Junagadh postage stamps and postal stationary was officially used by the state
people. The complete merger took place on May 1, 1950. This puts an end over a
long postal history of Junagadh State which ran for nearly 87 years.
Saurashtra Postal System was taken over by India Post on April 1, 1950, from
the available philatelic material it is revealed that the Saurashtra Postal
System was functioning beyond this date and no postal articles were marked as
“Cancel” or “Postage Due”. The postcards of Saurashtra post were in use during
April 1950 (Ill. 9 and 10). It is to clarify here that the postal rate for
postcards were increased from half Anna to nine pies with effect from April 1,
1949 by India Post and therefore, both the postcards bears additional stamp of
Ill. 9 Ill. 10
Saurashtra Postal System was taken over by the India Post with effect from
April 1, 1950, India Post started defacing the postal articles with its own
postal cancellations (Ill. 11 to 13).
Based on these
illustrations it is revealed that people of Junagadh State officially enjoyed
the benefit of Saurashtra postal system till April 30, 1950. On May 1, 1950,
there came an end of the 87 years old administration of Saurashtra postal
system. In the history of postal system of Gujarat and India as well,
Saurashtra Postal System has played an important role. It also played an
important role in the formation of United States of Saurashtra (USS) displaying
the typical style of Gujarati people who made it bloodless and smooth. Last but
not least, in the history of India’s independence particularly the merger of
princely states with dominion of India, princely states of Gujarat has an
important place without which the history of India’s independence remain
the landmark dates in the postal history of USS:
1947 - India
1947 - Nawab
of Junagadh fled to Pakistan
1947 - Regional Commissioner took over the administration of the
1948 - United States of Kathiawar was formed
April 15, 1948 - Elected representatives took over administration of United States of Kathiawar.
June 1, 1948 - Junagadh
state came under President Rule
November 1948 - The name of United States of Kathiawar was changed to United States of Saurashtra
January 20, 1949 - Junagadh State was integrated with United States of Saurashtra
April 30, 1950 (up to) - Postal System of Junagadh continued as an independent system.
May 1, 1950 - Postal system of Junagadh completely merged into P & T Dep’t. Of Government of India.
Nov. 1, 1956 - The United States of Saurashtra merged with the State of Bombay
May 1, 1960 - The Bombay State was bifurcated into Gujarat State and Maharashtra State.