Appendix: Pre-Philatelic Postal Arrangements

Text: From The Stamps of Jammu and Kashmir by D.P. Masson, Appendix II, pp iii-x. This appendix was a reproduction by Masson of a paper by Captain Godfrey in Philatelic Journal of India 4, p 101 (1900). It consists largely Godfrey’s translation from Persian of portions of the diary of the first Postmaster of Kashmir.


The First Kashmir Postal System
by Capt. Godfrey

One of the chief difficulties which besets any effective enquiry into Kashmir postal history is the want of any reliable State records. Their absence is due mainly to the fact common to most Oriental forms of Government, that the administration was almost entirely personal. In old days State officials generally kept their own records, and when, later on, the Afghans were driven out of Kashmir, and Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the son of the first Maharaja of Kashmir, Gulab Singh, systematised the Government of the country to a certain extent, the earlier records were not deposited in the public offices at Jammu. Some of the later papers might, it is true, have been traceable in the Daftar Diwani or civil office, but a fire which occurred there a few years ago, destroyed the great bulk of the older State papers. Fortunately the personal diaries of old State officials still remain with their descendants, and from these some glimpses, not always absolutely accurate in all their details, can still be obtained of the patriarchal methods of early Kashmir administration. Once suspicion is disarmed, it is possible to obtain access to these documents, and they often reveal facts that have long been forgotten in the public offices.

In an article published in a number of the Philatelic Journal of India, I gave a translation of a Pandit’s diary, in which mention was made of the earlier postal seals of Jammu and Kashmir. While discussing this matter with another Pandit in Srinagar he informed me that he could obtain and show me the diary of the first postmaster of Kashmir, and also the sale accounts of the first Kashmir stamps. These he brought to me, and from the original Persian documents the following translation has been made. The dates are not as clear and full as might be wished. But the records concerning the first postal dies leave little room for doubt, if any still exists, that only one set of circular seals was used, and that the old division of Die I and Die II is a myth of misled philatelists. The entry runs as follows:

In the time when Kashmir was part of the Afghan Kingdom three kinds of messengers (kasid) used to run on the route from Kashmir to Kabul and back.

1st. State messengers (Kasidan Sarkari). It was the duty of these messengers to carry State letters and papers, together with State property which was sent in small quantity. Their cleark was the father of one Gobind Kasid, and for this reason Bodind’s family is called kasid in Kashmir to this day. Goods sent in large quantity from Kashmir to Kabul and vice versa, were carried by coolies under Government (Sarkari) guard.

2nd. Special messengers of high officials, whether of Kashmir or of Kabul.

3rd. Private messengers who were looked upon as trustworthy by the traders (Sahukars). The traders had a kind of contract with them, and these messengers brought from and carried to Kabul parcels and letters for the traders, on their own responsibility.

In the Sambat year 1876 (AD 1820), when His Highness the Maharaja Ranjit Singh became ruler of Kashmir, the postal arrangements remained the same for some time, and Dhunde Khan, akhbar navis (news-writer) was appointed from Lahore as postal officer in Kashmir. Bhawani Das Majjoo was a clerk under him, and performed his duties at his own house in Muhalla Tainkipura. After six months Dhunde Khan was dismissed, and Kukh Lall, who succeeded him, also did his work at home. After five months Sukh Lall was also dismissed, and Bhawani Das, a subordinate, was appointed in his place as akhbar navis in Kashmir, under the orders of His Highness the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the postal managements were also entrusted to him. Bhawani Das Majjoo was summoned to Lahore, and after receiving instructions from His Highness the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, he returned to Kashmir after two months to carry out his duties as akhbar navis and postal officer. He had his office at Sher Garhi, near Hast Hail (Elephant shed). The postal arrangements were as follows: The mail was sent to Lahore via Shupiyan. At every seven karohs (14 miles) there was a postal chauki, or mail station. The following special messengers—Pandit Shankar Kasid, Ibrahim Bat, Kooli Bat, Rahman Bat, Guffar Thukkar, Usman Mir, Sultan Mir, Sharf Bat, Fatteh Sheikh, and Subhan Bat were appointed under Darogha Ahmad Ullah to superintend postal work and for journies [sic] to Lahore on special duty called hazuri. [SHG footnote: These men were evidently the Queen’s messengers of the day.]

The mail was sent in the following manner: Files of akhbar sent by the akhbar navis and postal officer, despatches transmitted by the Subahdar (Governor) of Kashmir, and papers posted by other officials on State Service were closed in a wax-cloth bag, the bag being sealed by sealing wax. Bhawani Das used his own seal on these bags. Mercantile correspondence and the letters of bankers (sahukars) were sent through messengers (kasid) as in the time of the Afghans. The mail was received by Lalla Rattan Chand, Dhariwala, who was the Postal Officer at Lahore.

In 1903 (AD 1847), in the time of his Highness the Maharaja Gulab Singh, Bhawani Das was detailed solely as Postal Officer and had nothing to do with akhbar navisi (news-writing). The Maharaja also appointed mail runers via Shupiyan to Jammu. The following 17 postal chaukis were fixed: Srinagar City, Sher Garhi, Shadi Marg, Hirpur, Sukh Sarai, Aliabad, Poshana, Bahramgala, Thanna, Rajoori, Sail Suee, Dharam Shala, Thanda Pani, Doob, Chauki Chaura, Akhnur, and Jammu. Pandit Lalchand, uncle of Bhawani Das, was appointed as mail officer and remained in charge of this duty till 1912 (AD 1856). From 1903 (AD 1847) to 1904 (AD 1848) the mail was sent to and from Jammu via Shupiyan on the system shown above. All official letters, letters of officials, of traders and of the public generally were sent to Jammu through the State (Sarkari) Post, free of postage. in 1905 (AD 1849) the mail was sent via Banihal Pass. Postal stations were fixed at a distance of every five karohs (10 miles), and two mail runners were appointed at each chauki and daroghas, overseers of runners, were appoint to superintend postal punctuality. Moreover hazuri mail runners were appointed to carry State property sent in parcels, and sometimes they had to assist in postal supervision. In 1910 (AD 1856) the traders complained that letters were delivered to them very late, and upon this His Highness the Maharaja enhanced the number of mail runners to accelerate the delivery of letters. In 1914 (AD 1858), postal rates were first levied on the letters of the public and of traders, and postage (in cash) was charged at the following rates:

For letters not exceeding ¼ of tola, 1 ½ anna khām = 0 0 9 pies, equivalent to Imperial. Not exceeding 1 tola, 3 ½ annas khām = 0 1 9 pies. For letters exceeding 1 tola, for every tola 1 anna = 0 0 6 pies.

In the same year the traders again complained that letters were delivered to them very late. The Maharaja then appointed Shah Asanand as cashier of postage of letters of traders, and was ordered to deliver letters to traders after taking delivery of them from the Post Office, and that he should post their letters after recovering postage. Shah Asanand kept a daily detailed account of posted and delivered letters of traders, and deposited the proceeds in the Treasury. The cash receipts for the postage of the letters of public (not being traders) were deposited in the Treasury through Bhawani Das. Letters of State officials were posted free of charge. A trader having complained that a Hundi (bill of exchange) posted to him from the Punjab was missing, His Highness the Maharaja, after making an enquiry, ordered that every letter should be stamped in the Post Office. On the postal seal which was given to the Kashmir Post Office, the following words were engraved in the Sanskrit character: Sri Gada Dharji Sahai Mohr Dak Khana, Srinagar and on the seal which was given to the Jammu Post Office, the following words were engraved: Sri Raghunath Ji Sahai Mohr Dak Khana, Jammu. In 1914 (AD 1848) Maharaja Gulab Singh died; and in the end of the same year Bhawani Das died also. Dewan Ram Majjoo was appointed Postal Officer (Postmaster) in place of his elder brother Bhawani Das by Maharaja Ranbir Singh. In the same year the Maharaja improved the Postal Department by fixing a postal chauki at a distance of every karoh (2 miles) and appointed two mail runners at every chauki and one darogha at every stage for the supervision of mail runners. The mails then reached Jammu from Kashmir in twenty-four hours. The time of departure was noted on the chalān (despatch slip) of the mail bag. On arrival of the mail, the time of departure was noted and any remissness became at once apparent. Every mail runner was supplied with a stick having an iron blade at one end and bells (ghungru) tied on, so that on the approach of the mail runners the pony owners and other travellers should leave the way clear for the mail to pass on. The mail runners were instructed to call the chaukīwla (overseer) from a distance by shouting “khabardar” (“look out!”) so that the next runner on the road might be ready to take the mail and start at once. As the mail was carried full speed even at night time, stores of chob chirāg (pine torches) were collected and kept at the chaukis, and the mail runners used to run in the night carrying these torches.

New postal dies were engraved having on them the following words in the Sanskrit character: Sri Gada Dharji Sahai Mohr, Dak Khana Jammu wa Kashmir wa Tibet. This was given to the Kashmir Post Office; and on the other seal which was given to the Jammu Post Office was engraved Sri Raghunath ji Sahai Mohr, Dak Khana Jammu wa Kashmir wa Tibet. [Copyist’s note: The current understanding is that these renderings are partially mistaken, notably that ‘Tibet’ should read ‘Sambat,’ followed by a year.]

Until 1922 (AD 1866) the postage was charged in the manner as was suggested in 1914 (AD 1858). In 1922 (AD 1866) Maharaja Ranbir Singh ordered postal dies to be sunk at Jammu under the supervision of Wazir Zorawar Tosha Khana (or Treasury) officer, and postage stamps were order to be printed from them and fixed on letters from 11 jeţh 1923 (23 May 1866). [Copyist’s note: Covers are actually known from 23 March of this year. In Persian script jeţh can be easily taken for chait, in which case the date would be 22 March. Care must be taken with the year, because chait functioned as the last month of the solar year, not the first.]

Till the end of the month of Har [Hadh] 1923 (14 July 1866), Dewa Ram Majjoo, Postmaster, was entrusted to sell the postage stamps to the public, and for state Service. [SHG footnote: I have personally inspected these old registers.] In Sawan 1823 [starting 15 July 1866] Shah Diwan Singh, agent of Wazir Zorawar, appointed Gwash Ram Misre as ‘Stamp vendor in Kashmir.’ There were the following postage stamps: One of ½a, 1a, 4a each [the circular stamps.] After a short time stamps of 2a and 8a each were ordered to be printed. [DPM footnote: This information is incomplete: a plate for rectangular ½a and 1a stamps was cut for the Jammu Province; and for the Srinagar Province plates for ¼a, ½a, 1a, 2a, also single dies for 4a and 8a stamps, besides the special single die (the oldest) for ½a stamps.] The previous rule of recovering in cash the postage of letters posted was cancelled, and the postage of unpaid letters was charged double. Letters which were posted from British territory (unstamped with Kashmir stamps) were charged as unpaid and postage recovered in cash. In the same year the following postage rates were fixed: Letters not exceeding ¼ tola, 6 pies Imperial; not exceeding 1 tola, 1 anna; for every other tola, 1 anna.

On all letters posted to British territory State postage stamps were fixed, and as the British postage stamps could not generally be had, letters posted to British territory were charged double as unpaid letters. In 1924 (AD 1867) Maharaja Ranbir Singh appointed Colonel Devi Din as Postmaster-General, and he subsequently introduced into the State all the rules existing in the British Indian Post Offices. Leather bags were prepared, and the mail was sent in these bags. Bags were locked and sealed. The seal contained the following words in Persian character: Mohr Dak Khana, Srinagar.

In 1935 (AD 1878) the postage stamps were changed. His Highness the Maharaja ordered other dies. Specimens of these stamps were first sent to the then British Agent and afterwards they were ordered to be used. These stamps were used till the State Post Offices were brought under reduction. In 1942 (AD 1885), Dewa Ram Majjoo, Postmaster, petitioned the Maharaja that he had become old and his son Krishn Jee Majjoo might be appointed in his place. Under the orders of His Highness, Krishn Jee Majjoo was appointed in his father’s place, and Dewa Ram Majjoo was granted a pension of Rs15 per mensem. Krishn Jee Majjoo performed his duties till 1951 (AD 1895).

In one point this diary does not quite agree with that of the Pandit published last. It speaks of two sets of postal seals used between 1914 (AD 1858) and 1923 (AD 1866). Of these one may possibly have been an office seal and the other used on envelopes as a letter paid stamp. However this be, the document coming from the postmaster’s son would certainly seem authentic, and it is supported by the accounts which his father maintained of the payments made by him into the State Treasury for stamps sold.

The End

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