The covers collector needs to be able to decipher a certain amount of Urdu and Persian script in the nasta'liq and shekaste styles. In rapid writing the normal dotting of forms may be all but abandoned and certain letter combinations that are never joined in the canonical (naskh) style are indeed found joined, sometimes in unobvious ligatures. And conversely; there is much fragmentation of what is normally joined. The word ‘shekaste’ in fact means something like ‘broken’. As to transcription, we have a vague tendency to follow Platts Dictionary (1884).
These are the numerals 1,2,3,4,5 with a raqm-type underlining.
Persian 5 is a circle and zero is a dot. Larger numbers appear
in the familiar way, seemingly opposite to the right-to-left direction of the writing.
But it needn’t be considered opposite, for numbers are augmented from the right,
and proceed to grow in size leftward.
23 + 24 + 25 ~ three-and-twenty + four-and-twenty (blackbirds) + ...
... and 6,7,8,9,0. The last was taken from a Sept 1893 cover, honest.
3 tolah, 2 annas
nambar ~ number, in transcription from English.
tīs ~ thirty (Urdū). Persian 30 is sī.
1297H[ejri] ~ 1937S[amvat]. This doublet of overlapping years right
in the middle of J&K stamp production is easy to remember and can prove somewhat useful.
They overlap with AD 1880.
Those flourishes written underneath the dates mean “year,” either sanh (without dot) in Urdu, or sāl in Persian. They sometimes take an elaborate life of their own, in a highly cursive tradition:
One such exuberance here entwines 18 shahr-e sha'bān 1283 ~ 26 December 1866.
jumādī' ul-avval. The fifth hejri month. We mention it here
to note that the avval (which means 'first') seen at the left is sometimes seen on covers
in place of the numeral '1' for notating the initial day of any month.
Amritsar. Sometimes the final t of amrit (~ ambrosia) is in
its word-final form and sometimes not (right). The notation ‘Amrit Sir’ is sometimes seen in
dar Amritsar ~ to Amritsar.
shahr-e Amritsar. Town/city of Amritsar. The h here is the
blip in the line with the faint redundant upstroke underneath, compare next.
dar shahr-e Amritsar ~ to (the city of) Amritsar. The h here is the
knot in the line.
shahr-e Amritsar. In front of dates the same
form shahr-e means ‘month’.
Amritsar Kaţra āhlūwālia, an important
postal depot at Amritsar in the textile district.
dar qasbah Amritsar ~ to
the ‘old-city’ of Amritsar, often seen on covers arriving at the depot at
dar qasbah Amritsar Kaţra
dar qasbah Amritsar dar ‘Katra(h)
dar qasba Amritsar ‘Katra
dar shahr-e Amritsar Kaţrāharī Singh.
lefāfe hundā dar
shahr-e Amritsar Kaţrāharī Singh ~ letter
prepaid to ...
dar Amritsar Kaţrāharī Singh.
Ambāla ~ Umballa. Town in Panjāb between Delhi and Amritsar on the rail line.
shahr-e Ambāla ~ (to the city of) Umballa. The Persian looks
like ‘Anbāla’, but that n becomes [m] in pronunciation
preceding as it does the b, both being bilabials.
Nīūyāk Amrīkā ~ New York America.
Anant Nāg, a town southeast of Srinagar. Anant ~ Vishnu, infinity, snake, etc.
Anant Nāg. This town was also known as Islamabad.
ānā ~ anna ~ 1/16 rupee. Read bottom up.
ćahār ānā ~ four annas. Notation
accompanying a 1a circular. Collection Jaiswal.
From upper-left: 13 aprail jawâb navishta shuda ~ response has been
written on 13 April. Month is transcribed from English April, with
corroboration from the 10 April datestamp.
Assūj ~ اسوج ~ असोज (asoj). Sixth month of the Hindu solar calendar, answering to mid-September to mid-October.
11 māh assūj 1950 ~ 25 September 1893. The dot is the zero, the circle
is the five. The other circle near the lower right is the final h in the
word māh for ‘month’ (see also next entry).
28 māh assūj 1932 ~ 11 October 1875.
7 māh assūj 1949 ~ 21 September 1892.
14 assūj 24 ~ 28 September 1867.
27 māh assūj 34 ~ 11 October 1877.
aţh āna 8 ~ 8 annas, in Urdū in the lower section. (Persian
8 is hasht). The upper illegible section is the Dogrī 8a ~ aţh ānā.
avval māh jeţh sanh 39 ~ first [of the] month Jeth, year 1939 ~ 13 May 1882.
The avval is used in the pair of months that come in first and second parts.
az ~ from. Here, az Ladākh. Many such names simply have to be
recognized as recurrent logograms. The six elements that appear here, reading from right to left,
are: a-z; La-d-ā-kh. The z and the kh are dotted.
az Jammūn (on right), az Kashmīr.
az ţaraf ~ from, on behalf of, in favor of.