The Zarūrī

The first circular; indeed, possibly, the first Indian Native stamp. The specimen shown below, which dates from an unknown year in the pre-stamp period, is one of two found in the specimen book of its engraver, Rahat Ju, resident at Srinagar. It is a large item in red watercolor on native paper, about 3 cm across. The basic design was clearly the prototype or inspiration for the native circular issues of 1866, for which the face in the Dogra sun symbol was replaced by currency notation and the trilingual inscription was reduced to a bilingual. Still, Séfi & Mortimer, through reference to Stuart Godfrey, allows us to think (see link at page bottom) that the engraver of the three Jammu circular dies was in fact another worthy, probably resident at Jammu. No proofs or trials of the three circulars (nor of the Jammu plate for that matter) was found in Rahat Ju’s specimen book.

The image shown below is the example in the Hellrigl collection. He suggests that since various items in the engraver’s notebook that are “proof” versions of issued stamps were all done in black watercolor, these in red might have been the actual issued items that had found a resting place there. The other known copy is currently in the Harell collection. There were period reports of cancelled copies, but none of these has ever come to light. The seal might have served in part as a symbolic protection on package seams, and would thus have been destroyed when the document cover was opened.

In philatelic circles this pleasantly antic item somehow came to be known as the “Dak Zaruri” (Express Post) even though the word ḍāk ~ ‘post, mail’ does not appear on it. We feel that the Dogri inscription, kakal zaruri ~ letter urgent, rather suits its personality. The Dogri script element ja on the stamp serves for za, which would be formally indicated by underdotting the ja. The first ra-element may have the -u diacritic buried in the rings below it. The Persian along the bottom is khaţţ zarūrī, “khatt” being the root for ‘wrap’ in Arabic, whence also ‘cover’ or ‘letter’.


► Masson, “A Service Stamp,” p 36 (1900).
► Séfi & Mortimer, “The Dak Zaruri,” pp. 69-70 (1937).
• Haverbeck, H., Collectors Club Philatelist 56, p. 89 (1977).
• Staal, F., pp 23-5 and Plate 16 (1983).
• Hellrigl, W., Collectors Club Philatelist 57, p. 303 (1978); there are details also in the author’s Roy.Phil.Soc.Lond publication Jammu and Kashmir, 16 November 2006, p. 4.

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