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US 'stamps' on Hindu deities spark debate

Last updated: 22 January, 2010
Utpal Borpujari, New Delhi, Jan 21, DHNS: 0:49 IST

Seven stamps issued by a private company in the United States depicting Hindu gods and goddesses as well as the Sai Baba has stoked a controversy with claims and counter claims regarding whether they actually are postage stamps.

For keeps: These ‘stamps’ have been welcomed by Hindu organisations. While the company behind the products has said they can be used as valid US postage stamps, apparently through a system that allows private firms to issue stamps with popular images on them, the stamps do not find any mention in the official US Postal Service (USPS) catalogue.

Hindu organisations in the US have welcomed the issuance of the ‘stamps’, carrying images of Sri Krishna, Shiva-Parvathi, Sai Baba, Murugan, Lord Venkateshwara, Vinayaka (Ganesh) and Lakshmi, but online debates are arguing whether they are ‘real’ postage stamps or not. Atlanta-based company USA-Postage.com, which has issued the ‘stamps’, says they are valid postage stamps.

“Usa-postage.com allows customers to put their favourite digital images on valid US postage. The high-quality, adhesive-backed postage is produced using advanced printing technology within a short timeframe,” the company says.

The ‘stamps’ have been customised for the Indian community in America and it is for the first time ‘real’ US postage is depicting the “exclusive designs” of deities, organisations like Hindu Janajagruti Samiti have claimed.

The ‘stamps’, priced at 44 cents each, can also be bought on a commemorative sheet priced at $18.99. “We are proud to serve the Indian community in USA with postage that reflects its culture, heritage and religious beliefs,” USA-Postage.com, which targets small businesses, home offices and individuals in the Indian community in the country, has said.

However, online debates, on websites like boardreader.com are questioning the claim of these being real postage stamps. “It is a novelty where anyone can have his or her photo and use it as a postal stamp, like in Franking machines where the logo can be replaced by any image of your choice and still the letter can travel to its destination” even as the USPS collects the revenues under a licensing system, one post argues.

Another post says, “I do not know what to make out of it but I can assure you that I am smelling a rat. Vishwa Hindu Parishad has spread the following news all across India that US government has issued postal stamps to facilitate the Indian community in the US (sic).”

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