India’s freedom through postal collection

Two avid philatelists from Bengaluru capture key moments and personalities of our independence in a book
Last Updated 03 May 2022, 18:24 IST

The first postage stamp to mark India’s independence from the British empire was issued on November 21, 1947, three months after the momentous day. The process of issuing and distributing new stamps was time-consuming, that’s why. However, on August 15, 1947, Indian stamps overprinted with the word Pakistan were produced as the transition was simpler — our printing presses were used to doing that on the British Indian stamps.

A lot transpired since our independence and ‘Jai Hind — The true spirit of India’, a book co-authored by Sushil Mehra and K Chaitanya Dev from Bengaluru, is an attempt to chronicle that through the lens of philately. They are both members of Karnataka Philatelic Society. Sushil is a businessman while Chaitanya is a quality consultant.

The book was launched last year to mark 75 years of our independence but given the lockdowns and curfews, it was confined to online discussions among stamp collectors. But Sushil is hopeful it will appeal to history-seekers just as much as it is packed with stories, explainers and lots of pictures of postal stamps, marks, cancellations, and covers, sourced from many hobbyists. “I can’t say how many of these are there in the book. Philatelists don’t keep a count,” Sushil, 65, bails out politely.

The book features postmarks, stamps and postal stationery<br />from across the country. DH Photo: Janardhan B K
The book features postmarks, stamps and postal stationery
from across the country. DH Photo: Janardhan B K

Spanning 195 glossy pages, the book captures key moments and personalities of our freedom struggle. But it goes in length to analyse the ‘Jai Hind’ postmark, which the postal department adopted as its first slogan after independence, and which remains the most wanted among stamp collectors. ‘Jai Hind’ was a war cry popularised by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and has metamorphosed to a victory call and salutation today.

As we learnt earlier, the post-Independence philately in India did not begin with postal stamps. It instead took off with postmarks dated August 15, 1947 as they were faster to produce. It was a bi-lingual postmark with the slogan ‘Jai Hind’ in English and Hindi.

While southern cities such as Bangalore, Mysore, Madras, Ootacamund and Trivandrum were making much use of these ‘Jai Hind’ postmarks, the same was not true of the smaller towns in the region when compared to the north.

The ‘Jai Hind’ postmark was issued by more than 100 post offices till it was discontinued on December 31, 1947. It then resurfaced from the post office of Girdikot in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, in June of 1948. Jodhpur was an outlier in more ways than one. Philatelists have come across another ‘Jai Hind’ postmark from this city, which was seen nowhere else. Unlike the regular ‘circular’ postmark, it issued a rectangular postmark, flanked by three wavy lines, between 1947 and 1955.

The book offers a detailed analysis of postmarks — from the type of frame, letter and cancellation used to its width and height to the history of places they originated from.

The book is available on

Know the difference

Though synonymously used in common parlance, postmark is any mark, handstruck or machine applied on postal items whereas cancellation is a defacing mark on a stamp (including the postmark).

(Published 03 May 2022, 18:13 IST)

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