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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gandhiji's rich life plays out on postal stamps

COIMBATORE: Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasthurba were the first couple to feature in an Indian postal stamp, says philatelist N Hariharan of Kovaipudur, who is the proud owner of a rare stamp of the couple. The stamp was first released on October 2, 1969 on the occasion of Gandhi's birth centenary.
A retired post master, Hariharan says the department has so far released 35 commemorative stamps on Gandhiji, portraying various stages of his life and involvement in the freedom struggle. "In a culturally rich country like ours, stamps can be a powerful means of promoting our soft power," he said. The Internet may have killed traditional post, but it has fuelled interest in stamps and has enabled stamp lovers across the world to exchange information.
"Apart from the Gandhiji stamps released in India, there are more than 300 Gandhiji stamps released by other nations. The first nation, besides India, to have released a Gandhiji postage stamp was the United States on January 26th, 1961. The Congo followed the US and released their Gandhi stamp in 1967,'' says Hariharan. During Gandhiji's centenary birth anniversary celebrations in 1969, more than 40 Countries released Gandhiji postage stamps on the same day.
In India, the first postage stamp on Gandhiji was scheduled to be released on 2nd October, 1948. Four types of stamps were drafted for this purpose. Unfortunately, Gandhiji was assassinated in January 1948 and the first postage stamp on Gandhiji was released on Independence day in 1948,'' says Hariharan.
As per historical records, the Mahatma visited Coimbatore thrice. The tree he planted on February 7, 1934 is still hail and healthy in Ramanathapuram. "Gandhi came to the city as part of his historic Harijan Yatra aimed at empowering dalits. He reached Singanallur from Erode by a shuttle train on February 6. The market regulation committee office was the YMCA village development centre then. Gandhiji stayed there and planted the tree the very next day in the presence of eminent citizens including Avinashilingam University founder Avinashilingam Chettiyar,'' says city historian C R Elangovan. Gandhiji visited the PSG Industrial Training Institute on the same day and left for Ooty.
This was Gandhiji's third visit to Coimbatore. He first came to the city on September 25, 1921, reaching Singanallur by train. He addressed a Congress meeting organized at Coronation Park (VOC Park). The second visit was on October 18, 1927. It was part of his Khadi Yatra and he came from Palakkad by road and stayed on for four days, waiting to recover from fever.
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