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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gujarat through stamps

AHMEDABAD : Philately, considered to be king of collection hobbies, has given the state much to be happy about. While Gujarat's erstwhile state of Sorath (Junagadh), was among the first princely states to issue postal stamp, today the state has around 5,000 philatelists who boast of one of the biggest and perhaps one of the most valuable collections of postal stamps in India.

Mainak Kathiara, president emeritus of Gujarat Philatelists Association, said that they are trying to take the hobby to the next generation. "We believe that the stamps are pleasure for the collectors and treasure for their descendents due to the value they generate both emotionally and financially. We also believe that the stamps are an important educational tool due to the vast range of subjects it covers," he said.

As the celebration of National Postal Week continues among the enthusiasts, here is how Gujarat has been seen by postal stamps and stationary.

When Rajpipla stamps were printed in Germany

Ilyas Patel, a city-based chronicler of philately, mentions in his book Gujarat: A State of Enriched Philately that out of 366 princely states of Gujarat, seven - Idar, Jasdan, Morvi, Nawanagar (Jamnagar), Rajpipla, Sorath (Junagadh) and Wadhwan - had issued postal stamps between 1864 and 1948. Likewise, four states - Morvi, Rajkot, Rajpipla and Sorath - issued postal stationary such as covers and post cards.

Patel mentions that while most of the states gave orders for printing to press based in state or institutions such as India Security Press at Nasik, Rajpipla used to get its stationary printed in Germany. Sorath issued state's first postal stamp in 1864 whereas Rajpipla issued state's first inland letter card in 1875. Rajkot only issued postal stationary and interestingly it had to be signed by the judge of the district and sessions court before use.

Soon after independence, the state saw formation of United States of Saurashtra. The short-lived entity is known as a curious case in philately as even after independence in 1947, the postal system of the state continued functioning till March 30, 1950 with own stamps and stationary due to handover issues.

Rani ki Vav on cancellation mark, Whale Shark on First Day Cover

Cancellation marks, also known as postmarks, provide the receiver with a token from the place of origin of the letter.

"So far, the state has seen its icons such as Asiatic Lion, Flamingo, Sun Temple of Modhera, Hridaykunj, Krishna Temple at Dwarka, the Sidi Syed jali, Alfred High School of Rajkot, Jain idols from Palitana and Sardar Sarovar Dam on cancellation marks. Rani ki Vav that has recently been announced as World Heritage Site, has also been used as pictorial cancellation by Patan post office since 2002," he said.

Similarly, a number of important events have been marked by issuance of First Day Cover, a commemorative postal stationary. Some of the institutions and events covered include 25 years of satellite broadcasting (ISRO), Charkha with quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, 100 years of Gandhi Ashram, Vhali- the whale shark, Dutch tombs of Surat, 50 years of Gujarat, Bird Feeder of Ahmedabad and Lakshmi Vilas Palace.

Gujarat on the stamps

As per chroniclers, till 2011 the India Post has released 142 stamps that have Gujarati personality, flora and fauna or thematic representations. Some of the Gujaratis who have been immortalized on the postal stamps include Narsinh Mehta, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, Jam Ranjitsinh, poet Nanalal, Mahadev Desai, Ravishankar Maharaj, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Sayajirao Gaekwad, Ravishankar Maharaj, Indulal Yagnik and Balvantrai Mehta.

The Dandi March of 1930 has been of great interest among philatelists. It has been commemorated on its 50th and 75th anniversaries with special sets of postal stamps. When GUJPEX was organized in Vadodara in 2011, the Gujarat circle of India Post had come out with a unique set of 22 specially cancelled postcards on Dandi March.

Asiatic Lion, Great Indian Bustard, two Gujarati cow breeds - Kankreji and Gir, Kathiawari Horse, Black Buck, Kite Festival, Rathwa painting, Shatrunjay temples, Somnath temple, Harappan seal, Patola from Patan, bronze artifact from Baroda Museum, embroidery from Kutch and an elephant statue from Kutch museum have also found place on the postal stamps. Several Gujaratis have also got their designs printed on stamps.

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