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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

India’s First Postage Stamp after Independence

After ruling for almost two hundred years, Britain announced on 3rd June 1947 its decision to relinquish suzerainty over India and give independence. They decided to partition British India by seceding the Muslim majority provinces on 14th August 1947 and create a new state of Pakistan. The remaining of British India was to become the successor government as Dominion of India and both states to be given Independence on the 15th August 1947.

To mark the event, India decided to issue a set of three postage stamps to commemorate the Independence Day. The postal department, though busy dividing assets, stores, property, saving bank deposits, pension funds etc., entrusted Mr. T.I Archer, a Government artist to prepare designs for the new stamps. The approved designs were sent to Master, India Security Press in Nasik for production and delivery before 15th of August.

India Security press was setup by Government at Nasik in 1926 and has since produced all requirements of India’s Bank notes (currency) Government Security paper, fiscal and postal stamps etc.  The postage stamps of that period bore the effigy of King George VI and were in use all over India from Shimla to Tuticorin and Quetta to Chittagong.

India Security Press was unable to produce the stamps in such short notice, besides the press was already engaged in overprinting the existing British Indian stamps, Bank Notes, Court Fee Stamps and papers with the word “PAKISTAN” for use by the new state under the order from Viceroy’s Partition Council.

Since the stamps count not be made ready for release on the 15th August, orders were placed with The Postal Workshop in Aligarh to prepare special postmark for use at all Head Post Offices on 15th of August 1947 until new stamps, being printer were made available. The bilingual postmark bears the work “JAI HIND” in Roman and Devanagari.  They were used to cancel mails from 15th August, very few of this postmark now survives.

The first special stamp to commemorate the attainment of Independence was delivered by Nasik Press in November 1947. This 3½ annas value stamp (overseas postage rate) was placed on sale at the post offices all over India on the 21st of November 1947. The stamp depicts the new tri-color Indian National Flag with Ashokan Dharma Chakra in blue on the center of the white horizontal band, flanked on both sides with saffron band at top and bronze green band at bottom. It is flying tied to the flag mast. The inscription in Devanagri reads “JAI HIND” with date “15 AUG. 1947”, “POSTAGE” “INDIA” and the value “3½ As.” in English.
The other two stamps were ready and released on the 15th December 1947. The 1 ½ annas value is with denomination both in Hindi and English as it was to be used for domestic postage. Printed in grey green, this stamp depicts the Lion Capital of Ashoka Pillar and this historic object was adopted as the government’s state emblem. 

The 12 annas stamp was for foreign mail postage rate printed in airmail blue shows a Douglas DC4 Skymaster aircraft in flight. The stamps were photo-lithographed on gummed paper with multiple star watermarks and perforated 13½ X 14.
As successor state, India continued to use the stamps with the effigy of King George VI as large quantity of these stamps were lying in stock at Nasik’s central stamp depot and various treasuries thought India. These stamps were repealed in 1949 on the second anniversary of independence by a beautiful set depicting famous Indian Archeological monuments.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Kalighat Temple

The original KALIGHAT Temple,  painted by François Balthazar Solvyns in 1796 the temple was situated at the end of Bhowanipore Road near Tollys nalla. A  Military Burial Ground was set up near the Temple for `Soldiers dying in nearby Military Hospital by E.I.Co  . In 1807 devotees moved the Temple one mile south  to  the present site, bordering the land given to Ghulam Mohammad Shah  son of Tipoo Sultan by Cornwallis in 1806. The Mazar of PUGLA PEER remained there between Military Burial Ground  and Bhowanipur Road. On the corner of Peepulpatty Rd,(Elgin Rd) &  Russa Pugla  (Chowringhee) there was the Porah market. Next to it in was erected a raised mound  of  Suttee Peer (called Sahamaran shrine)
The original KALI TEMPLE was located at the place marked Lock Hospital. 

MAP OF CALCUTTA, from actual survey in years 1847-1849 by Frederick Walter Simms from Surveys  and executed by Major H.L. Thuillier, and Capt. R.Smyth. Engraved by J and C.Walker: from Library of Congress

François Balthazar Solvyns, Les Hindoûs, Vol. II, title page etching: Women before  Kalighat temple. 
 Women carrying  pot of Ganes water on head 
François Balthazar SolvynsLes Hindoûs, Vol. II,  Etching 1796:  Devotees at Calcutta's Kalighat temple  

The original KALI Temple. Engraving by  François Balthazar Solvyns 1796  
"Scene at Kali ghat, steps on stream known as Tolly's Nulla'. Calcutta, ."
 1944.Photo by U.S.Army photographer Frank Kagal 

Vendor selling Lotus and Jaba (Hibiscus) Flower to devotees at Kali Temple 
Red Jaba is the  prefered flower for worship of Godess Kali in Bengal.; 
1944 Photo by; U.S.Army photographer Glenn S.Hensley 

A three feet high rectangular altar bearing a Mansa plant with, three stones  representing Goddess "Sashti""Sitala", and "Mangal Chandi. This sacred spot  has  only women priests

Manasa Tree in Sastitala compound at Kali Temple 1944 photo  by; U.S.Army photographer Glenn S.Hensley  

The new KALI Temple was built at present location in 1807 two kms south of old Temple,  The  Temple was assigned 194 acres of land  for its maintenance.  1944 Photo by U.S.Army photographer Frank Kagal 

TOLLY's NALLAH -  ādi gangā 
It was silted up and was originally excavated in 1776 by Major Tolly as a private venture under a temporary grant of land by East India Company for navigation and canal Tolls, Opened for  in 1777; it was taken over by the Government in 1804.  28 kms long from River Hooghly near Kidderpore to Tardaha, connecting the Hooghly with Bidyadhari.
 When first excavated by desilting,  the canal was of insignificant dimension; but was later widened for  much frequented passage of Toll paying   boats .It formed part of inner Sunderbuns route and source of considerable revenue to E.I.Company. The original course of the river Hooghly. was identical with present Tollys Nalla as far as Garia, some miles south then joined Katta khal to Bidyadhari This part is still called ādi Gangā or the original Ganges. It is now being used for extension of Metro system. A part of adjoining land named Tollygunge was given to the family and sons of Tipu Sultan, Ghulam Mohammad Shah.
The new KALI Temple was built at present location in 1807 two kms south of old Temple,(opposite Belvedere,then called Bagaun Bāri).  The Kalighat Temple was assigned 194 acres of land  for its maintenance.

Acknowledgements;- .  
- U.S. Library of Congress, 
- British Museum,
- Columbia University,         ,                                  
- Chicago University, 
- University of Texas,
- Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr.,  
- Cornell University,  
- North American Review 1850   
   - Hadda majar Kalighat -  A description in verse of drunken orgies during the worship of Goddess Kali in Kalighat Temple Calcutta. 1868 ,  India Office Library, London 
   - Kalighat Shivabhakti pradayini Sabha  - (account of the proceedings of annual meeting of the Shivabhaktipradayini sabha for  Bengali year 1801) Pp 24 Bhowanipore Calcutta 1880AD


Sometime back I bought at eBay auction some rare photographs (large 8" x 10”) of Victoria Memorial painted BLACK.
 In 1943 during WWII, Japanese were bombing Calcutta.  To prevent damage to Memorial from air raids bombing, it was camouflaged by painting black. A number of gas filled blimps (looked like mini Zeppelins) were tethered on  floating bouys  from river Hooghly  to prevent enemy planes diving low to to hit the hurriedly opened the new Howrah Bridge in 1943.

In this picture of Kidderpore Bridge one can see several blimps flying over ganges

Photography of landmarks was prohibited and was strictly enforced.

These photographs were taken by U.S.Army photographers Frank Bond and Frank Kagal in late 1943

I vividly remember the black painted Victoria Memorial in 1943 when going to St. Thomas School in Kidderpore (the class was held inside the Church as the entire school bldg., hostel and compound was requisitioned by the Military, sans Church)

I was then residing at 111 Central Avenue, opposite School of Tropical Medicine and walked to Esplanade Terminus to take the 2 paisa tram to Kidderpore. The Tram track in those days was diverted thru middle of Maidan, all the way to near Victoria Memorial where it turned right near lover’s lane and closely followed the edges of picket fence of Race Course.

The Hospital Street was lined with Fighter planes in thatch roof Hangars made from Cattle feed straw. 

The Red Road was converted into Air Strip Runway and fenced from maidan side.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ganesha playing tabla

Kalighat Painting showing Ganesha playing Tabla  from Collection of Sam Gupta
The painters called Patuas who developed the Kalighat painting style were traditional scroll painters (patuas). In catering to the transient, urban populace, the artists let go on of their linear narrative style and adopted single pictures with one or two figures. The traditionally inherited techniques and iconography were blended with the use of  water colours and shading, to show frames of a changing society and were sold by thousands at places of pigrimage like Kalighat and Tarkeshwar and at local fairs at prices ranging from one pice to one anna each"
The Pats should be devided into periods 1825 to 1850, 1860 to 1900, 1901 to 1930 when different kind of paints, paper used and buyers - pilgrims, merchants foreign tourists or Christian religious preachers. The advent of Railway service brought large number of pilgrims, Merchants, Traders who bought them in large wholesale quantity for resale  at north and west India thru  Chitra sala shops selling handpainted religious chitras paintings, handwritten illustrated books, monolitho pictures lithographed at Agra or Lucknow by Nawal Kishore Press where Prem Saugur written by Lallu Lal in 1815 in crude Hindi and  translated in English by W.Hollings an illustrated book on life of Krishnas'  and printed at Nawal Kishore Press Lucknow  in 1855) You should see this rare book at National Library. The setting up of Printing Press at Serampore by Carey  Marshman and Ward required Paper and a Mill was setup at Serampore next to Printing Press, another at Bally,using sunn, fibres of Crotolaria juncea.