History of Philately in India
The Indian Philatelic history began with the introduction of paper postage in
India in 1852. Before that copper tokens were introduced for payment of postage
in 1774. Their use was, however, not found to be very convenient and need was
felt for some other token of pre-payment. With the success of Penny Postage in
England, Sir Bartel Frere, the Commissioner of Sind introduced paper stamps for
his province in 1852. These stamps, known as Scinde Dawk, were round in shape
and were issued in three variations – embossed on white paper without colour, on
white paper in blue and on vermilion wafers. They were withdrawn in October,
1854 on the introduction of the regular India Postage Stamps though their use
continued for quite some time.
In 1854, it was decided to issue stamps for the British India and in the
interest of the economy, to have them printed them in India. The first design
for the India Postage stamps was attempted by Col. Forbes of Calcutta Mint
showing the 'Lion and the Palm tree'. It was a bold and imaginative design but
somehow it could never be used. The next stamps to be designed and printed in
1854, by the Surveyor General's Office were blue lithographed half anna stamps
showing a youthful profile of Queen Victoria.
While the first India Postage Stamps issued in 1854 bore the inscription 'India
Postage', the inscription was changed in the same year to 'East India Postage'.
This was changed from 1882 to 'India Postage' and continued till 1962. From
November, 1962, a new caption 'भारत' 'INDIA' was introduced replacing the 'India
Postage', though three stamps issued in December, 1962/January 1963 carried the
From the beginning of British Imperialist Rule, when the Queen Victoria stamps
were issued in 1854, a portrait of British Monarch had figured in Indian Stamp
Designs. This came to an end with India gaining independence on 15th August,
1947. The first independence stamps, issued in 1947, were three in number. They
depicted the Ashoka Pillar, (National Emblem of India) the Indian National Flag
and an Aircraft. Since then India has issued more than 3000 Stamps.
Growth of Philately
Postage stamp, which begun as a piece of paper in token of receipt of postage,
has assumed additional functions. It is a mode of commemorating, celebrating and
promoting national heritage and events. It plays a great role as an ambassador,
a brand image of postal administration and a statement of sovereignty of a
nation. After independence, the medium of postage stamps was initially used to
highlight the country's achievements in science and technology as well as its
socio-economic Development by depicting themes like the Five Year Plans, Steel
Plants, Dams etc. Subsequently, the country's rich cultural and natural heritage
came to be showcased and many beautiful stamps were issued in thematic sets on
art, architecture, crafts maritime heritage, science, technology, defence and
cinematic. Great leaders of national and international standing have also been
honoured with commemorative stamps, the most prominent being Mahatma Gandhi, the
Father of the Nation has been honoured with commemorative and definitive stamps.
Personalities, who have made immense contributions in areas like painting,
literature, science, music, social upliftment etc., have also been honoured.
In keeping with their dual character as a "Token of Postage" and as "Cultural
Ambassador", there are two categories of stamps. The first is meant for
day-to-day use as a token of payment of postage on mail articles. These
incorporate less complicated design inputs, entailing minimum expenditure in
their manufacture, and are printed in large quantities over longer periods. The
second, on the other hand, are designed and printed with greater aesthetic
inputs. They are manufactured in limited quantities and generate great interest
among philatelists and collectors.
What makes Philately a special hobby?
Philately is a delightful hobby that sharpens and satisfies one’s aesthetic
tastes. While expanding knowledge of and interaction with the world one gets to
know interesting details of politics, history, prominent personalities, national
and international events, geography, flora and fauna, agriculture, science,
monuments, soldiers, warriors, scientists, arms and ammunition, modes of
transport etc. This process of learning becomes more delightful through visuals
and brief write-ups. In addition, philately cultivates a meticulous and focused
attention to detail. It also helps in making friends across boundaries and
What can be collected?
Both mint - stamps (unused stamps) and used stamps can be collected. These can
be collected year-wise, nation-wise or theme-wise. To make this easier and more
attractive to beginners, philatelists generally advise collecting stamps
according to a selection of choice called a Thematic Collection. Themes may be
flowers, birds, animals, architecture, railways, monuments, Red Cross etc.
Definitive stamps and stationery can also be collected as a theme. The bottom
line is that the collection unfolds various aspects of a theme like a story.
Types of Stamps
There are commemorative and definitive stamps. Commemorative stamps are issued,
as the name suggests, commemorating important events, prominent personalities in
various fields, aspects of nature, beautiful or rare flora and fauna,
environmental issues, agricultural activities, national/international issues,
games etc. These stamps are only available at Philatelic Bureaux and counters or
under the Philatelic Deposit Account Scheme. They are printed in limited
Definitive stamps on the other hand, are used for day - to - day postal mailing
purposes and are available in various ascending denominations from 25 paisa
onwards at all postal counters.
How to collect used stamps?
Used stamps can be collected from the postal envelopes one receives. These can
be detached delicately from the postal articles. Rinse in a shallow dish of
water, using a soft brush. Carefully dry them in a dark place as the ultra
violet rays of sunlight can damage the colours. It is also valuable to retain
stamps along with the envelopes on which they are pasted as this authenticates
From where to get stamps?
Mint stamps are available at Philatelic Bureaux and Counters in the designated
post offices, details of which are available at nearest Head Post Office.
Besides this local philatelists and pen-friends across the country and abroad
may be of great help.
How to get and use albums?
Albums are available at leading Book and Stationery stores and with
philatelists. Pasting stamps ruins them. Use paper hinges or "havids" to place
them in an album. Plastic strip albums are now available and are ideal to use
for beginners. Handle stamps with pincers to avoid smudging or damaging them.
What is the Philatelic material available at Philatelic Bureaux ?
Philatelic material includes -
Mint stamps (unused stamps)
First Day Covers (FDCs, which are issued with every commemorative stamp )
Brochure (Information sheet accompanying each commemorative stamp )
Collectors' Packs (Year-wise)
Miniature/Souvenir sheets which are sometimes issued
What are a Philatelic Bureau, a Philatelic Counter and an Authorized Office?
Philatelic Bureaux function in 68 Head Post Offices at Circle Head Offices or in
major district towns. There are 68 Philatelic Bureaux and 1111 Philatelic
Counters, which includes all the Head Post Offices or Mukhya Dak Ghars of the
country. Philately is gaining ground as a hobby among all age groups.
-They carry out sale of philatelic items to individuals, dependent counters and
authorized Post offices.
-Philatelic Deposit Accounts can be opened at these Bureaus.
Philatelic counters supply all philatelic items but are not authorized to issue
the Special Cancellation that accompanies each commemorative stamp.
-They provide a standard "First Day of Issue" cancellation on first day cover.
Authorized offices sell only the Commemorative / Special Stamps, Blank First
Day Covers and Brochures.
Many queries are received from beginners particularly, seeking guidance for
starting a collection of postage stamps. You may wish to obtain information or
consult the Philatelic Congress of India at
email@example.com. The Department of Posts is not, however, responsible
for the information etc. supplied by the Philatelic Congress of India as the
Department does not handle the secondary market in Philately.
From time to time, publications of interest to Philatelists are brought out and
made available for sale through the Philatelic Bureaux.
Conditions for Reproduction of Stamp Images
Reproduction of stamp images is allowed for illustration purposes in Philatelic
Publication or in an article relating wholly on postage stamps which may appear
in any magazine, newspaper or publication of a general character. Such
reproduction should however, be only in black. If stamps are to be produced in
colour for publicity purposes, prior permission of the Director General of Posts
must be obtained. To avoid similarity with the postage, such reproduction must
be distinctively in smaller or larger sizes than the actual stamp and must be
without perforation on the edges. Further, across bar will also be placed on
one- corner of the stamp, obliterating the denomination. It must be noted that
reproduction of the stamp in colour of the actual size of the stamp with
perforation of the edges may be deemed to be taken as production of the actual
stamp. Detailed guidelines are available on Guidelines for Use of Images of Postage Stamps.
The philatelic activities of the Department of Posts include:
Maintenance of the National Philatelic Museum
The National Philatelic Museum is being maintained on ground floor of the Dak
Bhawan. Besides commemorative postage stamps issued since 1947, thematic stamps
and other philatelic products are on display. The museum is equipped with
audio-visual facility and a small amphitheatre to interact with visitors’ groups
such as school children. There is also a souvenir shop inside the museum. The
museum is operational during Monday to Friday from 10:00 am till 5:00 pm.
Designing, printing and distribution of special / commemorative / definitive
- Designing, printing and distribution of commemorative / definitive postage
stamps and items of postal stationery like Envelop, Inland Letter Card,
Postcard, Aerogram, Registered cover etc.
- Promotion of Philately and conduct of Philatelic Exhibition as well as
monitoring of Exhibitions at State/ Regional and District levels.
My Stamp – Personalized Postage Stamp
It is brand name for personalized sheets of commemorative postage stamps of
India Post. The personalization is achieved by printing a thumbnail photograph
of customer’s image/logo etc. alongside the selected commemorative postage
stamp. The service is available on special occasions across the country.