Stamp collection is a hobby still enjoyed by many. Stamp and coin collectors relish their hobby. Many have extended it into currency notes collection too. Iqbal H Nanjee, a known philatelic of Pakistan, has come up with a comprehensive and significant compilation of the history of postal stamps and system of a formerly princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
Among the many princely states of India, J&K is considered “the jewel of the crown”. It becomes hard to believe that the Jammu and Kashmir state — a region in South Asia — with its disputed divisions and restricted communications is among the pioneers in introducing postal stamps and system in Asia.
The book is a detailed read and an in-depth research on the history of postal stamps of J&K state from 1866-77. It is a combination of history, communication system, exploring the designs, manuscripts, colours and art of the stamps introduced in the J&K state.
Its circular and rectangular stamps stand out for their bold and exotic designs and colour scheme and even some rarely described as “undoubtedly great classics” of the philatelic worlds.
Nanjee describes this stupendous study as “sailing in un-chartered waters”, a study which has rarely been undertaken this way before.
Though a territorial dispute remains politically unresolved, the historical facts and the postal history of J&K and Poonch are solely indebted to the cities of Sialkot, Murree and Kahuta (all three in Pakistan now). The role of these three exchange post offices firmly establishes the doorway to the outer world of J&K.
Maharaja Ranbir Singh introduced the first postal stamps of J&K state in 1866 to facilitate communication. The communication developed not only within the state but also with the surrounding area.
The creation of the postal stamps in J&K occurred earlier than the introduction of stamps in most other Asian kingdoms and empires in history. The stamps came to Persia in 1870; Afghanistan and Japan in 1871; China in 1878; Nepal in 1881; and Tibet in 1912. In J&K, as early as their beginning, the stamps were used on mail with the state and also on letters destined to foreign lands.
Soon after the foundation of the State of J&K, a mail line was set up in the form of a proper system between Jammu city, the residence of the rulers and the summer capital, Srinagar. The system was well-protected and provided with 38 stations, which further led to various developments like roads, networks and bridges leading to gradually improvising communication system.
In this comprehensive book, apart from the history of the state of J&K through postal stamps, the author has explained the system, routes, distances, rates, printing, paper types, errors and varieties, colours, designs, security and their forgeries, in great detail.
J&K jointly issued the first postage stamps in 1866, popularly known as “The Jammu Circulars”. The earliest appearance of the stamps, as per study, is March 1866.
These were hand struck from single dies, in water colour and later oil colours, to protect them from rainy season. Watercolours use also completely eliminated the possibility of reuse at that time.
However, the book reveals that the use of oil colours was fully intentional and meaningful to assure maximum protection of letters against the damp climate or rainy weather. Due to improper maintenance, the printing machinery introduced in the early period, proved to be inadequate as the iron rusted fast.
The book, mostly pictorial in detail and depth, is an overview of 11 years’ history of postal stamps, coins, their designs, art, language, printing, etc. In the 17 chapters, mostly covered with pictorial details of the stamps of that period, minutely discusses all aspects of those stamps.
The author of the book, Nanajee, an avid philately researcher, is one rare gem in Pakistan who also organises the National Stamp Exhibition in Karachi every year. His efforts to create a museum book with his comprehensive study are also clearly visible through his work. He has served as first secretary general of Philatelic Federation of Pakistan, having been elected in 1997, and is known as a great promoter of philately. He has also been on the Advisory Committee to the Pakistan government on printing stamps for many years.
This is a unique exploration of a new dimension of the history and glory of J&K state and is a great guidebook for the philately lovers to understand how to delve indepth into the subject.