Scinde District Dawks - The Premier Stamps of Asia

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In 1852, India became the 10th country in the world and the first country in Asia to issue postage stamps. One would have expected the stamps to have been issued from Calcutta (the then capital of India), however the stamps happened to see the light of day in a remote province called 'Scinde'. 


In 1758 the East India Company (EIC) established their first presence at 'Tatta' after successful negotiations with Talpoor, the ruler of Sind. The assassination of the British political agent Alexander Burnes in Kabul and the subsequent retreat of the British army led Lord Ellenborough, the new Governor General to punish the Afghans with vigorous measures. To contain Afghanistan it was essential to annex Sind and Punjab. He appointed General Charles Napier to occupy Sind. The General arrived in Karachi on 9th September 1842, and by the end of 1843 had occupied the whole of Sind to establish British rule. He was subsequently appointed the first civil administrator of Sind and placed under Bombay Presidency.

With infrastructure in an advanced stage of development, the Board of Directors of the EIC were adamant on the improvement of  postal reforms, for the introduction of cheap postal rates, to meet up the demand of the fast developing public trade and commerce in the country. This meant that the introduction of the postage stamp had become imperative and thus all the three presidencies viz. Calcutta, Bombay & Madras became deeply engrossed in the plans to issue postage stamps.

Figure 1. Sir Bartle Frere

Sir Bartle Frere , son in law of John Arthur, the governor of Bombay, was assigned with the task of bringing postal reforms to Scinde. The postal administration was directly under the control of the Bombay presidency and four very important post offices viz. Sukkur, Shikarpur, Hyderabad Scinde and Karachi were under its jurisdiction. Spurred by the order, Sir Bartle Frere, the commissioner of Scinde, a keen admirer of the penny postage scheme of Sir Rowland Hill, with the active support of the Post Master of Karachi Edward Lees Coffey, designed and got the stamps printed from M/s De La Rue and Co Ltd., London. The printers had the embossing and the best security process in mind as at the time they were printing 6d, 10d & 1sh. embossed stamps of Great Britain and as a consequence, the same process was also adopted for the printing of the Scinde Dawk Stamps (Sind Mail Stamps).


The design of the Scinde Dawk have puzzled many. Major Rydot, of the Indian Army concluded that the design was the same as the mark of East India Company, composed of  '+' and 'P' a very ancient Christian sign, the first letter of the name of Christ in Greek. The mystic sign of 4 is found at the head of almost every marine merchant's mark. The design. more or less of the same pattern is also noticed , in the watermarks of the contemporary laid, wove and bond papers. There is no doubt however, that it was regarded as a holy sign.

Figure 2. The Evolution of the Scinde Dawk Designs

The shape of the embossed Scinde Dawk is circular. In set is a heart divided into three segments, each segment containing one of the letters EIC (East India Company) in the center, above the heart is then figure 4 with the central stroke vertically lengthened to form one of the partitions in the heart. At the bottom tip is written 1/2 anna. The entire design is enclosed in a circular belt, forming its border. The circular belt contains the inscriptions 'Scinde District Dawk' with the belt buckle at the lower center showing the holes for the buckle grip.

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