Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stamp of Chennai - 9

A post I planned to do on Madras Day - but finally managing to do now - a belated birthday post.
The special cover above was released by India Post on August 22, 2006 to commemorate the founding of Madras on August 22, 1639, the day when the Nayaks of Vijayanagar Empire granted a piece of land to the East India Company - the land on which the EIC built Fort St George, which even today is the seat of power.
A great special cover - one because it is nicely done - senior philatelists say that the Postal Department decided to release this cover in the last minute and the cover was designed and readied in about two days.
But the other important reason is the great stamp that they decided to put on it - a stamp released in 1986 to mark 200 years of General Post Office in Madras. That made the cover a double treat for stamp lovers.

So I decided to include the first day cover released in 1986 and a special cover, which has another painting of the GPO released on April 26, 1984, to mark the centenary of the GPO building. Before I get on to the topic of my post, here is a related material, a special cancellation of the Fort St George with a painting of the Fort and the beach front in the days of the East India Company - the cover was released on February 5, 1978 - I think on the occassion of the Tamil Nadu Philatelic Exhibition.

Finally, to the topic at hand: Why a stamp of the General Post Office on Madras Day cover? Often the Postal Department does not always stick a related stamp on a special cover - it could be any stamp on any cover.

But here is some info from the information sheet released along with the GPO stamp.

"It (Madras GPO) was opened on June 1, 1786, in a building on the beach in Fort St George Square. It was shifted to a building in Fort St George on October 1, 1837, commonly called the Old Bank near the North Gate (vide notification in Fort St George Gazette dated September 20, 1837."
Above are two pics - it is nearly impossible to replicate the view we see on the stamp. First Line Beach Road is crowded and the road too narrow to get a full, head-on view.

But back to the subject of the GPO - "Madras GPO is one of the three unique offices in the country called as Presidency Offices, the other two being Bombay and Calcutta." The GPO moved to this building in April 26, 1884.

Subsidiary post offices were opened at Vepery and Royapettah after a gazette notification dated March 25, 1834 for "transmission of letter to Madras GPO on payment of 1/2 Anna over and above the regulated postage.

Madras GPO was from the beginning a pioneer Post Office in providing better postal facilities to the public. The postage rates in Madras Presidency were cheaper than at Calcutta up to 1837 when uniform postage was introduced all over India."

On its working: "There was a boat contractor to bring mails from steamer to harbour. No other person except one Postal Official on duty was allowed in the boat. The mails were carried from harbour to GPO in bullock cart with 3 `Coolies' accompanied by a Postal Official.

On opening on June 1, 1786, the staff at Madras GPO consisted of Postmaster General, 1 Deputy Postmaster General, 1 Writer or Native Assistant, 5 Sorters (Clerks), 1 Head `Peon' and 10 `Peons' (postmen) for distributing letters. A Deputy postmaster was appointed from Masulipatnam, Ganjam, Tanjore and Anjango. The Postmaster General had the control of the whole establishment.

The present site of the GPO building was actually a site of warfare and it was called as `Aber Cromble (Crombie) Battery."

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