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Archived article from the January 2001 issue of Princely States Report

The Rajah Head Revenue Stamped Papers of Bamra

- Forrest Shoemaker

The Feudatory State of Bamra, one of the satellite states of the Patna or Garhjat group of the lower Ganges, was founded in the middle 15th century. With a population of only 150,000 according to the Imperial Gazeteer of 1931, the State is founded in agriculture and forestry, producing Sal lumber, lac, silk cocoons, beeswax and honey, rice, pulses, oilseed, and sugarcane. The people are mainly of the agricultural castes or tribes. The last ruler of the State was Rajah Bhanuganga Tribhuban Beb, 1920-1947. The first rajah to issue fiscal stamps and papers was Rajah Sir Sudhal Deo, 1869-1903, described in the Handbook of Indian Philately as "of Rajput descent, a man of advanced education and enlightened views". It is the portrait papers of the reign of Sudhal Deo that are the subject of this article.

Koeppel and Manners have catalogued only one Type, or Series, of the so-called Rajah Head Revenue Stamped Papers from the reign of Sudhal Deo, the Type 25, catalogued as issued between 1920 and 1925. The Type is a pen-and-ink engraved portrait, very well done, and is one of the more pleasing of the local designs common to the Princely States of India. Collectors know other Types, but the papers are considered quite rare with few examples existing and have remained unlisted until now. This article will describe the known Types and present a new listing for the collector, in addition to correcting the chronology.

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Figure 1: New Type 24 (1891), #240, 1 anna, black

New type, woven paper, unwatermarked. Design size 80 mm x 95 mm. Similar portrait of Rajah as Type 25 but larger with a clear background and floriated border, open at the bottom. The design is decidedly Victorian in composition, with intricate engraving, and uses both the Oriya and English languages as well as elements of Hindu theology. The word "Feudatory" is misspelt "Peudatory." I have not seen an example with correct spelling. This is the only known dated portrait Series. The design and portrait are rather striking, and is perhaps one of the best of the local designs ever produced.

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Figure 2: KM Type 25 (1892?), KM#253, 1 anna, black

Woven paper, unwatermarked. Design size 81 mm x 94 mm. The portrait is of Rajah Sudhal Deo as a young man, which would place the first year of issue for this Type about 1892, or following the first Type 24 of 1891. Sudhal Deo was ruler of Bamra between 1869-1903. The two papers I have in this Type are dated, in the Oriya language of the lower Ganges, as being used in 1894 and 1898, which corrects the Koeppel and Manners years of issue from 1920-1925. The denomination is now remarked in a fourth language, Bengali.

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Figure 3: New Type 26 (1903), #260, 1 anna, black

New type, woven paper, unwatermarked. Design size 80 mm x 95 mm. Similar background and border as Type 25 but portrait of the Rajah as an older man. The date is derived from the one paper in my collection, and I believe this to be the last of the Sudhal Deo issues. The Rajah is standing rather than seated for this portrait and wears the ornate robes and medallions of a ruler who has served his people for many years. The design is pleasing and well executed.

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Figure 4: New Type 23 (1887), #230, 1 anna, black

The K&M catalog also lists a precursor to the Type 24, a rather plain design listed as Type 20, being only a floriated frame and typeset denomination in English and Oriya. Known only unused, it may be a trial issue, but certainly predates the portrait papers of the 1890s. Another precursor, an unlisted Type shown at left, was discovered by David Padgham and mentioned in R. J. Benn's Handbook of Indian Philately. The continuity between this early design, dated 1887 in both Oriya and Hindi, and the first Rajah Head Type 24 is obvious. The border, font, and pointing hands are common design elements between the two Types. A Rajput chakra emblem and a chank shell form the pictorial portion of this Type, later replaced by Rajah Sir Sudhal Deo's portrait.

The Rajah Head and precursor stamped papers of Bamra were issued for use within a small State gathering limited revenues over 100 years ago. The paper becomes somewhat brittle with age if the few examples in my collection are typical; I am certain that most examples have not survived. These papers, considered quite rare by collectors, are perhaps very much undercatalogued. As examples of classic India revenue design, the Rajah Deo papers stand out above almost all other locally produced issues of the period. They deserve careful preservation by collectors while in their possession.

My thanks to A.M. Mollah of Maharashtra, India, and David Heppell of British Columbia for their advice and assistance in preparation of this article.

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