Home > "Early Writings" Column > Travancore: a Study
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Values First
Type Printing
Black Overprints  
4 cash, old paper
5 cash, old paper
5 cash, white paper
6 cash, old paper
10 cash, old paper
10 cash, white paper
1¼ chuckram, old paper
1¼ chuckram, white paper
2 chuckrams, old paper
3 chuckrams, old paper
4 chuckrams, old paper
7 chuckrams, old paper
7 chuckrams, white paper
14 chuckrams, white paper
Red Overprints  
½ chuckram, old paper
1 chuckram, old paper
Blue Overprints  
4 cash, old paper
6 cash, old paper
10 cash, old paper
4 chuckrams, old paper
1¼ chuckram I have not seen this in blue though I have had specimens sent to me as blue which I considered black.
Note—Since writing these notes there are sheets coming over which show that further settings are now in use, but of these I have not sufficient data to hand to venture upon any statements.

A Travancore postmark

The Travancore Postmarks provide an interesting study, but it must suffice here to call attention to, and explain briefly what I know from experience has puzzled some collectors of these stamps I bave come across. The illustration taken from a 10 cash stamp which was first issued in 1921, shows a postmark which looks to be 20th March, 1901, but which is, in reality, 20 Makaram 1101. The Malabar Calendar is in use and the Malabar year is always 825 years behind ours. Makaram corresponds to part of our January and February, and the year 1101 is our 1926.

A new issue of stamps is at present under consideration, and there is a movement on foot, especially among the philatelists out there, to try and get something more varied and more ornate in the way of stamp design. One wonders how the illustrations along with these notes might answer the purpose. None of the Travancore stamps have been demonitized, except the four provisionals, and all are therefore still available for postage within the state and its neighbour Cochin.

Though these notes contain much that will be new to collectors, there is yet ample scope for research, and to anyone who is seeking a new country in which to specialize, and whose purse is not too deep, might I recommend the "Land of the Conch Shell"? There are many other items of interest, such as inverted official overprints, curios due to materials getting on the printing plate, etc., which give scope for the specialist, but enough has been said to show the possibilities, and I conclude by thanking my correspondents for their willing and painstaking help. Every point brought forward has been carefully tested and verified as far as it could possibly be done, and most of the points have been verified by correspondents actually in daily touch with the Printery at the time of writing.

Happy little Travancoreans


follow-up correspondance (November, 1931)

We are indebted to Mr. M. L. Rau for the following comments on Mr. T. F. Marriner's article, which appeared recently in our columns:

The portrait of the Maharajah is that of the present ruler of the State and not the late ruler, as stated. The Maharajah, who is a minor, is to be invested with full powers in November, when he will be nineteen years of age. It is interesting to note that he is a keen stamp collector.

In the portrait of the Maharani (who has been acting as Regent during her nephew's minority) the child is a Ranee, not a Rajah.

The previous ruler of Travancore was the uncle of the Maharani Regent and not her husband.

The picture of the Government Buildings does not show the Stamp Printery, but the portion of the building just behind the man with the umbrella at left, is the central Stamp Depot, whence the stamps are distributed to all the treasuries in the State.

Stamps are printed at the State Stamp Manufactory, a distinct institution from the State Printing Press, which is responsible for printing all official papers, etc., other than stamps.

An essay

follow-up correspondance (December, 1931)

We are indebted to Mr. M. L. Rau for the following further comments on Mr. T. F. Marriner's article which appeared recently in our pages.

½ chuckram. This value was issued on 16th September, 1894 (see Travancore Government Gazette notice in the issue dated 4th September, 1894). This value was first introduced only as a newspaper stamp, the rate for newspapers being reduced from 1 ch. to ½ ch. concurrently with the issue of the ½ ch. stamp. It was used only for newspapers till August 1895, when the minimum letter rate was reduced to ½ ch. The minimum postal rate on newspapers is now 6 cash.

¾ chuckram. This was issued on 12th February, 1901 (Gazette of 19th February, 1901). From the same date the postal rate on letrers weighing up to ½ tola was reduced from 1 to ¾ ch.

Discounts on Stamps. The Government allowed discounts to purchasers of stamps to encourage their use in remote villages not served by anchol offices. Tradesmen bought these stamps at a discount and re-sold them in their villages, making a small profit. The original notice regarding the ¾ ch. did not mention the discount, and this omission gave rise to a second notice which corrected this anomaly (quoted by Major Evans in his original article in the Monthly Journal).

1/4 chuckram and 3/8 chuckram. Mr. Rau does not agree that the stamps with the inverted surcharges were never issued. He has specimens collected from his own correspondence in 1909 and 1910. Genuine inverted surcharges are rare locally, but many forgeries have been seen in India during the past six or seven years only.

3 chuckrams. Date of issue, 1st January, 1911 (Gazette of 22nd November, 1910).

7 and 14 chuckrams. These were issued from 13th February, 1916.

1 c. on 4 cash and 5 c. on 1 chuckram. Both these provisionals were in use long after the issue of the definitive stamps, while the 1/4 and 3/8 ch. provisionals were available at some offices up to 1909 or 1910. The 5 c. on 1 ch. was obtainable at the head office at Trivandrum as late as 1928 and is still met with at out-of-the-way offices.

All stamps remain in issue until stocks are exhausted and no stamps have been demonetised. The further issue of the ¾ ch. black was prohihited because it did not show postmarks, but even the provisionals were never withdrawn. Like old soldiers, stamps in Travancore simply "fade away".

Official or Service Stamps. "On S S" stands for "On Sirkar Service." Only the 1, 2, 3 and 4 ch. were overprinted in 1911. The 4 c., 6 c., and ½ ch. were overprinted much later, in fact the 4 c. did not appear till 4th April. 1915 (Gazette of 13th April, 1915).

Paper, Gum and Colour. Mr. Rau does not think that there has been any definite order that ordinary postage stamps should be issued only in gummed condition, and, in fact, since the war ungummed supplies have been issued at intervals, when complaint was made that some of the gums with which the printers were experimenting caused the sheets to stick together. For a year past, however, all ordinary postage stamps have been issued gummed.

Our correspondent states definitely that Travancore stamps have never been issued on any kind of tinted paper, the tinting mentioned by Mr. Marriner being due to the practice of soaking large batches of mixed used stamps together to get them off paper. The 1¼ ch. stamp turns blue when exposed to sunlight.

Watermark. The illustration in G.S.I. is simply that of the Travancore Royal Coat of Arms and does not resemble the stamp watermark save for the presence of the conch shell within a wreath.

There are two kinds of conch shell. When a conch is held in the hand with its head towards us, and the cavity upwards, the ordinary conch has the cavity on the left If the cavity is on the right, the conch is considered sacred and an emblem of prosperity, and is treasured by noble Hindu families, often richly mounted in gold and jewels. It is this sacred conch, called "Bala Muri Shunk" ("right side opening shell") which appears on Travancore stamps. Smaller than the normal shell they fetch from ten to one hundred guineas apiece.

The watermark in the later printings shows the same type of shell, our illustrations being reversed.

Essays. The essay referred to by Major Evans and illustrated by him was approved by the Travancore Durbar and the Government of India. The value printed on the sample in vernacular is one chuckram, not two, as he believed.

We are grateful to Mr. Rau for giving our readers the advantage of his knowledge of these facts. Being on the spot, he was in a position to obtain reliable information from sources not available to Mr. Marriner, or, in some cases, to Major Evans.

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