Polo and pigsticking: feudatory states stamps

May 2, 2021, 10 PM

By Rick Miller

Do you like exotic stamps? Are you looking for a new classic collecting area that will give you a break from the seemingly endless proliferation of new issues? Are you looking for a collecting area that is finite, yet has plenty of room for specialization?

If so, you should consider the stamps of the Indian feudatory states.

It can be said that British merchants went to the Indian subcontinent looking for trade and found an empire.

In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted a 15-year charter to an association of London merchants for trading with the East Indies, giving birth to the Honourable East India Company. The first company factories (trading stations) were founded on the subcontinent in 1612.

The mogul empire in India was in serious decline. Aurangzeb, the last of the great mogul emperors, died in 1707, the empire was in ruins, and hundreds of princely lords were establishing independence for their fiefdoms.

Over time, the East India Co. moved into the power vacuum. It evolved from a purely trading establishment to assumption of colonial governmental powers in defense, administrative and fiscal roles.

In the 18th century, the East India Co. extended its control to much of India through alliances and treaties with local rulers and by defeating the French and local rulers who rose against them.

In 1774, the company's governor of Bengal was made the first governor general of India. As a result of the Sepoy Revolt, the British Parliament transferred control of India from the company to the British government in 1858. The company was dissolved in 1873.

British rule in India was referred to as the "raj," a Hindi word meaning "rule." The British raj encompassed what would become the modern states of India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

On Jan.1, 1877, Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India at an assembly of princes (called a durbar) in Delhi. India was ruled on behalf of the empress by a viceroy, whom she appointed.

The queen, as empress of India, is pictured on the 2-rupee brown and rose Queen Victoria stamp, India Scott 50, shown in Figure 1.

Under the raj, nearly a third of India was governed by native princes. The numbers varied over time, but there were between 500 and 600 feudatory states divided into three classes based on size and importance.

The rulers of the 118 first- class states had complete administrative and legal control in their states. The rulers of second-class states administered their states and exercised civil and criminal jurisdiction under British supervision. Third-class states numbered more than 400, and their rulers lacked the power to legislate.

Virtually every state maintained an army, ranging in size from a few dozen armed guards up to 12,000 men for some of the larger states.

Many of the feudatory states were tiny, but the largest, such as Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir were larger than England. An 8-anna deep orange Entrance to Ajanta Caves stamp, Hyderabad Scott 44, is shown in Figure 2.

As a group, the Indian princes were called maharajas (great rulers), but individually they owned a variety of exotic-sounding titles.

For example, Shankarrao, the Pant Sachiv of Bhor, is pictured on the ½-anna red stamp, Scott 3, shown in Figure 3.

Unlike in America, where Swat was ruled by a sultan (Babe Ruth), the real feudatory state of Swat, which did not issue postage stamps, was ruled by a wali.

The box on this page lists the feudatory states that issued postage stamps and gives the title and religion of each state's ruler and the years when postage stamps were in use.

The maharajas taught the British polo and learned cricket from them. They often provided lavish entertainments and took visiting royalty and the officers and officials of the raj on pigsticking, shooting and hunting expeditions.

K.S. Ranjitsinhji, the jam sahib of Nowanuggur, was one of the best and most famous cricket players in history. In 1896 and 1900, he was champion batsman for all England. In 1900, he set a record for the most runs in a single season.

A 3-dokra orange Seal of the State stamp from the famous batsman's feudatory state, Nowanuggur Scott 14, is shown in Figure 4.

Only a few of the feudatory states issued postage stamps. Of those that did, some were issued for postal necessity and actually delivered the mail, while others were primarily a function of the ruler's vanity.

Feudatory-states stamps were local stamps, valid within the state. Additional postage was required for delivery beyond the state.

Some Indian states signed a postal convention with the government of British India, which allowed them to overprint the stamps and postal stationery of British India with the name of the state.

Overprinted convention-states stamps were valid throughout India.

Both Faridkot and Jind issued feudatory-state stamps before joining the convention and using overprinted convention-state stamps. An 8-anna dark violet feudatory-state stamp of Jind, Scott 5, is shown in Figure 5.

In the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, convention-state stamps are listed after the general issues of India, and feudatory-state stamps are listed after convention-state stamps.

Many of the feudatory-state local stamps, such as the ½-anna slate Katar (Indian Dagger) stamp, Bundi Scott 1, shown in Figure 6, were crudely produced by local printers.

Others, such as the 2-anna ocher and black Sowar in Armor stamp, Jaipur Scott 27, shown in Figure 7, were beautifully produced with high production values.

The Indian feudatory-states local stamps range from very inexpensive to moderately expensive. In addition to regular postage stamps, some feudatory states also issued Official stamps.

A collection of the most prolific of the stamp-issuing states would be complete with fewer than 200 stamps.

A collection of the state of Jasdan is complete with the single 1-anna green Sun stamp, Scott 1, shown in Figure 8.

Some of the stamp-issuing entities listed in the Scott catalog as "Native Feudatory States" were actually unions or federations of several states. Travancore Cochin, which issued postage stamps from 1949 to 1950, was a union between two states.

Rajasthan, which issued stamps from 1948 to 1949, was a union of 14 feudatory states.

The United State of Saurashtra was formed in 1948 by a union of 217 states, six of which had previously issued their own feudatory- state stamps. Its stamps were replaced by Indian stamps in 1950. A 1-anna deep claret court-fee stamp overprinted for postage, United State of Saurashtra Scott 39, is shown in Figure 9.

All surviving convention- and feudatory-state stamps were replaced April 1, 1950, by stamps of the Republic of India. Feudatory-state stamps remained valid for postage though April 30, 1950. Convention-state stamps remained valid through Dec. 31, 1950.

Not all of the stamps of the Indian feudatory states are listed under India in the Scott catalogs.

Bahawalpur was an Indian native feudatory state ruled by a nawab. Because it did not issue local stamps until after if had become a state of Pakistan in 1947, its stamps are listed after Pakistan.

Bhutan was a Buddhist feudatory state ruled by a maharaja.

After Indian independence, the maharaja became a king and continued to rule within the state. By formal treaty, however, Bhutan's defense and foreign policy are controlled by India.

Bhutan did not issue feudatory-state local stamps. It issued its first stamps as a kingdom in 1962.


Indian feudatory states that issued stamps

State Ruler's title and religion Years issued
Alwar Maharaja, Hindu 1877-1902
Bamra Rajah, Hindu 1888-94
Barwani Rana, Hindu 1921-48
Bhopal Nawab, Sunni Muslim 1876-1950
Bhor Pant Sachiv, Hindu 1879-1901
Bijawar Maharaja, Hindu 1935-39
Bundi Maharao Raja, Hindu 1894-1947
Bussahir Raja, Hindu 1895-1901
Charkhari Maharaja, Hindu 1894-1943
Cochin Maharaja, Hindu 1892-1949
Dhar Maharaja, Hindu 1897-1901
Duttia Maharaja, Hindu 1893-1921
Faridkot Raja, Sikh 1879-86
Hyderabad Nizam, Sunni Muslim 1869-1950
Idar Maharaja, Hindu 1939-44
Indore Maharaja, Hindu 1886-1947
Jaipur Maharaja, Hindu 1904-47
Jammu & Kashmir Maharaja, Hindu 1866-94
Jasdan Raja, Hindu 1942-48
Jhalawar Maharaja Rana, Hindu 1887-1900
Jind Maharaja, Sikh 1874-85
Kishangarh Maharaja, Hindu 1899-1947
Las Bela Mir, Sunni Muslim 1897-1907
Morvi Maharaja, Hindu 1931-48
Nandgaon Raja, Hindu 1892-95
Nowanuggur Jam Sahib, Hindu 1877-95
Orchha Maharaja, Hindu 1913-48
Poonch feudatory to Jammu & Kashmir 1876-94
Rajpeepla Maharaja, Hindu 1880-86
Sirmoor Maharaja, Hindu 1879-1901
Soruth Nawab, Sunni Muslim 1864-1949
Travancore Maharaja, Hindu 1888-1949
Wadhwan Thakor Sahib, Hindu 1888-89