Thursday, 5 January 2017

First Post Office in North India - GPO Shimla, colonial India

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Shimla General Post Office. A Wandering Mind
old Shimla town. www.alamy.com
The oldest post office in northern India (GPO) in Shimla,  Himachal Pradesh was built in 1882 on a  land  that was bought from one Patterson. Because there was a large community of British and Indians lived in   the beautiful hill station of Shimla and adjacent places, the post office came up for their convenience. Earlier that place was known as Conny Cottage. The first Post Master happened to be one F. Dalton and by the same token the last British Post Master who retired in December 1946 was L. G. Piggot.
One A. K.  Hazari took the credit of being the first Indian Post Master after India's independence in August 1947. The GPO is located in a prime area - the Mall Road in the center of the city that can be easily accessed from any place.

This impressive historical  three storeyed  building, a  good  example  of  English  Hill  architecture  with  hollow bricks and stone, is a wooden building with tin-roof. Mostly, high quality wood was used  to withstand the severe cold and snow conditions in the Winter. Built in a peculiar style, blending Gothic, Alphine and Tudor  elements, it was an important land mark in the hill station, frequented by the people. In a major fire accident on 21 Sept. 1972, the first floor of the building was severely damaged and important records  were lost. Subsequently,  the state government with adequate funds got into action and restored the early colonial public building back to its old grandeur. The building is painted in red and while and the earlier color green and white livery was not used. The conservationist were not amused about the color combination.
Another Post Office in Shimla anushankarn.blogspot.in

A little down the road, there is  small post office which, it is said, is yet another colonial building, a simple one. It used to be a stable for the horses when  they were widely used to transport mails from the plains to Shimla and other hilly places. With the introduction of  mountain railroad from Kalka to Shimla
Post Office in Shimla. anushankarn.blogspot.in
in 1903 for the first time, the use of horses as a means  of  transportation of mail declined gradually. At Chaura Maidan, just away from the Mall, there is a green color  painted colonial building and  the postal  sign is the only clue  that  reveals  it is a post office.




In 1992, the Central government released a set of six heritage postal buildings  and Shimla  GPO was one among them and a commemorative postal stamp in Rs.5 denomination
GPOShimla, HP. www.shimlaonline.in
was commissioned by the Indian Postal Services. The postal stamps were sold in London as well  as this hill station had close connection with the British, being the summer capital of colonial India.

Shimla. GPO, GPO. Rainbow Stamp Club
The early history of the postal service in this part of the hill before the laying of proper road and railroad is quite interesting. The mail was sent through dak gari from  Kalka  to Ambala and from here it was sent to other destinations. Ponies, elephants and horses were found useful to transport mails. Mails were promptly delivered to the people using Tonga delivery system. It is believed that the GPO at Shimla does not give up the old tradition and it is still being retained by them. Regarding restoration work, adequate care was taken to retain its heritage character, particularly in the exterior parts  and the interior parts were a bit modernized in tune with the prevailing trend. 

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Heritage-postal-stamps-feature-Shimla-GPO/article16300781.ece