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V S Saksena,
In the history of
postal Services in India, the role played by former princely states
deserves greater attention than has been hither to paid by researchers and
scholars. One princely state where the Postal System was well organized as
early as 1584 A.D. was the state of Marwar in Rajasthan. The Historic
association of the family of Mirdhas of Rajasthan with development and
maintenance of Postal services in different parts of Mughal Empire can be
traced to the halcyon days of Akbar the Great.
A brief survey of
the early postal system of the country with special reference to Marwar
where “Mirdha Dak” was operating will be of Interest to philatelists
and students of postal history, alike.
unification of the postal services through the imperial (British) Postal
system, a number of postal services had been in vogue, in the country.
While there were systems like the Anche Dak in the south, Nizamat Dak, the
Nawab’s Salt Dak or Police Dak and the Behangy Dak in the East, there
were systems in the northern and central India. The more important of
these were the Mirdha Dak, the Mahajani and Sarafa Dak, the Bamini Dak and
the Chilka Dak, which were prevalent in Rajasthan and Northern India.
There had also been other Imperial State, Nawabi and Raj Services, which
functioned from time to time either directly or through some subsidiaries.
The Dastri records
preserved at Bikaner Archives tell us that even in the 16th
century, there was a fairly well organized postal network in this state
and mail used to be conveyed by couriers on horse-back. For this purpose
mail-posts numbering about 12 were set up in places like Medna, Sojat,
Godward, and Jodhpur. The distance between each post was about 10 and 12
miles and they were manned by the employee of the King. The system was so
effective that mails from Gujarat used to reach the Mughal emperor at
Delhi through Marwar.
The postal system in
Marwar was managed by the Mirdha family. The earliest mention of this work
of Mirdhas is made in 1584 A.D. when Raja Uday Singh of Jodhpur, under the
orders of Emperor Akbar, marched to Gujarat and defeated Sultan Muzzafar
in battle. This news was conveyed to the Emperor at Delhi by one of the
Mirdhas. The Moghal was so pleased that he presented a Tughlaki golden
earring to the bearer of the good news.
reports of maharaja Jaswant Singh written by Munshi Hardayal Singh refer
to the Mirdha Dak at length. These reports, compiled in 1883-84 captioned
as ‘Mazmoo-e-halat Raj Marwar” relate to postal arrangements along
with other administrative matters. Dafa 321 and 232 in the 17th
Chapter refer to the Department of Posts. These administrative reports,
initially, mention that the conveyance of mail, under the supervision of
the Mirdhas, can be traced to the reign of emperor Akbar. Reference is
also made to incidents around 1584 A.D. regarding the conveyance of mail
through the agency of Mirdhas. One such event relates to the victory of
Uday Singh over the kind of Gujarat and the carriage of this message
through the Mirdhas of Jodhpur.
Each Dak post was
under a Mirdha who had a number of quaysides (couriers) working under him.
Over the years Mirdhas became the administrators of the postal system and
were directly responsible to the kind. Though they belonged to the Jat
community their traditional role as conveyers of mails, gave them a
distinct identity. They usually accompanied the king during the pilgrimage
and other travels. Mails were delivered even when the king was in the
The Mirdhas were
responsible for delivering all messages and mails from the royal
headquarters at Jodhpur to other officials and the systems operated by
them was called Mirdha Dak. In recognition of this position as the chief
of the Postal system, he was presented with a silver rod, to which was
attached small bells symbolic of the mail carrying work that he was
managing. This rod was also an expression of the authority conferred on
the Mirdhas. For this work, the Mirdhas maintained large stable of horses
The actual carrying
of mail however was done by a community called Sargara. They were
appointed to deliver the Dak to village officers. A different set of
people were employed to handle the mails meant for the common people and
their remuneration was Re.1 for every 20 miles covered.
For the purpose of
conveying mails, these men were posted in different places. They were
under the charge of the head messenger who was responsible to the Mirdha.
Depending upon the distance between places, schedules were fixed. For
instance, between Lahore and Delhi it was 8 days, between Ahmedabad to
Jodhpur it was 5 days, from Delhi to Jodhpur it was 6 days. The
contractual rates were also fixed. From Jodhpur to Mt.Abu, for runner post
it was Rs.180 per year and for camel post it was Rs. 718.
recognized services of the Mirdhas. When maharaja Abhey Singh conquered
Ahmedabad, he awarded a village called Kuchera to Mirdha family. In 1751
A.D. when Maharaja Bhakt Singh came to power he gave Mangal Ram Mirdha who
was the chief postal administrator, the village Silas. This time there was
an additional gift – the Mirdhas were given power to collect land
revenue up to Rs.500 annually. Raja Man Singh also appreciated the work of
the Mirdhas and awarded the right to collect revenue in the village of
Dhudia at Nagaur to the grandfather of Shivji Mirdha. Over the centuries
Mirdhas attained the status of nobles. The remnants of the mansions
occupied by these Mirdhas at a place called Jatadas bears testimony to the
social status enjoyed by the family.
The couriers working
under the Mirdhas covered normally 15-20 miles a day but when there was an
urgency they could do more. A courier in the villages called Datine of
Nagaur was the most well known among the runners and could cover 50 miles
a day but there were occasions when he had done even an incredible 70
miles a day. Impressed by this feat, Maharaja Bakht Singh gave him the
privilege of riding horses, something that was exclusive to the higher
classes in those days, and honoured him with the title of Godha-Quasid.
The functioning of
Some details of this
system have been given in the reports, which state that the Mirdha Dak was
conveyed through horses and that there used to be a mail post at every 10
kos. The mail couriers (The Quaside) used to work under the supervision of
the Mirdhas who acted as supervisors of mail offices (Dak Chowkies) and
the courier services. There used to be 2 Quaysides working at intervals of
5 kos each who were paid a salary of Rs. 5/- per month by the state.
Whenever the Maharaja or any VIP had to go out on tour, the Mirdhas used
to arrange for the appointment of quaysides and Harkaras, for satisfactory
conveyance of messages. Mirdhas used to accompany important dignitaries
during their tours to personally supervise the mail arrangements. This Dak
used to normally cover 40 kos in 24 hours though there were occasions when
it covered up to 70 kos during 24 hours. At times, it could even Jaipur
& Bundi (situated over 100 kos apart) in two days. The normal transit
at that time was as under:
Lahore to Jodhpur
via Bikaner -
- 10 days
- 15 days
Ahmedabad to Jodhpur
- 5 days
- 8 days
- 6 days
There was however no
permanent regular system of mail conveyance and this service was
introduced as and when necessary.
The Mirdha Dak was
so appreciated by the Maharaja that awards were made to them from time to
time. References are available regarding such awards being made to Shivji
and Mangalaji, Mirdhas of Jodhpur. The ancestors of Mangalaji were awarded
the village of Silas and of Shivji were awarded Bhakrod by Maharaja Man
Singh. Even now in the town of Jodhpur there is a place called Mirdhon ke
Dera, which would have been awarded to the Mirdhas by the Maharajas.
By the middle of 18th
century, during the rule of Raja Bakht at Jodhpur, the postal system was
quite well organized. For Nagaur and other places mail was delivered
through carrier-pigeons; the mail system was divide in to four categories;
Desi Dak was further
subdivided in to three classes:
In 1818, the British
gained control over Marwar through a treaty they signed with King Chatar
Singh. But even after this the various Dak systems were operating as
before. The Mahajani Dak was commissioned in 1839 in Jodhpur after the
death of Maharaja Man Singh. Seth Parasram, who started this Dak, was
given an annual contract of Rs. 200/- by the state. This amount was
deposited in Kotwali, Jodhpur. Mahajani Dak along with the Mirdha Dak was
delivered in Pali, Bali, Sojat, Jaitairan, Bilarda, Merdta, Nawa, Didwana,
Nagaur, Sambher, Maroth, Parabtwar, and Godvar. The postage for the normal
letters was one paisa whereas registered letters and parcels were charged
four annas each.
The Bhamani Dak was
sent mainly to Phatandi. But from 1883 it was extended to Pokhran, Sakda
and Jaisalmer. Delivery was made on the same day. Dirdbari Brahmin, a
trader, owned this Dak system, postage for letters weighing 15-20 tolas
was 1 paise.
The English Dak was
commissioned in 1819 during the reign of Maharaja Man Singh. The first
post office was opened at Sursagar Residency, Jodhpur. After sometime it
was shifted to Juni Mandi and set up in Sanskrit College and Hewsar Girls
School and Hospital. In 1853, the first modern post office was set up. In
1883 there war 12 post offices at various places in Marwar in Jodhpur.
Merdta, Sojat, Pali, Bali, Sambher, Nawar, Kuchaman, Didwana, Ladnu,
Munduv and Nagaur. After introduction of railways in 1882, in the reign of
Maharaja Jaswant Singh II mails were sent by trains to some stations from
Jodhpur. The Angreji Dak was sent by train to Naya Nagar (Bedwar) Sojat,
Pali, Eranpura, Abu, Sambher, and Naun cities. The rest of the Dak was
still delivered by runners.
Mention must be made
of another form of an interesting system of communication that was
prevalent in Marwar. This was a kind of semaphore code based on the solar
reflectors and was called the Chilka system. These mirrors were placed at
distance of 7 kms from one another at high altitude. In Marwar there were
7 such reflectors. This system was started by a man called Bhimnath in
1857 for the sole purpose of transmitting news about auction of opium.
Later this method was further developed by his nephew Shernath. The news
of the auction could reach from Ajmer to Calcutta in two hours and from
Ajmer to Bikaner and Jodhpur in just half an hour if the weather condition
The postal system in the other princely states also was operating outside the ambit of the Imperial postal system, which was managed by the British Government of India. In 1870 the government enunciated the policy of integration of all these postal systems in to one. Patiala was the first state to get integrated in to the postal system. The other Indian states soon followed. The postal system in Marwar was integrated in 1885 in the reign of Jaswant Singh II. Soon two post office were set up by the Imperial post at Barmer and Balotra in Marwar as an experiment and were later made permanent. The amalgamation of Princely states’ postal system was completed in 1892 with the Mysore post office joining the imperial post. The Indian post office act of 1891 was introduced on 1st October 1907 in Marwar state. A gazette notification to this effect was brought out under the signature of Sukhdev Prasad, Senior Administrator of Marwar State, thus signifying unification of Marwar postal system with the Imperial Post.
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