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Saturday, December 16, 2000

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Footprints of history

S. THEODORE BASKARAN

Postage stamps are footprints of history in the sands of time. If you look at the stamps released by a country over the decades, you could trace the history of that nation. So it is with India. Recently the Department of Posts brought out a new book, titled India's Freedom Struggle through India Postage Stamps. This book shows the stamps dealing with this subject released from 1947 to 1997 and were commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of India's Independence.

Commemorative stamps are issued to mark an event. A nation pays tribute by the release of special stamps. The major events and personalities in a nation 's history are recorded in these stamps which are printed only once and in limited number. So they are special and are collected by philatelists all over the world.

In India you have stamps featuring the 1857 Mutiny, the founding of the Congress, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Dandi march. Personalities like Mangal Pande, Subhas Chandra Bose and Kamaraj were honoured. Stamps on nationalistic themes such as the Bengal Renaissance and Indian handicrafts were also released. All that are connected with the theme of our struggle for freedom find a place in this book.

The book stands out on many counts as an important publication in the subject of philately. The stamps have been reproduced, in actual size, in colour and with a brief note. Many stamps are accompanied by the special cancellation. The stamps covered begin with the Jaihind series issued on August 15, 1947 to the one on Aruna Asaf Ali on August 16, 1998. Many first day covers have also been faithfully reproduced. Works of leading artistes of the country such as M.F. Hussain and Harry Miller feature in these stamps.

Even the rare six stamps issued by the Azad Hind movement of Nethaji Subhas Chandra Bose, but were never used have been depicted. Such stamps are called "Cinderella stamps". In addition, you have a list of stamps issued by 86 countries on India's struggle for freedom, a section on dalit leaders who took part in Freedom struggle and a section on stamps on civil and defence services in freedom movement.

The book is beautifully designed, with hard cover, and the colour plates are well laid out on art paper. Vishnu Saxon, the author of the book, has been the chief of philately, India and is reader-friendly. It has been designed exquisitely, with a few photographs of historical moments. An index of all the stamps featured at the end of the book will help you to locate individual stamps easily.

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