Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sikkim Philately at a glance-1

Very little is known about the postal history of Sikkim. Though post offices in Sikkim started in 1888 in Dulapchin (now Dalapchand), near Rongli and meager information has been established so far. For a stamp sized state of Sikkim, 6th November 2006 hold a moment of glory and recognisation in terms of world philately. Indian Postage featured a postal stamp on Changu Lake in a group of five lakes from different part of India. The Changu Lake stamp with Rs 5 denomination features among the five Himalayan Lakes of India that include Roop Kund, Sela, Tsomo Riri and Chandra Tal. The stamp and First Day Cover had been designed by Bharati Mirchandani and Cancellation designed by Alka Sharma. The stamp is printed in photogravure process and printed at India Security Press, Nasik.

Arrow shows Changu Lake stamp in First Day Cover cancellation (2006)

It was for the first time in the history of Indian Postage, an individual theme from Sikkim got introduced in Indian postage stamp. For the last few years efforts were made on to feature individual theme from Sikkim. Along the lines various tourist destinations including Rumtek Monastery, Changu (Tsangu) Lake, Guru Dongmor Lake, Natula Pass and cultural diversity of Sikkim were discussed but it was the more popular Changu (Tsangu) Lake that made the history. Truly no doubt Changu Lake has been one of the major tourist attractions over the years and its incomparable scenic beauty reflects the charisma of the small state of Sikkim.

A new record was set on the rail track at Siliguri Junction on June 5, 2006 when for the first time in India and across the globe, a running toy train philatelic exhibition was jointly organised by Siliguri Philatelic Society and Sikkim Philatelic Club. The distance of over 31 kms was covered over 10 hours. The route of the Toy Train was from Siliguri Junction to Agony Point, with a halt at Sukuna. The event even finds a mention at Stanly Gibbon book, bible in philately world.

For more than thirty years since the state of Sikkim joined the Indian Union, Sikkim has been struggling for its presence in an Indian postage. Apart from four Mt Kanchenjunga stamps on three separate occasions (1955, 1978 and 1988), Red Panda (1955), Blood Pheasant (1963), and Flora and Fauna of North East India (2006), a single illustration of Yumthang valley in 1982 Himalayan Flowers First Day Cover and handful of Sikkim Special Covers and Army Covers is all we had our contributions towards the great Indian philately.

Army Postal Cover shows Postal Bunker in Sikkim (1980)

Despite the fact that Sikkim first made its presence felt in the world of philately way back in 1935 when in this small Himalayan Kingdom a unique postal experiment was conducted by a man named Stephen Hector Smith. The postal experiment got popular with the name Sikkim Rocket mail Experiment 1935. In the book “From the diary of Stephen Smith” written by Stephen Smith relating to rockets mail experiments, it has been mentioned that the Sikkim experiment was the most successful among all the pioneering efforts in rocket mailing the world over. The five places where the experiments were conducted were Gangtok, Sarumsa, Ray, Singtam and Rangpo.

Stephen Hector Smith, a pioneer in Indian Rocket mail history chooses Sikkim for his experiment because of its geographical features and mountains. Sikkim is also the first country in the world to successfully dispatch by means of a rocket, a parcel containing small quantities of such useful articles as medicine, tobacco, tea, sugar, etc. Those people who helped Sikkim Rocket experiment succeed included Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, CE Dudley, General Secretary to the Chogyal, Tashi Dadul Densapa, Private Secretary, Rai Sahib Faqir Chand Jali, the state engineer and F Williamson, British Political Officer.

This note on history of Philately in Sikkim shall not be completed without the mentioning of the Revenue Stamps of Sikkim that has been continuing prior to early 1920s. The oldest found cancellation on Sikkim Revenue Stamp dates back to 8th October 1928 dispatched from Mangan B.O to Gangtok. The central design of the stamp has the south-east face of Mt. Siniolchu, in the north of Gangtok. The Photograph was taken by Hoffmann in the illustration of Claude White’s book “Sikkim and Bhutan”.

With the British influence in the small Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim in late 1880s, it goes a credit to them that they could establish Telegraph offices in Sikkim to a remotest corner of Gnathang where the altitude was as high as 12,000 feet. An interesting note say that till 1950s the only post office the eastern world ever knew about Sikkim was of Rhenock Post Office from where the floral seeds of Sikkim Himalayan flora were exported worldwide by the world famed Chandra Nursery of Rhenock.