Saturday, March 19, 2011

The postal history and stamps of Ceylon

Many today may not know that once there was a country known as Ceylon. But they would certainly know that there is a country known as Sri Lanka. The history of this large island country south east of India in the Indian Ocean dates back to some 3,000 years. The island was occupied by the Portuguese in the a16th century. The Dutch came to the island in early 17th century and gradually took control of the entire island by 1660 except the kingdom of Kandy. Even today a mixed Dutch-Sinhalese people known as Burgher people are the remnants of the Dutch rule.

The British occupied some of its coastal regions it in 1796 and became to rule the country. After 1815 the island was ruled by the British colonialists until political independence was granted on 4th February 1948. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became prime minister in 1956 and championed Sinhalese nationalism. He was assassinated in 1959 by a Buddhist monk. His widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became the world's first female prime minister in 1960. The name Ceylon was changed to Sri Lanka on May 22, 1972.

The postal services were established in Ceylon in 1798 and post offices were established in town of Jaffna, Mannar, Trincomalee, Colombo and Galle. The first mail coach service in Asia was inaugurated in Ceylon in 1836. The service linked Colombo and Kandy. The first ever stamp bearing the name Ceylon was issued in 1857, bearing the head of Queen Victoria (as seen above). After her reign, King Edward VII, King George V and King George VI appeared on Ceylon stamps.

My stamp album contains stamps of Ceylon as shown above. The stamp bearing the head of King George VI can be seen on top left and top right columns issued between 1938-1949.

The stamp on the top in the second column from the right was issued in 1957 to commemorate the centenary of first postage stamps issued in Ceylon in 1857.

The stamp in the second column from the left bearing head of Queen Elizabeth was issued in 1954 on her royal visit to Ceylon.


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