Stamp Design and Inscriptions

The currency symbols that appear at the center of the circular stamps derive from a somewhat obscure mercantile system. The images used here (of reprints, not postal issues) were chosen for their sharper impressions. The units of currency under British rule were related as:

1 rupee = 16 annas = 64 paise = 64 pices = 192 pies.

There were thus 3 pies to a paisa (singular). We often prefer to convert everything in sight to annas for easier comparisons, so even the 8 pies and 9 pies seen on British India stamps are occasionally rendered as 2/3 anna and 3/4 anna, the latter being equivalent to the English penny of the day.

According to Captain Godfrey [ref: Masson Appendix II, pp. iii-x] the initial postal rates were 6 pies = 2 paise = ½ anna for a letter not exceeding ¼ tola in mass. For heavier letters not exceeding 1 tola, the rate was 1 anna, and for each additional tola, another anna was required. One tola was about 11.4 grams. In other words, a typical ½a mailing would weigh less than a tenth of an ounce.

½ anna. The group of three strokes in the center of this design really means “2 paise.” The first stroke on the left, which is slightly curved, is not a currency unit itself, but a divider stroke for separating larger units to its left (here absent) from smaller paisa units to its right. Two such are then equivalent 2×¼a = ½a. The use of the divider stroke is analogous to the slash that separated English shillings from pence.

“Half-anna” (adha anna) from the fiscal receipt stamp in the Dogri script (right) and in the nagari script. The right-hand element on both scans shows the merchant symbol as used in the center of the circular stamp of that denomination.

1 anna. Again, the curved stroke is the dividing mark that separates larger currency units from paisa units on the right, where now it is the latter that are absent. The stroke to the left of the divider looks more vertically-oriented with respect to the hook than horizontally-oriented. That was unfortunate, for it is the horizontal placement that would normally mean 1a. Vertical placement was for ¼ rupee = 4 annas. Many earlier students of these stamps thus took these stamps to represent the latter, and the matter became something of a controversy in certain circles because the stamps just did not behave that way in actual postal practice. The interesting philatelic history and resolution of the denominations puzzle is given in Staal pp 59-85, which is our basic reference.

Above: “One anna” (ek ā-nā). In the merchant symbol at the right the unit stroke for annas is placed horizontally with respect to the hook. In the two-anna fiscal receipt stamp, two such horizontal strokes are used, one placed above the other.

4 annas. Or, strictly speaking, ¼ rupee, and the dividing hook is absent. Older listings (but not the oldest) assumed this to be the 1-anna stamp.

Above: “Four annas” (chār ā-nā). In the merchant symbol on the right the vertical stroke above the hook stands for ¼ rupee = 4 annas. There are some charming philatelic pedants who insist that these 4-anna circulars are only properly called “quarter-rupee” stamps. Such folks are not usually found referring to the ½-anna as “two-paise” stamps. If you wish to outdo us in fussiness, you know what to do.

Inscriptions (Early Period)

The circulars and the rectangulars of the early period bear so much in common that it is advantageous to consider them in tandem with an eye on the contrasts. Dogri arcs clockwise at the top on both stamps, reading dak jamu on the circular and jamu kaśmīr separated by the sun symbol on the rectangular. Persian arcs around the bottom on both stamps, but in opposite directions; on circulars it reads top-outward counter-clockwise and on rectangulars it reads top-inward clockwise. Word-by-word details are given down-screen.

A frozen date ‘1923’ appears on both stamps, and indeed on all stamps of the 1866-78 period. The numerals in blue are Persian and those in red are Dogri. 1923 is a year of the Hindu samvat system that began on 12 April 1866 according to the solar reckoning, and on 12 March 1866 under the lunisolar convention. The first stamp is known on 23 March of that year. The date could mark the official inauguration of the use of stamps by the State.

Red highlighting on both stamps marks ‘Jammu’ in both Dogri and Persian. One notices that the final vowel of ‘Jammu’ in the Dogri at the top is differently rendered on the two stamps. A nagari-inspired u-diacritic is used on the circular, while the formal Dogri vowel-symbol that looks like a 6 is used on the rectangular.

Blue highlighting marks ‘Kashmir’ in both Dogri and Persian. For decorative reasons the Persian on the circular is festooned with extra dots superfluous to the script, while that on the other dispenses with several dots that are ordinarily wanted.

Green highlighting (on the circular only) reads ḍāk ~ post, mail. One might thus refer to the circulars as the “Jammu Dawks,” given that the name ‘Kashmir’ is absent in the Dogri on the circular, and ḍāk is absent on the rectangulars.

The green portion in Persian on both stamps is qalamrao ~ realm, dominion, etc. The yellow is riyāsat ~ ruling prince. The purple, top outward on the circular and top inward on the other, is sarkār ~ government. The sar is a Semitic word for ‘prince’, and the kār pertains to service and such. So says the dictionary.

¼ anna. The yellow is Persian pāv ~ quarter. The three yellow dots would normally be written underneath the first tooth on the right to signify the p but they have been moved leftward to give space for the pair of date numerals “23” of the samvat year. The upward yellow swoop is a long-a, and the final letter that looks like a large comma is Persian vav ~ v here. The red element is Dogri pa = ¼ and the two elements in blue give āna.

Speaking of annas, the purple Persian on the rectangulars is just that, āna. The dotted tooth represents the ‘n’; we do not know why the ‘n’ in the usual English transcription came to be doubled. There are two common spellings seen: the one shown here has the so-called choti he at the end. The word is also often rendered ānā with a long-final, which is more Indian, less Arabic, in flavor. Here we have long-ā by virtue of the twiddle (madda) on top, which is secretly just another alef written small and sideways in an aesthetic tradition. One claim is that two parallel alefs in a row would be “most hideous.” The madda often goes missing in practice.

And speaking of vav, here it is again in yellow. In isolation, as here, it means “and.” It is pronounced in Persian either as va- (parallel to Arabic wa with a counterpart in Hebrew, etc.) or as -o, an independent development in Persian for combining closely paired nominals, as in the case at hand: Jammūn-o Kashmir. As always, “red for Jammu, blue for Kashmir.”

In shape, the vav is really a loop, but it often comes filled-in or unclosed, and so can be mistaken for several other letters in cursive writing. The letter is mostly seen in vowel use, especially serving as long-ū, as we may see already in the Jammūn just above; we’ll see it again below in mahsūl ~ postage (tax) on the New Rectangulars, and yet again serving as a short-o when we look at the 2-anna stamps. And then there is that troublesome qalamrao, qalamrav, ..., for which the ending is variously rendered in the literature. Similarly, the pāv ~ ¼ is sometimes understood as pā'o, i.e., with the glottal stop or hamza interposed. Seems it links to Sanskrit pāda.

½ anna. The yellow is Persian nīm ~ half. The dotted element n is immediately attached to the m-blob, written here in its final form having the long downward tail. The internal vowel, though long, is not written here. The pair of elements in red is Dogri ada ~ half. More fastidiously it is rendered adha, involving a different script element.

1 anna. The yellow is Persian yek, where the two dots under the initial tooth signify y-. The short internal vowel is not rendered, and the long horizontal is the flourish on final -k. The Dogri correspondent in red is ek, similar to the Urdū pronunciation.

By the way, in the lower section of this strange 1a seal is an example of the ek in the Urdū script. Notice the introductory vertical stroke, the alef hamza, that destroys the palatization of the Persian, if it may be so put.

2 annas. Persian do ~ two. The first yellow comma-like element on the right is Persian d. The other is the vav mention above, serving here for short-o. The red Dogri element is do, where the Dogri (ˆ) diacritic indicating the -o is also missing.

4 annas. The yellow is Persian ćahār ~ four, and the red is “Dogri” ćahar, but it is really just transcribing the Persian, for the Dogri word is ćār.

8 annas. The yellow is Persian hasht ~ eight. The initial h is the blobbed hook and the three yellow dots are marks for the sh. Often in handwriting the dots are missing. One might expect a pair of upper dots on the final flourish of the t. The red reads āţh ~ eight ~ अठ.

Inscriptions (New Rectangulars)

In the New Rectangulars, the denominations can be found as spelt-out words in Persian at the bottom of the central region, while the denominations in Dogri are situated between the two stars at the top in the inscription band. In the case of the 4a and 8a, which was engraved by a different seal-cutter, this Dogri at the top has the bottom of the lettering facing outward, and the two stars have disappeared.

The rest of the Dogri in the band, which is repeated on all the stamps, merely repeats the Persian from the center. With the bottom of the script facing outward, read counterclockwise: mahsūlāk kalamrao jama va kāśmīr ~ postal tax of the Dominion of Jammu and Kashmir.


Here for comparison with the preceding is the Dogri kalamrô and kalamrav from the postcard and from the 8a pane. The last image shows a constant error in position #7 of that pane: spy the missing -la-. There is an unclever watercolor forgery of this in which the error is corrected. General notice of this error is due to Frits Staal.

The Urdū bālā that occupies the rivet positions at the top of the 1-anna and 2-anna New Rectangular sheets means just that: ‘top’ of sheet.

⅛ anna. nim pāv āna ~ half of one-quarter anna, in the Persian. The Dogri script at the top is merely transcribing the Persian, not rendering the Dogri itself, which would be ādhā pā ānā, though not all these long vowels would generally be made explicit.

¼ anna. pāv āna in the Persian. In the Dogri at the top, the diacritic after the pa-element indicates long-a. It is meant to be a little v-shaped mark. It is seen more clearly in the forms for ānā used here and in the anā of the next image.

½ anna. nīm āna in the Persian. Dogri at top is adha anā, and this time is not a mere transcription of the Persian. This example is good for inspecting the rest of the Dogri in the band, which repeats the content of the Persian.

1 anna. yek āna in the Persian, where the pair of underdots is shifted abnormally to the left. (Plate postion #8 omits the dots altogether). Dogri at top is formally yak ānā, again merely transcribing the Persian; otherwise we would see the form ek as in the 1a Old Rectangular above.

2 annas. do āna in the Persian. Dogri at top is do ānā. The diacritic for Dogri o is an upside-down v-shaped mark that is often placed above, not after, the syllable element in question.

4, 8 annas. ćahār āna and hasht āna in the Persian. Dogri in the upper-right on both stamps is ćar ana and āţh āna, i.e., not merely transcriptions of the Persian. The Dogri ra usually looks like a partial derivative sign ∂, as may be seen on the 4a Old Rectangular above, but here in ćar it has a nagari form , such hybrid renderings being common.

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