25 July 2009

Postal Systems in Pre-Mughal Period - Under Mohammad of Ghor, Qutab ud-din Aibak and Genghis Khan

MEDIEVAL INDIA (1030-1757 A.D.)
Part 2

Indian Postal History records and literature have been the dominion of British colonial officers and postal officials, in whose opinion an organised postal system to India was the gift of Britishers.

However, even in the medieval period, the foundations of an organised postal structure was laid, the mention of which we find in annals and chronicles of foreign travellers.

While the framework was laid by the Mughals, we find that the period preceding has a strong influence of the postal systems imported from the Central Asia by the Turks.

Under Mohammad of Ghor (1186 - 1206)

With the stretch of empire from Delhi to Bengal, the Arabic model of postal system was adopted. So the Dhawa (runner), Qasid (messenger) and Ulagh/ Ulaq (horse courier) took precedence, even over the Khola or secret service agent employed by the Pala administration in Bengal. These were more in the nature of news-couriers, the dhawa doubling up as errand boys, and the messengers acting as conduits for forward transmission of messages. The camel riding horse couriers were called ‘Jamaza’.

Under Qutub ud-din Aibak (1206 - 1210)

He consolidated the system established by his predecessor Mohammad of Ghor. A messenger post system was introduced by Qutub ud-din Aibak that was later expanded into the Dak Chowkis by his successor.

Under the Mongol invasion of Genghis Khan (1221 - 1226)

The Mongols under the dominance of Genghis Khan in particular, achieved a speed of communication similar to that of the ancient Persians. Their chief contribution was the development of roads and posts in the areas under their control, which in India merely covered the northern fringes. Genghis Khan established the ‘Horse Post House’ or yamb messenger system, found at a distance of every 25 miles. In between, were intermediary posts, which also served as sleeping quarters of the imperial foot runners, furnished with bells on their girdle. The runners were each assigned a 3-mile stretch, operating on a relay system, thus covering a ten day’s journey in one.

Though the period of Mongol influence was confined to a small time frame and terrain in India, the foundations of the first international postal system was being laid, so two innovations maybe noted. The practice of clerks at every Post House with clearly assigned duties, and the system of express delivery of letters. These riders deployed for urgent delivery, also wore jingling bells at waist like the foot-runners. The express relay system covered 250 miles in day and equally a night

The entire series is part of an ongoing research project and can be accessed as a work in progress. Readers are requested to comment, share any resources, materials (maps, covers, books) or information that they feel is pertinent to the research. The same will be duly acknowledged as desired by the reader, collector or dealer.

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