15 September 2009

Postal Systems in Pre-Mughal Period - Under Sultan Sikander Lodhi

MEDIEVAL INDIA (1030 – 1757)
Part 5

Under Sultan Sikander Lodhi (1489-1517)

Dak chawkis
throughout the territory served an efficient communication system. Official letters were conveyed by runners and horse-couriers. Two firmaans were despatched wherever the Sultan sent his army. One firmaan in the early morning bore instructions and the time of halt, and the second firmaan reaching in the afternoon or evening contained deatiled military instructions. The communication system was so speedy and efficient that chroniclers accorded some jin or spirit to be in his employ.

A novel method of news transmission requires mention. After reaching Bayana (Rajasthan), Sikander Lodhi had despatched an army towards Thatha (near Karachi) and ordered the general to send news of victory the same day. Heaps of grass was laid alongside the road. Soon after victory, the grass was lit and the fire travelled fast, conveying the news of victory.

Although we find the continuance of the horse-courier and foot relay postal system through eight dynasties of rule, from 1001 to 1526 when the Lodhi dynasty fell through, only the above-mentioned rulers made contribution to the communciation system. It was under the Turks that a somewhat concrete communication network was laid with the construction of paved roads, bridges, milestones, dak-chawkis and rest-houses called sarais. Also news-couriers were introduced. There also developed a more uniform system of remuneration for the postal couriers.

: “Dak” is a Hindi word meaning post. “Chawki” means intermediary station. “Dak Chawki” refers to a post house or postal station where mail runners or mounted mail couriers and horses are kept ready for use.

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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