15 September 2009

Postal Systems in Pre-Mughal Period - Under Mohammad Bin Tughlaq

MEDIEVAL INDIA (1030 - 1757 A.D.)

Part 4

Under Mohammad Bin Tughlaq (1325-1351)

An improved courier system was established, much along the lines of the Roman post, but with more closely stationed post-houses. A network of paved roads was laid out connecting the capital with Devnagri (renamed Daulatabad) in the South. For improved efficiency, the postal routes were dotted throughout with rest houses, markets, wells and mosques. Provision of guides along these routes, further facilitated speedy operations.

The postal system has been referred as ‘Barid’ by Ibn Batuta. The two types of postal communications were clearly demarcated as the ‘Barid-i-Khail or horse post that operated the Ulagh service and the ‘Barid-i-Rajalah’ or foot post functioning as the Dhawah. The ulagh or the horse-post was run by royal horses stationed at a distance of every 4 kroh or 8 miles, the horsemen who carried letters being called ‘wulaq’. Villages at each third of a kroh served as postal stations or dhawas.

Couriers ready with girded loins and a 2-cubit long rod with brass bells were found on the village outskirts seated on chabutras (culverts), taking the letter and running at a high speed, jingling the bells till he reached the next station. These couriers operated on a relay system. Often quicker than the horse-post, they were in use for transport of fruits from upper Sind or Afghanistan and water of the Ganga to Daulatabad for palace use. A horse courier took 15 days Delhi-Sind while foot-courier took 5 days! Dak chawkis were constructed at every two furlongs. Each had a mosque and was well-provided, with ten robust speedy runners posted at any given time. Later, Sarais or rest-houses were also built at convenient points between every two villages.

Throughout the territory, the use of drums at every post-house kept the sovereign informed about the happenings. Another noteworthy feature was the involvement of the postal official in the administration. Lands were allotted, and additional money paid towards maintenance of the dak chawkis. In return they were expected to report on the appearance and activities of strangers passing through. Milestones and signposts were erected as in the Roman communication network. The foot-couriers and horse-couriers were given lands, income of which was fixed as salary.

The use of camel post is to be noted. In particular it was in use for conveying news from Jajnagar (Orissa) to Delhi, and also between Sind and Gujarat. This also refutes the age-old supposition that Akbar was the first to employ camel post in India.The entire series is part of an ongoing research project and can be accessed as a work in progress at Stamps of India and read at its monthly newspaper. Please share any resources, materials (maps, covers, books) or information that you feel is pertinent to the research. The same will be duly acknowledged as desired by the collector or dealer.


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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