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World Post Day 2023 - article by Bindu Gopal Rao, Moneycontrol

Many remember the Postal Trail #HeritageBeku set up , and the impact & participation . Nice to see this article talking about the many things we did together with India Posts

Possibly one of the 100 post boxes that were shipped to India from Britain to initiate the Indian Postal Service. (Photo courtesy Taj West End)

On August 18, 2023, Cambridge Layout saw the inauguration of India's first 3D-printed post office. The post office has been built with a robotic printer using 3D printing technology, saving both cost and time. Earlier this year, in January, Bengaluru also got its first ever evening post office aimed to help working professionals who need postal services after office hours. Interestingly this post office on Museum Road was refurbished, and apart from offering services like registered post, speed post and parcels, you can also buy augmented postcards that you can scan to read about the history of the picture! Well, you are in IT City. Interestingly, the history of post offices is seen on the walls here in the form of a vibrant painting by Aravani Art Project to encourage LGBTQ artists. And if you love stamps, you can use the ‘My Stamp’ service to get a sheet of 12 personalized stamps.

Looking back

While these are some new developments, Bangalore has had an interesting tryst with all things postal services. For starters, the Beaulieu, the Circle Office of Chief Postmaster General, Karnataka Circle that was built in 1832, by Lancelot Ricketts, is on Palace Road. This entrance to the building is at the back and efforts by Priya Chetty-Rajgopal, Founder, Heritage Beku, a citizen initiative protecting Bengaluru's architectural and cultural heritage, ensured that the frontage of the building was visible by ensuring the access was opened.

Another important building on Millers Road is the Mail Motor Service, a functioning postal service that is used to send packages in the bright red vans between post offices and other places. While most people are unaware of this building, it dates to the 1920s. And naturally these buildings became part of the inaugural postal trail by India Post and Heritage Beku. These walking trails are going to be a quarterly fixture soon.

Paul Fernandes's illustration of the post office on Museum Road.

You’ve Got Mail

Bangalore is also home to a few of the oldest post boxes in the country. While the IISC Campus has a rare crown or Penford Letter box with a uniquely hexagonal cap decorated with acanthus leaves, it is not the oldest one in the city. The magnificent heritage building of Taj West End that dates to 1887, has one of the country’s oldest functioning letterboxes - it was cast by Suttie of Greenock around 1856 and is surmounted by a copy of St Edward’s Crown. It is said to be one of the 100 post boxes that were initially shipped to India from Britain to initiate the Indian Postal Service. The post box is painted in a classic bright red and is located at the entrance to the hotel lobby. A reminder of simpler times, the post box is still used by the guests of the hotel to send postcards to their family, friends and even themselves. The mail is religiously picked up by a letterbox attendant every day, except Sundays. The General Post Office (GPO) on Raj Bhavan Road, the second largest after Chennai in South India is a magnificent building that was rebuilt in 1985. This was the site where the GPO was originally established in 1862.

Museum musings

Tying the postal heritage together is Sandesh, the Museum of Communication that was opened in 2019 on Museum Road, housed in a 150-plus-year-old heritage building. Divided into sections that showcase the men, machines and methods that made postal communication possible, this place has several gems in its precincts. There is a wall dedicated to Mysore Anche (anche means local post in Kannada) – a concept that was invented by the Wodeyar kings that was in use since 1672.

There is a display of stamps released that commemorate Indian art and architecture, festivals, cinema, Panchatantra, literature and Hindustani and Carnatic music. Samparka is a room that is dedicated to the 'runner' who carried the mail and held a spear in his hand to protect himself from animals. And this is where various types of equipment used in the post office are on display in this section.

Samparka is a room dedicated to the 'runner' who carried the mail and held a spear in his hand to protect himself from animals.

The evolution of the postal logo can also be seen here. In the room samputa, you can understand the role of the Postal Inspector who ensures quality of postal service. Check the annual inspection reports that are pasted to a book and preserved. And there is one on display here from 1898. In the Samvahana section you can see the V- Sat antenna that was used to transmit money orders using Satellite technology before being replaced by Electronic Money Orders. In the Sangraha room, there is a display of postal bags, parcel boxes, safes and chests, seals and stamps, uniform and raincoats, weights and measures and the Post Office Clock. Look out for the clock saved from Lolsur Post office after the great floods of August 2019. There is an audio-visual room that showcases 'Birth of the Nation', a story of the freedom struggle of India in three panels.

There are several interesting aspects of snail mail that are sure to make the curious person think. And just when I think I know it all, Priya of Heritage Baku regales me with this trivia. “Did you know that in the early days the postal employees which actually used to run from one place to the other to deliver stuff were also doubling up as spies for the government and current rulers so they actually carried up stories all brought back information so that was part of the original charter of the of the post?” I did not and wonder how many of us do!

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