‘As the country gears up to celebrate the life, work and philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi on his birthday (October 2), here’s a peek into how the world has honoured the Father of the Nation through stamps. Here are some stamps from the collection of philatelist Pradip Jain’
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been depicted on a vast number of stamps issued by several countries across the globe, including the United Kingdom. It is said that the life of Mahatma Gandhi, as he is fondly referred to, has been depicted in stamps issued by around 150 countries. India was the first to pay tribute to him with a stamp issue. In 1948, on the first anniversary of independence, it issued a set of four stamps, with the word “Bapu” written in both Hindi and Urdu, symbolising Gandhiji’s devotion to communal harmony. This set of four stamps on the Father of the Nation is among the rarest of all Gandhi stamps from around the world. Three of these stamps were in the denomination of 1.5, 3.5 and 12 annas, while the fourth one was of INR 10. At that time 16 annas made a rupee. The stamp series valued at INR 10 is the most special and is always in demand among philatelists.
These stamps were designed and printed in Switzerland but some of them were embossed with the word “Service” at the India Security Press at Nashik in Maharashtra, and reserved for the use of the office of the first Indian governor general, Chakravarty Rajagopalachari. In 2011, the David Feldman Stamp Auction House in Geneva, Switzerland, claimed to have sold one INR 10 value Mahatma Gandhi stamp with the word “Service” printed on it for a price of Euro 144,000 (about INR 1.5 crore), the highest price ever paid for a single Indian stamp.
In 2017, another record was created when a set of four stamps from the same series was auctioned for £500,000 (about INR 4.4 crore). The block of four was sold to a private collector in Australia. Only 13 of the 1948 Gandhi 10-rupee stamps with “Service” printed on them are in circulation today. In 1961, the US became the first foreign country to issue a commemorative stamp in honour of the Mahatma, honouring him with the title “Champion of Liberty”. The second country to do so was Congo in 1967.
In 1969 he was featured on a British commemorative stamp as well. Interestingly, Gandhiji happens to be the first person outside England’s royal family to be depicted on British stamps. During Gandhiji’s birth anniversary celebrations in 1969, more than 40 countries released postage stamps on the same day. In the same year, a stamp with a value of 20 paise was issued featuring Gandhiji and his wife Kasturba. They were the first Indian couple to be featured on a postal stamp.
Some other international imprints on the Mahatma are the “Leader of the twentieth century” issued by the Federated States of Micronesia. Stamps issued by Bhutan during the Mahatma’s centenary celebrations and those released by Zambia and Barbuda depicting a young Gandhi are some of the other significant ones. There are also Dominican stamps where Gandhiji is featured alongside Martin Luther King Jr, Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt, which were issued to commemorate 40 years of human rights. While most stamps issued internationally feature the leader’s smiling countenance, there are some which depict him in his trademark posture, marching with a walking stick. A stamp issued by Brazil showcases a Brazilian spinning wheel instead of the traditional Indian charkha that the Mahatma used.
In India, stamps commemorating Gandhiji’s life and philosophies have been issued regularly. Legendary Indian artist Nandalal Bose captured Gandhiji’s famous Dandi march through an iconic painting, which is adapted in the design of various stamps and cancellations (a postal marking) around the world. A set of four stamps marking his Dandi march was issued in 2005. A stamp bearing an image of his footprints too was issued to mark the historical event in the country’s fight for independence. Recently, to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Czech Republic issued a postage stamp with his portrait. The Mahatma’s journey continues…