The Central Administration of the East India Company, 1773-1834

By B. B. Misra | Go to book overview

APPENDIX POSTAL COMMUNICATIONS

IN India, postal services may be traced back to the early periods of its recorded history.

In the establishment of postal services, early rulers were impelled by the need for a regular supply of information regarding the conduct of their officers or the movement of their enemies. Their couriers not only conveyed intelligence, but also acted as spies. Kautilya, for instance, mentions a variety of both settled and wandering spies who maintained the links of communication and carried reports for the guidance of Hindu ruling princes.1 Alauddin Khilji in the thirteenth century was guided by like considerations in the organisation of what was known in his time as 'dak-chauki' or post office. He ordered posts to be established on the route on which his army marched on expeditions. Relays of horses and runners were established at each of these to report to the Sultan the progress of the army and to carry advice back from him to the army headquarters.

Muhammad Tughlak developed the institution of dak-chauki, and Ibn Battuta gives an interesting account of the operation of postal services under this Sultan. He says that although the journeys from Sind to Delhi normally took fifty days, official communications took only five days by the postal service. These were carried by couriers who travelled on horses established in relays at four-mile intervals. The couriers who travelled on foot were organised separately. 'At every third of a mile', writes Battuta, 'there is an inhabited village, outside which there are three tents. In these sit men girded up ready to move off, each of whom has a rod a yard and a half long with brass bells at the top. When a courier leaves the town, he takes the letter in the fingers of one hand and the rod with the bells in the other, and runs with all his might. The men in the tents, on hearing the sound of the bells, prepare to meet him. One of them takes the letter in his hand and passes on, running with all his might and shaking his rod until he reaches the next station, and so the letter is passed on till it reaches its destination.'2

Battuta points out that the service of foot couriers was quicker than the mounted post. It was also sometimes used in the transport of fruits for the Sultan from Khurasan. The couriers also

____________________
1
Shamasastry, Kautilya's Arthashastra, pp. 18-23.
2
Gibb, Ibn Battuta's Travels in Asia and Africa, pp. 184-5.

-415-

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The Central Administration of the East India Company, 1773-1834
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter I- The Supreme Government 17
  • Chapter II- The Central Secretariat 64
  • Chapter III- The Administration of Revenue 108
  • Chapter IV- The Settlement and Collection of Revenue 171
  • Chapter V- The Administration of Civil Justice 220
  • Chapter VI- The Administration of Criminal Justice and Police 298
  • Chapter VII- The Civil Service 378
  • Appendix Postal Communications 415
  • Bibliography 451
  • Index 460
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