Artistic 1930s Diwali telegrams found in Patna family archives

Kunal Dutt
·4-min read

Patna, Nov 14 (PTI) Artistic telegram forms themed on Diwali and other celebratory occasions were issued by the Posts and Telegraph department of the government during the British time, a practice that continued for a few decades after Independence as well, as per rare archives.

Specimens of such rare telegrams, including a richly-colourful one from 1930s, bearing the image of British coat of arms flanked by two women holding a plateful of 'diya' (earthen lamp) and sitting next to a ceremonial Indian lamp, embossed on the top portion, have been found by a Patna resident in his great grandfather's collection.

Aditya Jalan, 43, the current scion of the Jalan family of the legendary Quila House in Patna city, said there are 'some amazing Diwali greetings cards too in our archives', and they reflected the way people exchanged messages on festive occasions in the bygone era.

'The Posts and Telegraph's telegrams on Diwali are truly unique. A 1934 telegram was sent to my great grandfather Radha Krishna Jalan, then Rai Bahadur, by the Director General of the Posts and Telegraph department,' he told PTI. 'Interestingly, it was sent in both typed text and handwritten text, separately, the same year, wishing him Diwali.' Another Diwali telegram, having the same design theme, was sent in 1934 to R K Jalan by Padampat Singhania, the well-known industrialist, he said.

'The telegram was sent from Cawnpore, as Kanpur name was spelt in British time, and bears the message: 'Luxmipuja Performed Good Wishes For Dewali And Prosperous New Year', and signed as just Padampat.

'The destination was 161/1, Harrison Road in Calcutta. My great grandfather was a businessman and had offices in Calcutta, so he must have been there then,' Aditya said.

Another interesting archive is a multi-page Diwali greetings card sent by the famous Singhania family of Kanpur, with an image of Goddess Laxmi showering wealth on the cover page and 'Kamla Tower, Cawnpore' embossed on top.

A circular perforation allows to see the sketch of the face of the clock printed in the later page. Besides the greetings, the list of companies that were part of the company are also printed in other pages.

Kamla Tower -- with its iconic clock, a heritage building in Kanpur and part of its industrial legacy -- still stands in the city, which was once famed as the 'Manchester of the East'. Many old buildings and signages still carry the old name 'Cawnpore', which was changed to Kanpur post Independence.

The message reads: 'Dewali Greetings from Juggilal Kamlapat, Bankers and Millowners and their affiliated concerns. Kamla Tower, Cawnpore, 26-10-1935'.

Another interesting greetings cards in the collection are the ones sent by India Electric Works or IEW in 1939 and an undated one, sent by Matchwel Electricals (India), both electric fan makers, Aditya said.

The IEW card carries a Sanskrit shloka on the left face of the inside pages and greetings, and an image of a fan on top-right corner and an Indian lamp on the bottom-right corner on its right face.

The Matchwel card depicts an earthen lamp with an image of a woman in traditional attire seen in the portion of the flame, and a grid of fans forming the backdrop. It's business units details are also mentioned.

There are few from post-Indepedence era, too, and a 1954 card depicts an image of Mahatma Gandhi in the flame of an earthen lamp kept on a lotus. This was sent by Radha Devi Goenka from Madan Mahal in Akola in Maharashtra.

These archives capture an extraordinary period in history as the telegram era, which began in 1850s in India, ended after over 160 years when the service was stopped by the government on July 15, 2013.

According to Dokka Srinivasu, a south India-based collector of postcards, telegrams, and other vintage material, people were using telegrams to greet others on occasions up until 70s and 80s too.

His blog 'Heritage of India' has a copy of the telegram form that was issued in 1951 to mark the centenary of Indian telegraph system, with the Ashoka emblem, signifying the post-colonial beginning of India after it became an independent nation in 1947 and a republic in 1950.

Another old telegram in colour in his blog shows an image of a lotus lake and hanging bells in the left corner and 'Greetings' printed on the right corner. PTI KND HMB HMB