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Preamble – Postal History

        The East India Company on acquiring political power, carried on the administration by forming, initially three Presidencies as administrative Units in India viz. Bengal, Madras and Mumbai. The districts of Dharwad, Belgaon, Bijapur and North Kanara of present Karnataka State formed a part of the then Mumbai Presidency. Even this North Karnataka region, when it was ceded to the British by the Peshwas as per the treaty of Poona of 1817, was first included in Bellary collectorate up to 1830 according to Mumbai Gazzetter 1883. When it was bifurcated into North Kanara and South Kanara Districts while south Kanara remained in Madras presidency, North Kanara was joined to Mumbai presidency. Thus it may be seen that the Postal history of Mumbai Presidency is virtually the history of Maharashtra up to 1837. The Presidency has its own Postmaster General, framed its own internal arrangement, adopted its own rates of postage; institute its own public relation without consultation and reference to those of its neighbors which it appears to have viewed as a foreign state.
History of Mumbai GPO (Bombay GPO)

        The origin of the vast network of the Imperial Indian Post Offices can be traced to the opening of the General Post Offices at Calcutta and Madras but in respect of Mumbai GPO, sketchy information is traceable, scattered in the Mumbai Gazettes, Gazetteers and other official records in the Presidency. The first reference is found in the instructions issued in their letter book by the Company to the Council on 27th August 1688 to erect a post office for all letters to be brought to and delivered at Mumbai and the “the land daks and passage boat should be established to take such letters to Surat and Other places, and the post office should be first leased out to a discreet and powerful man who ought to pay the Company for the contract not less than E400 to E500 a year.” The Presidency of Mumbai had to wait for a century to witness the appointment of a Postmaster at Mumbai for the purpose of organizing a regular postal communication with the Fort Saint George GPO Madras for receipt and dispatches from the company. The exact date of establishment of Mumbai GPO is not known to the postal historians.
        In the month of November 1787 a Postmaster was presumably appointed at Mumbai GPO for the first time in the history of Mumbai Presidency for receipt and dispatch of a fortnightly mail between Mumbai and Madras, In 1789 and Calcutta via Masulipatnam and Poona in the month of September of the year, The Postmaster General functioned for the whole of Presidency with the upgradation of the post office into a General Post Office in the year 1793. The Government opened a regular monthly Mail Communication service with Great Britain via Bussora for dispatch on the first of each month from 1st January 1798, four years after the first sea mail was introduced from the Mumbai GPO. The Mumbai GPO established its position with other Presidencies in the network of overland and inland postal communication lines within and outside British India, by opening runner lines to Surat, Delhi, Madras, Banglore, Calcutta, between 1796 and 1820.

        The GPO was first located in the Saint George Fort for the convenience of the East India Company. Afterwards with the increase of private correspondence it was shifted to the premises of the then Mumbai Bunder near Appollo Pier. On 18th October 1831 the GPO was shifted to the premises opposite the head of Firbes Street. Again the GPO establishment was removed to the new Post office building, adjoining the Custom House vide Notice issued by John Gordon, PMG Mumbai, on 28th February 1844. The Mumbai Gazeetted of 27th October 1862 intimated that the GPO was shifted to the premises of Mumbai Fort near Appollo Street in 1860. The Director General recorded in his Report of 1868 – 69 that the GPO Building was burnt down by a fire on 1st March 1869 and the records were completely destroyed. In 1869 the GPO was shifted to CTO premises near Flora Fountain.

        The present GPO building just outside the CST Railway station earlier known as VT Railway station was designed in 1902 by John Begg, consulting architect to the Government. The stone fronted edifice was taken up for construction on 1st September 1904 and completed in April 1913. It is first building in India in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. Total cost of construction was 1809000. Total area covered is 120000 sq.ft. with end to end length of 523 ft. The Office of the PMG was also located in this building. The chief feature of the building is the central hall that rises throughout the height (120 ft.) of the building to the great dome surrounding the structure. Its dome has a distinctive resemblance to the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapu. While the new dome of the building has a diameter of 65 feet, it is the largest dome of the City. Turrets and minarets resemble Moghul architecture. The style is in Indo-Saracenic style drawing inspiration from the Indian Monuments of Moghul period. Materials used are local basalt with dressing of yellow stones from Kurla and white stones from Drangdra”. This building with the imposing dome and architectural design is one of the landmarks of the Fort area of Mumbai. In terms of utility, the building stands as a tribute to its planners and architects that the building is serving the staff and the public, without causing any cramp in the space available for use even today. The Department is earnest in conserving the building in its original form, in keeping with the heritage status. INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art, Culture & History) was engaged as consultant to advise the department on restoration and maintenance of this monument building.
        Mumbai GPO is now the biggest Post Office in the country and one of the biggest in the world. It caters to over 50,000 address sites, most of which are recipients of voluminous mail.

        The Business Hall of the GPO is unique with 101 counter positions, following the addition of the 1200 square meter large Bi-Centenary Hall, and working from 08.00 hrs. to 23.00 hrs where all businesses of a post Office are transacted for about more than 25,000 people every day. Mumbai GPO is now totally computerized which facilitates its valued customer reliable and prompt service.

        Mumbai GPO combines the glory of a historical tradition and the virtue of modern technology and is part of the life-line of the city. It is serving the vast majority of customers with pride and satisfaction.
26-Jul-2014
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