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Putting someone on a national postal stamp is a matter of great honour, and there are several Indian women on postal stamps, from historical to contemporary women.
There are two categories in which Indian women have been portrayed on postal stamps. Here is a list with their date of issue in brackets.
Mirabai was the first Indian woman to be on a postal stamp. She was a devotee of Krishna and had been pronounced a saint. She had faced opposition and animosity from her family because she paid no attention to any ‘wifely’ or ‘queenly’ duties, because of her extreme inclination towards Lord Krishna.
Mirabai has composed many devotional bhajans while pursuing her saintly life, which are still a huge part of our cultural ethos.
Kalidasa’s Shankuntala (1960)
She was the mother of ‘King Bharat’, from whom the name ‘Bharat’ came. The dramatic way in which she gave birth to Bharat in heaven describes the greatness of her personality.The great poet Kalidasa, inspired by the tale of Shankunthala described in the Hindu epic ‘The Mahabharata’ has created the dramatic version of the play ‘Abhijñānaśākuntala (The Sign of Shakuntala).
Annie Besant (1963)
She was the second President of The Theosophical Society. She was designated as a ‘Diamond Soul’ owing to the various amazing qualities she possessed. A brilliant orator, educationist, philanthropist and an author were some of them.
Kasturba Gandhi (1964)
A political activist during the freedom struggle and as the wife of Mahatma Gandhi was keenly involved in the all the independence movements.
Sarojini Naidu (1964)
The ‘Nightingale of India’ was a feminist, political activist, poet, and the first Indian woman president of the Indian National Congress and to be appointed an Indian state governor. She was the founder of ‘Women’s Indian Association’ (WIA) and took part in various women empowerment activities both in India as well as abroad.
Sister Nivedita (1968)
She was an Irish teacher, social activist, school founder, author of Kali and the disciple of Swami Vivekananda. She was a philanthropist who has contributed immensely in times of calamity like plague outbreak in Calcutta (1899) and East Bengal famine (1966).
Kittur Rani Chennamma (1977)
The Rani of Kittur, Karnataka, single-handedly led an armed rebellion against the Britishers’ ‘doctrine of lapse’ policy in 1824. After she won the first battle in 1824, she lost the second battle when she became a martyr. But, her honour and pride continues in the form of the ‘Kittur utsava’ from 22nd to 24th October every year.
Kamala Nehru, Durgabai Deshmukh, Rani Avantibai, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, Mahadevi Verma – Jayshankar Prasad, Rani Gaidinliu, Jhalkari Bai, Matangini Hazra, Thillaiyadi Valliammai, Subhadra Joshi (1974-2011)
They were actively involved in the Indian Independence freedom struggle. Each of them represents the extraordinary national feeling in the hearts of Indian women who sacrificed their lives for the country.
Indira Gandhi (1984)
The first female Prime-minister of India was a politician, stateswoman and a central figure of the Indian National Congress. She was the second longest serving Prime Minister of India. Some of her achievements were Nuclear Programme of India, The Green Revolution and The Environment Programme, The Resolution to Kargil War, etc. Truly, she is the “Iron Lady of India”.
Begum Hazrat Mahal (1984)
The wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who took charge of the political affairs of Awadh and Luckhnow after the Nawab was exiled. She was also among the rebels against the British East India Company. She was one of the few rebels who never surrendered before the British even during the twenty years of exile in Nepal that was imposed on her.
Rukmini Devi (1987), Thanjavur Balasaraswati (2010)
They were well-renowned Bharatnatyam dancers. Some of the awards received by Rukhmini Devi were the Padma Bhushan, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar. Besides these, she was designated as ‘Prani Mitra’ (friend of animals). Thanjavur Balasaraswati was honoured as “The Empress of Bharatnatyam” because of her legendary performances.
Smt. Rameshwari Nehru (1987)
She was a social worker who worked for the upliftment of the poorer classes and women India. She was an awardee of Padma Bhushan for her social work in 1955 and Lenin Peace Prize in 1961.
Shree Shree Ma Anandamayee (1987)
The Indian Hindu spiritual leader was designated “the most perfect flower of the Indian soil” by Sivananda Saraswati (Divine Life Society). She was the symbol of faith healing and miracles. She was designated with such a name by her followers due to her ‘immensely perpetual state of divine joy’.
Rani Durgawati (1988)
She was the ruling warrior queen of Gondwana, Madhya Pradesh.She choosed to kill herself rather than surrendering before the Mughal army.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (1989)
She was the first health minister of India, a freedom fighter and a social activist. She is remembered as the ‘Princess of Hearts’ because of her great contributions. She established the Tuberculosis Association of India, the Central Leprosy and Research Institute and several other health centres across the country.
Legendary actors of India – Geeta Dutt, Ruby Myers, Durga Khote, Bhanumathi, Suraiya, Smita Patil, Devika Rani, Kanan Devi, Meena Kumari, Nutan, Savithri, Leela Naidu, Nargis Dutt, Madhubala (1993-2011)
They were well-renowned actresses of Bollywood. They have served the Indian film industry with tremendous grace that is to be remembered for ages to come.
Rani Roshmoni (1994)
She was the founder of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Kolkata. She was also involved in many road constructions works and charity to various educational institutes in India. She pioneered the construction of a road from the Subarnarekha river to Puri for the pilgrims. She also offered considerable charity to the Imperial Library and the Hindu college.
Ahilyabai Holkar (1996)
She was the Holkar warrior queen of the Maratha Malwa kingdom of India. After the death of her husband, she was keenly involved in protecting her kingdom from foreign invaders. Her reign lasted for thirty years that was considered as a era of perfect order and good government setup. She has also built tons of temples and Dharmashalas throughout India.
Blessed Alphonsa (1996)
An Indian religious sister and educator, she was the first Indian woman to be canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church. After her death, claims of her miraculous intervention was initiated and she was declared as the Servant of God.
Thirumathi Rukmini Lakshmipathi (1997)
She was the first woman to be elected as a minister in the Madras Presidency. After Independence, she was the MLA till 1951, and also a member of several local bodies like the Corporation of Madras and Chinglepet District Board. She had the privilege to serve the Honorary Presidency Magistrate at Madras. Compulsory female education was immensely supported by her in various ways.
Aruna Asaf Ali (1998)
She was Delhi’s first mayor, and is famous as an Indian Independence activist who hoisted the Indian National flag in Bombay during the Quit India Movement. She was awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964 and the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1991. Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna were among other awards she received.
Savitribai Phule (1998)
The ‘first lady teacher of India’ was a social reformer and poet who founded the first girl’s school in Pune in 1848. She fought for women’s rights during her time, and has been called ‘one of the first-generation modern Indian feminists’. She also crusaded against child marriage and casteism.
Arati Gupta (Saha) (1999)
She was an Indian long distance swimmer who became the first sportsperson to be awarded Padma Shri in 1960. She was also the first Asian woman to swim across the English channel in 1959.
She was the mother of the founder of Maratha Empire, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The feeling of ‘Swaraj’ was inculcated deep within Shivaji right from childhood owing to a mother like Jijabai. She, being an educated woman of her time was also of the chief administrators of the city of Bijapur.
Vijaya Raje Scindia (2001)
Popularly known as the Rajmata of Gwalior, was a renowned Indian politician. She was elected in both the houses of the Indian Parliament, and was the member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. She was a politician of considerable influence during her time.
Legendary Singers – M.S. Subbulakshmi, Shamshad Begum, Geeta Dutt, Kanika Bandopadyaya, Veenai Dhanammal (2005, 2016)
M.S. Subhalakhsmi was the first Indian musician to be a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s Nobel Prize. Shamshad Begum sang about 6000 songs in various languages like Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Punjabi. Geeta Dutt’s contribution to film music was exceptional, with over 1200 songs in Hindi as well as various regional languages.
Chandraprabha Saikiani (2002)
She was the founder of ‘The All Assam Pradeshik Mahila Samiti’, an NGO for the welfare of women. She was also the recipient of Padma Shri in 1972.
She was designated as a saint in the Varkari tradition. Her forty-one abhangs (poems) have a mystic nature, and provide profound wisdom about realizing God, the cosmic spirit and the immortal life.
Dr. T.S. Soundram (2005)
The founder of the TVS group of companies, she was a social reformer and a politician. It was under her vision and leadership that the Kasturba Hospital of Delhi pioneered several reforms in rural health and family welfare. In 1962, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan for social work.
Rani Velu Nachchiyar (2008)
She was the first queen to fight against the Britishers. The queen of the Sivaganga estate, she was better known as ‘Brave woman’ (Veeramangai in Tamil), and ruled Sivagangai single-handedly for more than 10 years.
Jeanne Jugan, Little Sisters of the Poor (2009)
She was a renowned social activist. She was particularly active for the welfare and care of the elderly poor people.
Dineshnandini Dalmia (2009)
She was a renowned poet who received the Padma Bhushan in 2006 owing to her great contributions in the field of poetry.
Kranti Trivedi (2010)
She was the most bountiful Hindi language writers of her time, who authored over 45 Hindi novels. She has been awarded honours like Hindi Seva Samman and ‘Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaa Puraskar’ in 2002.
Legendary Indian Musicians – Gangubai Hangal, D.K. Pattammal, M.L. Vasanthakumari (2014, 2018)
Gangubai Hangal, a classical vocalist had a career of seven decades in the field of music. K. Pattammal, a Carnatic musician and a Tamil playback singer, was the first woman to have performed ‘Ragam Thanam Pallavi’ (a male stronghold) in concerts. M.L. Vasanthakumari, also a Carnatic playback singer was the youngest female awardee of the ‘Sangitha Kalanidhi’ award.
Saint Teresa (Mother Teresa) (2016)
The Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1979 was the founder of ‘Missionaries of Charity’ and admired immensely for her wholehearted service to the poor. Padma Shri, Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding and Bharat Ratna were among the other awards she received for her extraordinary contributions for the poor and needy.
Aatukuri Molla (2017)
She was a well-known Telugu poet who composed the Telugu language Ramayana. The Andhra Pradesh government has paid a tribute to her outstanding achievements in the field of poetry by erecting her statue in Hyderabad.
Ashok Chakra Winner – Neerja Bhanot (2004)
She saved the passengers of a flight hijacked by terrorists during a stopover in Karachi, Pakistan on 5th September 1986 but lost her life while helping the passengers to escape through the emergency exits of the flight.
Dr. Montessori Centenary
On the occasion of 100th birth anniversary of Dr. Montessori, a commemorative postal stamp was issued. Dr. Maria Montessori, originally from Italy, had spent almost 10 years in India where she was the pioneer in the area of child education. It was her who changed the way all small children were treated both at home in school.
Girl Guide Movement Diamond Jubliee
The Girl Guide Movement was founded by Lord Baden Powell in 1910. Later it was amalgamated with the Bharat Scouts and Guides in 1951. This movement mainly taught girls how to gain confidence.
Indian Miniature paintings
This stamp shows how vibrant India has been with colours with each region depicting culturally unique style of paintings. Some styles of it includes ‘Kishangarh’s Radha’, ‘Musical Maru Ragini’, ‘Dancing Duets’, etc.
Brides of India: Tamilnadu, Kashmir, Bengal, Rajasthan
Indian Brides, a symbol of beauty and grace, are depicted in this stamp with each state having a unique way of decorating their brides.
Tribes of India: Toda, Bhil
The various tribes of India were the ancient occupants of the country. They possess their own ancient language, customs and traditions. This stamp commemorates two of the most ancient tribes of India i.e. Toda and Bhil.
XXIII Olympics: A Girl Doing Floor Exercises
This stamp depicts how India had actively participated in the 23rd Summer Olympics in 1984. 70 players represented the country in the fields of Weightlifting, Athletics, Shooting, Wrestling, Boxing and Tennis.
Didarganj Yakshi – Festival of India
This sculpture represents a masterpiece of Mauryan art, and is currently valued as Rs. 25 crore. India had taken various national art treasures like the ‘Didarganj Yakshi’ to American museums as a part of the ‘Festivals of India’ celebration in 1985 and 1986. This stamp commemorates this.
X Asian Games: Women’s Volleyball
This women’s tournament was held in September 2018 in Indonesia. Though India was unable to win any matches, India’s participation was important.
Care for the Girl Child, Indian Women in Aviation, Women’s Day, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Women Empowerment, India-UN Women HeforShe
All these stamps represent how India is actively involved in empowering its women. Indian women actively participate in decision making in various socio-political arenas. The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative is being implemented through a national campaign in 100 selected districts across the country. The HeforShe stamp represents India’s support to gender equality in various fields.
Sukhna Shramdan, Chandigarh
This lake had started silting since its inception as a result of which the water cover had reduced to one third by 1988. This stamp marks how voluntary manual labour helped desilt the lake in 75 days.
XI Asian Games: Racing
Rural Indian Women – Indepex’97: Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Ladakh, Kerala
These four stamps represents the four directions in the map of India i.e. East, West, North and South respectively. Rural Indian women represent the soul of Indian culture, heritage, and traditions. The four unique ethnic costumes of women are clearly visible in all of these.
Images source: Wikicommons, and By India Post, Government of India –  , GODL-India, Link
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