This first day cover was issued to mark 190 years of Sri Lanka’s survey department and features Captain Gualterus Schneider alongside a commemorative stamp. What’s interesting however, is that the text stating that Captain G. Schneider was the first surveyor general of Sri Lanka appears to be a mistake.
The stamp shows that the Survey Department was established in 1800 which is accurate. The surveyor general at the time was J. Johnwil who was followed by George Atkinson in 1805. Gualterus Schneider then happens to be the THIRD surveyor general coming into office in 1811.
Education in Sri Lanka is a big deal. We have a very high literacy rate, said to be the highest in South Asia and one of the highest when comparing across the whole of Asia. I can’t help wonder though, could this at least partly be a result of, or due to the booming education industry? The government’s free education system is great in theory but there is also a glut of privately run schools, institutes and universities and not all of them deliver. Just to give you some context, our Sunday newspapers often carry TWO multi page educational supplements!
Schools in particular also seem to generate a certain amount of class divide. Of all the things we could have picked up from our British ex-overlords, is the status we seem to confer on those who went to a “good” school. Admittedly, I have not been completely immune to this phenomenon because I still have the occasional fantasy about reading English at Oxford but, that’s a subject for a different post. The number of times I have been asked what school I went to within the first 5 minutes of me meeting someone, well, it’s enough to make my blood boil. And I did attend one of these so called “good” schools – a private convent for girls in fact. Anyone listening to me swear in the vernacular would be hard pressed to imagine that I ever spent any time there.
It all started with this 1985 stamp from Royal College – allegedly the “best” public boys school in Sri Lanka
I’ve had this stamp for awhile but recently picked up the FDC at an auction. It’s a bit grimy but I got it for next to nothing so I won’t complain.
What I find interesting about the stamp however, is the way somebody carefully designed the partial arms holding up the flag to ensure each ethnic group was represented. Cute huh?
Sri Lanka 2008 Independence Day Stamp
This got me looking around on the subject of Sri Lanka Independence Day stamps and apparently there are quite a few. Of course, the successful ousting of the white man is a REALLY BIG DEAL in these parts, so it’s only to be expected I suppose.
2010 saw the issue of a stamp featuring the Magam Ruhunupura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port or quite simply, the Hambanthota port. Featuring a small portrait of the man himself, it is a typical “look at me, look what I built” piece of philately.
Having ranted at length about the lack of Sri Lankan monarchs on stamps, I have been forced to mince a few words with the discovery of a 1956 stamp featuring Vijaya’s arrival in Sri Lanka. However, my point was that we do not have any stamps with a Sri Lankan king as the primary subject, in a dignified, portrait like format. Just to prove my seriousness and dedication to this cause, I have pored over my ENTIRE Sri Lankan collection AGAIN (with a magnifying glass this time). Here’s what I found regarding kings on stamps.
This stamp of Vijaya and Kuveni was issued to celebrate 2500 years of Buddhism. What the fuck does Buddhism have to do with Vijaya’s landing in Thambapanni? Surely we are not saying that Vijaya brought us Buddhism? This stamp was issued post independence, else I would have imagined that a clueless white colonial dude designed it.
Today is the Sinhala and Tamil New Year or “Avurudhu” as celebrated by the Sinhalese and “Puthandu” as celebrated by Tamils throughout Sri Lanka. You probably didn’t know that and care much less, but in my 65,610 km² of the world, it is a rather big deal and considered to be a time for family, tradition and food. Except for the food, I find the whole rigmarole extremely tedious and am only comforted at the thought of a possible new stamp issue. This year again however, there seems to be no new year themed stamp forthcoming.
If the Chinese New Year can instigate its own global philatelic revolution, you have to wonder why the Sri Lankan one can’t? Admittedly, we are neither a ginormous country nor do we have a cool animal zodiac forming part of the overall schtick, but our patronising traditions (no, I will NOT kneel to worship my elders thank you very much) and eyerollworthy games (telling me to wolf down a sugar bun in the fastest possible time is just WAY too triggering) should be interesting enough to the rest of the world. Don’t you think?
Anyway, I thought I’d take a gander down our proud nation’s philatelic history to see what we’ve managed to produce on the Avurudhu theme so far:
Sri Lanka’s Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (SWRD for sanity’s sake) Bandaranaike was honoured in several stamps both during and after his rule as Prime Minister. His stamps are relatively common so I never gave them much thought besides, let’s face it, he’s got one helluva boring face. Then I discovered something hilarious.
Uptight nationalist wanker with distinctive hairline – image via newsfirst.lk
I’m sure that at one stage (likely 25+ years ago) I had nearly 20 copies of this thanks to a larger collection bequeathed to me by a grand aunt. Over the years I’ve given away most of them assuming that they are all duplicates. Imagine my horror when I returned to my childhood hobby recently and realised that there are THREE distinct variations.
Maybe I was not a very observant child. I most certainly did not have access to the internet or catalogues like Stanley Gibbons (SG). Either way, I hope I can help you avoid this situation by pointing out the differences below.
1. So the first one was issued on 1 February 1952 as a 35 cent stamp. This has an SG catalog number of LK 424 and it gives prominence to the word CEYLON in English with Sinhalese and Tamil notations appearing in smaller script. The stamp subject and words POSTAGE AND REVENUE are also given in English.
I was looking at two of my 1957 stamps recently and noticed an interesting overprint on one of them. The words “Maithriyen” (I doubt there is a direct English translation because it seems to mean a complicated combo of about 8 different but equally boring qualities) and “Wairaya” (hatred) are clearly visible on the green four cent stamp. These were issued on 1 April 1957 to celebrate the Ceylon postal centenary and features methods of transportation.
I know there is a popular local Buddhist saying “maithriyen wairaya sanside” so could it be that? (loose translation = “benevolence diminishes hatred“). Does anyone know?
I’d love to see any other covers or stamps with this marking so if you do have one – please scan and share!