Thanks to the exploratory efforts of Vasco de Gama and others in the late 15th century and onwards Portugal established a number of colonial footholds along the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. These areas were known collectively as Portuguese India although they encompassed all Portuguese possessions in the Indian Ocean, from southern Africa to Southeast Asia. This somewhat confusing title persisted until 1752. Portuguese India stamps were used through these areas.
Regardless of what they were called over the years these areas needed to be administered by a governor or a viceroy and to communicate on a regular basis with Portugal’s royal rulers in Lisbon. Portuguese India stamps played a crucial role. Shortly after old Goa on the Indian Subcontinent fell under Portuguese control on November 25, 1510 communication commenced between the Viceroy in Goa and the Court in Lisbon. Letters were sent in triplicate on separate sea vessels. The concept of redundancy in the face of hazard predates the computer era by many a year. Land correspondence of a similar nature can be traced at least as far back as 1594.
The evidences that have survived of such communication include letters that discuss land grants and other administrative issues. However, it was only at the end of the17th century that regular overland correspondence between Portugal and Portuguese India was established. More regular mail service with Lisbon from Goa was firmly established from 1825 on. It was not until 1838 that a postal service from Lisbon to Goa and vice-versa was established. Portuguese Indian postmarks exist on correspondence dating from 1854, when a post office began operations in Goa. Eventually a cooperative agreement between the Portuguese and British to handle postal services was established as well.
Most stamps were quite literally marks that resembled what might be regarded in the modern era as a postmark. An extraterritorial British East India Company post office, operating in Damaun, did sell British Indian stamps, between 1854 and 1883. The Damaun cancellation showed a ’13′ within downward sloping diagonal bars.
There were, however, continual complaints about the inefficiency of postal communication to and from Goa from 1854 onwards. Postal reform was initiated from the Court in Lisbon based on a number of royal decrees and directives starting around 1871. A special commission drew up the new postal regulations, which ran to 9 chapters and 118 articles. Article 22 covers adhesive stamps which are described as representing the values of 10, 20, 40, 100 and 200 réis, and consisting of the corresponding colors: black, red, blue, green and orange with the designation “SERVIÇO POSTAL – ÍNDIA PORTUGUESA”.
These initial issues came out on October 1, 1871. These were designated for local use within the colony. Stamps of British India were still necessary for overseas mail.
Dies for these stamps were re-cut on a regular basis and paper varied considerably in quality and composition. Various perforation techniques also multiplied the appearance and nature of upwards of 50 separately identified types. The variety of types has served to pique interest and add value to these early Portuguese India stamps to this day.