Postage stamps and postal history of Sri Lanka

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This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon.

Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia, located about 31 km off the southern coast of India. After over two thousand years of rule by local kingdoms, parts of Sri Lanka were colonized by Portugal and the Netherlands beginning in the 16th century, before control of the entire country passed to Britain in 1815. A nationalist political movement arose in the country in the early 20th century with the aim of obtaining political independence, which was eventually granted by the British after peaceful negotiations in 1948. The country became a republic and adopted its current name in 1972.

British colonial stamps[edit]

Mint British stamps for use in Ceylon depicting King George V.
A mint high value 100 Rupee key type stamp of Ceylon.

The first stamps for British Ceylon were issued on 1 April 1857.[1][2] The stamp features a portrait of Queen Victoria and is brown in colour. It is a 6 pence value used to send a half ounce letter from Ceylon to England. Eight more stamps were issued in year 1857, all featuring the portrait of Queen Victoria. One of the 5 stamps that were issued on 23 April 1859 is considered to be the most valuable stamp in Sri Lanka: it is a 4 pence with a dark pink colour known as the 'Dull Rose'.[3]

Stamps of Sri Lanka[edit]

A 2009 stamp of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is the only country to include details in a stamp in three languages viz. Sinhala, Tamil and English. The first stamps marked Sri Lanka were issued on 22 May 1972.[1][4]

Souvenir sheets[edit]

Sri Lanka has been issuing souvenir sheets since 1966.[5] Many of the earliest souvenir sheets issued by Sri Lanka are valuable. Sri Lanka issues souvenir sheets each year on many different themes.[6]

First souvenir sheet[edit]

The first souvenir sheet of Sri Lanka was issued on 5 February 1966 on the topic 'Typical Birds of Ceylon' and was imperforate.[5] This sheet was reissued on 15 September 1967 to commemorate the 1st National Stamp Exhibition of Sri Lanka, overprinted 'FIRST NATIONAL STAMP EXHIBITION 1967'.[5] Subsequestly many souvenir sheets were issued, on many themes mostly perforated.

Other souvenir sheets[edit]

On 10 February 1981, a four stamp Surcharged souvenir sheet on 'Quadrupeds of Sri Lanka' was issued. The 4 stamps in the sheet were surcharged at the issue.[5]

A practice of issuing souvenir sheets containing the Wesak stamps started from year 1981.[5]

On 21 October 1981 a souvenir sheet was issued to mark the Sri Lankan visit of Queen Elizabeth and was the first souvenir sheet issued to mark the visit of a distinguished foreign head of state.[5]

On 2 December 1982 a souvenir sheet was issued to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the 1st postage Stamp of Sri Lanka. This was the 1st souvenir sheet of 2 stamps of different denominations; 50 cents and 2.50 rupees with a sheet value of Rs. 5.[5]

On 1 April 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1st postage stamp of Sri Lanka a souvenir sheet was issued in both perforate and imperforate types.[5]

All the souvenir sheets issued so far were rectangular in shape. The first irregular shape souvenir sheet was issued on 22 May 2001 on 'Seashells of Sri Lanka' for the World Biodiversity Day. The sheet was in the shape of a seashell.[7]

Present-day souvenir sheets[edit]

Now, Sri Lanka issues several souvenir sheets annually. A souvenir sheet is almost always issued with Wesak and Christmas stamps.[8] Sometimes, choosing one stamp from a set of stamps, a small miniature sheet, containing that single stamp is issued. Because they are attractive, they have become favourites among collectors.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rossiter, Stuart & John Flower. The Stamp Atlas. London: Macdonald, 1986, p.239. ISBN 0-356-10862-7
  2. ^ Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  3. ^ Mihira Children's Newspaper, Sri Lanka. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Anura Samaraweera (May 2009). "Ape Muddara Sihiwatana Pathrika" [Our Souvenir Sheets]. Navayugaya Sinhala Monthly Magazine (in Sinhala). 53 (09): 80. ISSN 1391-3034.
  6. ^ Philatelic Bureau, Sri Lanka Post (April 2008). Muddara Lokayata Pivisemu (Lets Enter Stamp World) (in Sinhala) (3rd ed.). Philatelic Bureau, Sri Lanka. p. 8. ISBN 978-955-9482-05-5.
  7. ^ Anura Samaraweera (October 2009). "2006 Vasaren Pasu Sihiwatana Pathrika" [Souvenir Sheets After Year 2006]. Navayugaya Sinhala Monthly Magazine (in Sinhala). 54 (02): 80. ISSN 1391-3034.
  8. ^ Anura Samaraweera. Mihira Children's Newspaper. Mihira. Missing or empty |title= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help); |article= ignored (help)
  9. ^ Philatelic Bureau, Sri Lanka Post. Muddara Vinodanshayata Athwelak ( A Help to Philately ) Leaflet (in Sinhala). Philatelic Bureau, Sri Lanka.

Further reading[edit]

  • Crofton, C.S.F. The Fiscal and Telegraph Stamps of Ceylon. Ed. B. Gordon Jones. London: Bridger & Kay for The Philatelic Society of India, 1911.
  • Rodrigo, Chandra, Rodrigo's Catalogue of Ceylon/Sri Lanka Postal Stationery Part I - Air Mail Letter Sheets, Dr Chandra Rodrigo, 2008
  • Rodrigo, Chandra, Rodrigo's Catalogue of Ceylon/Sri Lanka Postal Stationery Part II - Postal Cards, Letter Cards, Letter Sheets, Wrappers, P.T.P.O. Wrappers, Dr Chandra Rodrigo, 2010, 224 pages, ISBN 978-955-50-8901-2
  • Proud, Edward B., The Postal History of Ceylon, Proud-Bailey Co Ltd, 2006, ISBN 1872465390