Patna: Christmas and New Year’s cards in 1930s had a different artistic appeal, but World War II that broke out in 1939 impacted the way people exchanged greetings in India during the holiday season.
World War II took place from September 1939 to September 1945, meaning six times, Christmas and New Year were celebrated under the shadow of the deadly warfare that altered the course of history.
A family, resident of the old Patna, has found in its archives some rare season’s greeting cards of that period.
Perhaps, the most unique card among the collection is the one sent by the then ruler of erstwhile Burdwan Raj, Maharajadhiraja Bahadur Bijay Chand Mahtab, said Aditya Jalan, the current scion of the Jalan family of the legendary Quila House in Patna City.
“May Kalki bring Victory to the Allies, and Peace and Goodwill on earth, is the Christmas and New Year’s wish to you from Maharajadhiraja Bahadur of Burdwan,” reads the 1939 card sent to Rai Bahadur Radha Krishna Jalan, great grandfather of Aditya Jalan.
On the greetings page’s bottom left corner is printed, “Bijay Manzil Calcutta 1939/40”.
Bijay Manzil or Burdwan House is an exquisite mansion, built by the royal family as a residence in Calcutta (now Kolkata).
The cover of the card carries a sketch of ‘Kalki’ — tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu — riding a winged horse sitting on planet Earth and brandishing a sword with a halo over his head. ‘Kalki Avatar’ is written on a band across the planet.
Warplanes circle around him as he charges forward in the high heavens, as depicted on the cover.
The Allied Powers eventually won the war which came to an end soon after the dropping of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
Other season’s greetings cards in the archives, include those sent to R K Jalan by Maharaja of Cochin from Tripunittura Hill Palace in Cochin, Hathwa Raj of Bihar, Raja of Kollengode in Thrissur, all from 1937.
From the World War II era is another 1939 Christmas greetings card sent by Raja of Kanika in Orissa (now Odisha). A large black and white photo of an Art Deco building is printed on the left side of card, with a caption, ‘Kanika House – Hardinge Avenue, New Delhi’.
There is one sent by the Maharaja of Travancore with a sepia-toned photo of Kovalam beach on the facing side of the card.
Another interesting season’s greetings card is of 1938 sent by R K Jalan to a couple in Sussex, England, which was “returned to the sender”.
“We are lucky to see this rare card, as it was returned. It has not only Christmas and New Year’s greetings but also a whole collage of photos of the new Quila House, whose construction was completed the same year, spread over two pages,” Aditya said.
Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum, Baroda has shared a photo of a rare vintage Christmas and New Year’s greetings card of pre-1939 period from its collection related to the erstwhile royal family of the Gaikwads in Baroda, on its Instagram page to mark the holidays season.
“This specially commissioned stationary by Smythson, London bares a delicate wreath of mistletoe, the Yuvraj’s monogram of a famous aigrette and the Yuvrani’s initials of ‘SG’ on mother of pearl. The art of this mother of pearl embossing is now mystery even to Smythson,” reads a note attached to the post.
The card, on the page facing the printed greetings sent by the Yuvrani, has a sepia-toned photograph of the iconic Pratap Vilas Palace in Baroda (now Vadodara).
Aditya Jalan, 43, of the Quila House family says, specimens of rare artistic telegrams themed on Diwali, including a richly colourful one from 1930s, bearing the image of British coat of arms flanked by two women holding a plateful of ‘diya’ and sitting next to a ceremonial Indian lamp, embossed on the top portion, are also part of his collection.
“We had earlier found rare Durga Puja greetings cards from 1930s. These cards, printed for different festivities, and other archive material give us a different window to the era gone by,” he said.