The story of PB No. 9, the oldest postbox number active in Kerala

PB No. 9 has its roots in the Raj era of plantation life in Munnar.

October 17, 2020 11:28 pm | Updated October 18, 2020 08:32 am IST - IDUKKI

Post boxes inside the Munnar post office with PB No 9 marked in white.

Post boxes inside the Munnar post office with PB No 9 marked in white.

PB No. 9 (Postbox Number 9) has a rare significance in the history of postal services in the State. It is the oldest postbox number still active in Kerala and it has completed a century now.

PB No. 9 has its roots in the Raj era of plantation life in Munnar. Here, postal services were started to reach letters and material from Britain to the staff at its plantations in the present Devikulam taluk. Later, its services were extended to workers mostly brought from Tamil Nadu. In course of time, the post offices merged with India Post.

As per records, PB No 9 was started in 1920 and is still being used to provide service to the staff and family members of Kanan Devan Hills Plantation Ltd at a radius of 35 km from Munnar town.

Munnar postmaster K. Murugaiah says it is the oldest post box number in use in Kerala. It was discovered as part of an enquiry held in connection with the Postal Week celebrations.

The Munnar post office started functioning from the new building in 1932 and it was then under the Madurai division. As per records, post offices were started at Munnar and Devikulam in 1888 and 1892 respectively. The post office at Thalayar was started in 1898 and is still functioning from a British-era building at Thalayar in Devikulam taluk.

According to Mr. Murugaiah, Devikulam was the main town then and in old Munnar there was only one ‘satharam’ (lodge) and it was surrounded by plantations.

Kiran Mathew, a native of Devikulam, who has studied the British-era plantation history, says plantation workers still depend on postal services to keep in touch with their native places.

Mr. Mathew says there was an anchal path (path used by postal runners called anchalottakaran ) across the border with Tamil Nadu at Bodimettu. The British were keen on building a communication network in Munnar as it was required for the tea business. Tea prices were decided in London market and it was needed to be passed on to production units in Devikulam.

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