07 March 2012

Indian theme on foreign stamps….


Afanasy Nikitin - First Russian to visit India



Afanasy Nikitin was a Russian merchant from the 14th century to travel to and document his visit to India. He described his trip in a narrative known as The Journey Beyond Three Seas.

In 1466, Nikitin left his hometown of Tver on a trip to India. He travelled crossing the Caspian Sea, then the Arabian Sea, by crossing the Black Sea to India

During his trip, Nikitin studied the population of India, its social system, government, military (he witnessed war-games featuring war elephants), its economy, religion, lifestyles, and natural resources. The abundance and trustworthiness of Nikitin's factual material provide a valuable source of information about India at that time. On his way back to Tver, Nikitin died.

In 1955, the local authorities of Tver erected a bronze monument to Afanasy Nikitin on the bank of the Volga River. There is a folk legend, that this statue was raised because Nikita Khrushchev upon visiting India, told Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that there was a statue of Nikitin in Russia when in fact there was not (Nehru had asked if the Russians had honored the first Russian to visit India). So as not to be proven a liar, Khrushchev phoned back to Russia demanding that a statue of Nikitin be built immediately, before Nehru's state visit to Russia.

In 2000, a black obelisk was erected in Nikitin's honor at Revdanda, 120 km south of Mumbai, the probable location where he first set foot in India.

In 2006, the Indian organization "Adventures & Explorers," with the support of the Embassy of India in Moscow and the Tver Regional Administration sponsored the "Nikitin Expedition", in which 14 travellers set out from Tver to retrace Nikitin's journey through Russia, the Middle East, and Central Asia to India. The expedition lasted from 12 November 2006 to 16 January 2007. The Indian national newspaper, The Hindu, filed several reports of the expedition's progress. After reaching India, two members of the "Nikitin Expedition" set out in March 2007 from Mumbai in SUVs to retrace Nikitin's travels around India itself. The Calcutta Telegraph filed a report on its progress in one of its March editions.


Russia released stamps on Nikitin in 1965 & 2005.


The statue was featured on a Russian postage stamp in 2005 commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the establishment of the Tver region (oblast). Nikitin was also featured on a coin commemorating the 525th anniversary of his journey.

- Kenneth Sequeira, Dubai (UAE)

Email : kenneth.sequeira@hotmail.com

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