The use of pigeons to carry messages in India dates back to pre Christian times, there are in fact references to such messages used during the rule of Mauryas in the third Century B.C.
During the 14th & 15th Centuries Royal messages were regularly sent by pigeon, and the famous 16th Century romance between the dancing girl Anarkali and Prince Saleem (the proposed marriage of whom started a small war and ended with the unfortunate girl buried alive) saw love letters regularly flown between the tragic lovers!
It wasn’t until 1931 that we see official missives carried in an organised fashion with the involvement of entrepreneurs and postal officials. On 18th February 1931 a special flight by 42 pigeons carried small messages (between 2 and 8 per bird) folded into tiny aluminium containers over the 132 miles between Asansol and Calcutta. On arrival they were transferred into special covers and sent to their final destinations.
During the 1930’s & 1940’s there were just seven such events. One, on 6th April 1941, was organised by the Royal Indian Navy during the Second World War in order to raise money for the Royal Indian Navy War Purpose Fund. About 250 pigeons flew from Kalyan to Bombay, a distance of about 30 miles, each carrying eight printed messages from R. Lumley (governor of Bombay) to Vice-admiral H. Fitzherbert (Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy). These messages were sold, each priced 2r to the public and enclosed in special printed envelopes bearing a stamp cancelled by special red postmark “Kalyan First Pigeon Missive 6th April 1941”.