The Pincode – The “Steering Wheel” of a Letter in the Indian Postal System

Example of a PIN: The PIN code of Ujjain in Ma...

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By Dr. K. Parameswaran

The author is Assistant Director, PIB,Madurai, India.

This article is in commemoration of India's PIN Code Week of 15th - 21st January, 2012.

Madurai, Jan 4, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) The small rectangular box, with six partitions, that appear on all postal articles in India is ignored by many and left unfilled by even more! However for the postal department, the small box represents nothing less than the “steering wheel” of a letter! The box is used to fill in the PIN code of the place to which the letter is being sent. What is the PIN code? How does it work?

What is a PIN code?

The PIN code is the abbreviation of Postal Index Number (PIN) code. This is a unique 6 digit code, allotted to all post offices that deliver mail in India. Since one code can relate only to one post office, the use of the code is the sure fast way of ensuring that the letter reaches the correct post office.

How does it work?

For the implementation of the PIN code system, the entire nation has been divided into eight PIN zones. The following table indicates the identification numbers and extent of each zone.




States Covered



 Delhi, Haryana, Punjab,

 Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir



 Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal



 Rajasthan and Gujarat



 Chattisgarh ,Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh 



 Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka



 Kerala and Tamil Nadu



 West Bengal, Orissa and North Eastern



 Bihar & Jharkand

As was indicated at the beginning, the PIN code is a six digit number. The first digit will indicate one of these zones. The second and third digits together indicate the district where in the delivery post office is situated. The next three digits will indicate the particular post office where the letter is to be delivered. In short, the first 3 digits together will indicate the sorting or revenue district where the letter is to be basically routed. The last 3 digits refer to the actual post office where the article is to be finally delivered.

For example, if one hails from Kozhikode, a city in Kerala, the PIN code for the post office in that area is 673 006. Here the first digit 6 indicates that the letter is headed for the sixth PIN zone – Tamil nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala. The digits seven and three (the second and third digits of the code) will show that the destination of the letter is more precisely situated in the Kozhikode (formerly Calicut) district of Kerala. The final three digits – 006 – will ensure that the letter gets routed to post office number 006 in Kozhikode – a small locality called Bilathikulam! A letter posted even in Alaska or Siberia – if it has sufficient postage stamps on it – will reach its destination if the PIN code is correctly indicated on the postal article!

Let us take another example. The PIN code for the Press Information Bureau in Madurai is 625 020. Here the first digit 6 again stands for the PIN zone – Tamil nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala. The next two digits – 25 – represent the District of Madurai, while the two final digits -20 - together represents the post office of Gandhi nagar, the delivery post office for PIB, Madurai!

Here it is also important to note that the number given to the Gandhi nagar post office in the city of Madurai in Tamil nadu is unique. No other post office in India will have this number. A check with the post PIN code directory will reveal that the delivery post offices in Mathura – the holy city in Uttar Pradesh (UP) – with which the temple city of Madurai is likely to be confused has a completely different PIN code – 281 001. Two stands for the PIN zone consisting of UP and Uttarkhand; 81 represents the district of Mathura while 001 stands fro Mathura Head Post office.

ZIP system in USA

ZIP codes are a system of postal code numbers used by the United States Postal Services (USPS) since 1963. The term ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan. It was chosen in the belief that it will suggest that the postal articles will travel more efficiently, and therefore more quickly, when senders use the code in the address. The basic format consists of five digits. An extended ZIP+4 code, introduced in the 1980s, includes the five digits of the ZIP code and four more digits that determine a more precise location than the ZIP code alone.

The United Kingdom system

The postal code system used in the United Kingdom is known as postcode. The code uses both alphabets as well as numerals. They were introduced by the British Royal Mail system over a 15-year period from 11th October 1959 to 1974.  A full postcode is known as a "postcode unit" and usually corresponds to a set of addresses or a single large delivery point.

Earlier, a system of postal districts was implemented in London and other large cities from 1857. In London this system was refined in 1917 to include numbered subdivisions, extending to the other cities in 1934. These earlier districts were later incorporated into the national postcode system.

Zonal System – a precursor

Attempts at streamlining the delivery system of postal articles in India have a considerably long history. One of the earliest attempts in this direction was taken in 1946 itself – the Delivery Zone Numbering System. Under this system, each delivery post office was allotted a distinctive number. It was first introduced for the major cities like Bombay, Culcutta, Delhi and Madras. The public were requested to note Zone Numbers after the name of city, where this system was adopted. In absence of such an indication, articles were liable to delay.

Postal Circles

The organization of postal circles was also an attempt to streamline the delivery system and prevent long delays.

When the Postal facilities were opened to public on 1st April 1774, there were 3 Postal Circles namely Bengal, Bombay and Madras. Bengal was catering whole of Eastern and Northern regions of British Empire. Madras was handling whole of Southern region and the rest was catered by Bombay.

After partition, Independent India had the following Postal Circles - Assam, Bengal, Bihar & Orissa, Bombay, Central, East Punjab, Madras and UP. Today, India has 20 Postal Circles - Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J & K, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, North Eastern, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and the Army Postal Service.

- PIB Features

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