I love India. Who doesn’t, as it’s an amazing country with such a rich history. There is absolutely no way to write about the history of Homeopathy in India in a short article, as it will surely be incomplete. However, here I wish to briefly share a fraction of how homeopathy began in India. I would like to bring to your attention the following historic affirmation addressed by the legendary Dr. P. Majumdar (founder of the Calcutta School of Homeopathy, established in 1883), from Calcutta of India in the year 1893:
“Very recently we began to teach Homeopathy in India. We have a school of medicine, and we have also established a Homeopathic hospital only last year.
I wish to say that what we practice in India is pure Homeopathy; that is, such as Hahnemann taught the purest in the world. People have great belief in the system of Homeopathy, so when they require their treatment to be Homeopathic, they want pure and true Hahnemann from beginning to end.”
Dr. Majumdar, continued:
“There is still a great difficulty in getting Homeopathic help in other parts of the country. There are only a few who are practicing in some of the big cities of India. In Calcutta we have now about fourteen Homeopathic physicians, about another dozen distributed throughout the whole of so vast a country and so vast a population, and our works are extensive. In fact, you may say that it is like one drop in the ocean. But we have our ancient medical literature and we have our ancient medical system to be invoked in my country at the present day. We are told that one of the gods is the promulgator of medical science in the world, and he took some poisonous substance into his body and made it a good medicine. That is to say, he was not killed by that poison, but he became immortal, and he made that substance, which is the deadliest poison, one of the best medicines in the world. This, to my mind, shows the truth of what Hahnemann has said, that the deadliest poisons may be the best medicine if we can know how to prepare them and how to use them as medicinal substances. Arsenic, for instance, is one of the best medicines in Homeopathy, but it is one of the deadliest poisons that we know of.
We have very few books on Homeopathy in India; that is to say, very few books written by my countrymen there in English or in foreign languages. We have recently done something about this literature of Homeopathy in India by publishing a few books in our own language, and in this way we are trying to popularize Homeopathy among the vast population of India, andI think some day we will be able to say that we have done much for the cause of Homeopathy in that vast country. India is a very ancient and magnificent country. It had attained its highest state of civilization long prior to all the civilized countries of the world at the present day. It is therefore natural to infer that laws governing health and disease must have received a due share of attention at the hands of its people.”
Furthermore, regarding the ancient story about “promulgator of medical science”, Dr. Majumdar explained in his address that it was believed Mohadwa, the great Hindu deity, was the promulgator of the science of medicine. He was dealing with the dead bodies and handling all sorts of poisons. The truth is that he was busy with examining the human frame and searching after the medical virtues of all substances. From him Dhannantori got his inspiration of medical science and practiced it for the preservation of the human race.
There is a story in our books, said Dr. Majumdar, that on one occasion all the minor gods and goddesses were eager to become immortal, and for this purpose they were agitating the ocean to get Amrita, the principle of immortality. But instead of getting that, they procured Garal, the deadliest of poisons. Nobody ventured to accept it; Mohadwa came to their help, he turned that substance into Amrita by swallowing the poison, and became immortal. We Homoeopaths can find out a great deal of truth in it. Mohadwa took the poison into his healthy body, “proved” it, as we say, and reduced it into the life-giving principle of medicine. We presume, however that this story may be unreliable, but the law of Homoeopathy which the immortal Hahnemann discovered so recently, was known to our ancient sages in India. This very principle of similia similibus was also embodied in one of our ancient medical works in the following passage that “poison is the cure for poison.”
In his declaration in 1893, Dr. Majumdar also acknowledged that the Homeopathic system engages the attention of India. He said: “People are convinced of the superiority of Homeopathic methods of cure in India. It was a significant fact in the history of Homeopathy in India that in 1835, Dr. Honigberger, a German doctor, came here to treat one of the princes of this country, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore, who was suffering from paralysis of the vocal cords. The case was declared hopeless by his physicians. Honigberger gave liquid Dulcamara to the prince, and he was much improved. This is the first drop of Homeopathic medicine administered to our countrymen.”
However, since the departure of Honigberger there was no advancement of Homeopathy till the year 1851, when Dr. Tonnere, a French physician, who proved Acalypha indica, the valuable medicine of phthisis pulmonalis (a tuberculosis of the lungs), came to Calcutta and began practicing Homeopathy. He was a favourite of the officials in India; so by the help of the Governor of Bengal, he established a Homeopathic hospital and charitable institution in Calcutta.
According to Dr. Majumdar, “Our wealthy and generous townsman, Baleu Rajendra Dutt, dissatisfied with the Allopathic treatment, began studying Homeopathy. By his energy and the judicious prescriptions of Dr. Tonnere many cures happened. At this time we are told that some of the most fatal cases given up by the Allopathic physicians were beautifully managed by these gentlemen. This is the first planting of Homeopathy in this country.”
Baleu Rajendra Dutt was a neighbour of Dr. Mohendra Lai Sircar (1833-1904), who was then a rising Allopathic physician. It was a curious fact that many of the cases given-up by Dr. Sircar were readily ameliorated and cured by Rajendra Dutt. This attracted the attention of Dr. Sircar, who was moved by the genuine superiority of Homeopathic methods of cure, and he openly declared his conviction in 1867. Dr. Sircar’s Allopathic friends and associates were much incensed at his conversion to Homeopathy, and he was banned from the Allopathic medical associations. Dr. Mahendra Lal Sircar was the founder of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in 1876. He devoted his whole life to teaching and spreading the principles of Homeopathy. The Calcutta journal of Medicine, edited by him, was started in 1868 for this purpose.
In 1865, Dr. Berigny, an eminent French Homeopath, came to Calcutta to practice Hahnemann’s system of medicine. He was very successful in his profession. In conjunction with Dr. Mohendra Lai Sircar and Baleu Rajendra Dutt, Dr. Berigny accomplished much towards the propagation of Homeopathy in India. At this time Dr. Bihari Lai Bhaduri, a graduate of the Calcutta Medical College, came to the field. He also was an intelligent physician and many believe that it was through the effort of Dr. Bihari Lai Bhaduri that Homeopathy gained a firm footing in India.
Another legend is Dr. Bijoy Kumar Bose (1879 – 1977), one of the greatest, who was also known as the “Indian Kent” due to his ability for accurate mental repertorisation. He was a student of Dr. J.T. Kent in U.S. He was the backbone of the Calcutta Homeopathic Medical College and Hospital. Dr. B. K. Bose trained most of the well known homeopathic teachers in India. He was also the personal physician of many members of the government. He lived his life in simplicity and modesty. He invested his money and his entire inherited fortune in his hospital and used it for the general public. One of his quotes is: “It is simple to be a successful physician, but difficult to be a good human.”
In 1880 another great doctor from India, Dr. D. N. Ray, also came to study Homeopathy in the U.S. He became a graduate of the New York Homeopathic Medical College and began practicing in India. Dr. Ray then became the president of the Calcutta school of Homeopathy.
In 1892, the Bhaduri Charitable Homeopathic Dispensary was established. The renowned Dr. Banerjee was the secretary of that institution. Since its establishment in June 1892, up to February of 1893, eight thousand patients received medical help and medicine. This dispensary has a branch in the crowded part of the city, under the supervision of Dr. B. V. Maitra, who used to supply all medicines himself. The students of the Calcutta School of Homeopathy had the opportunity of attending this homeopathic dispensary to practice their case taking.
Nowadays it is fair to say that homeopathy has gained a strong place in the health care system of India, thanks to the tireless efforts of the doctors mentioned above. The new generation of homeopaths in India are now contributing greatly to keeping homeopathy alive.
As always, God bless homeopathy and those who are devoted to this medical science!