Later the Portuguese settled down in Goa and started a colonial empire. During their stay in India, British visitors used to come into India through Goa. Of those some were said to be doctors who set up some sort of medical practice whenever opportunity arrived.
Establishment of English Medicines in West Bengal
Calcutta is said to be the 6th capital of Bengal. There was a hospital at Calcutta and it was known as the "Devil’s Pig Stye".
Jahanara was the most favourite daughter of the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. She sustained severe burns on April 6, 1644. Her dress caught fire. Maid-servants tried to extinguish the flames, but both they and the princess were severely burnt. She was in great suffering for many months, and at times her life was despaired of. The Emperor was very anxious for her recovery. The Court was in turmoil, and the entire populace offered constant prayers for her recovery. The most famous physicians were sent for from all over the country. The well-known story of the visit to Delhi of Gabriel Broughton, The surgeon of the East India Company’s ship "Hopewell" relates to this period. It is established that Broughton once went to Delhi. Broughton, who had been sent for to treat the princess, was more successful than the other physicians who were in attendance upon her. Jahanara gradually gained strength, and in a few months she recovered completely. The gratitude of Shahjahan knew no bounds, and he asked the doctor to name his own reward. Broughton asked nothing for himself, but with noteworthy patriotism, prayed that favour be shown to the English traders in Bengal, who, at that time were labouring under considerable disadvantages. Shahjahan gladly acceded to this request, and when Broughton left the capital he carried with him an ‘Imperial Order’, which conferred on the East India Company the monopoly of the foreign trade with Bengal and which granted to its representatives complete freedom of movement, and every commercial facility throughout the Mughal Empire. Broughton proceeded to Rajmahal, which was then the capital of Bengal, and there he was received with the highest honours by Prince Shuja, the second son of the Emperor, who was the viceroy of the province. The prince was suffering from a troublesome ailment, and Broughton also succeeded in curing him. In consequence of this, the Prince gave the East India Company permission to establish a factory at Balasore in the year 1652.
Use of English Medicines in Other Parts of India
M de Thevenot, a French narrator, arrived in India from Basra on board the ship "Hopewell" on the 6th of November 1665. He extensively travelled through India and made some observations on the medical and sanitary system prevalent during the period. On reaching the city of Ahmedabad he saw a hospital for animals like sick birds, oxen, camels, horses and other beasts. In the city of Jehanabad he saw a hospital for apes.
There were also many physicians for human treatment who were derived mainly from the business community. Many of them were very skilful in their trade and amongst their remedies cauterisation and blood-letting were very often followed. Among the Brahmans there were many doctors for the general public who understood medicine, besides astrology and mathematics. In the city of Cochin near Calicut he saw several men afflicted with a disease which caused ‘Elephantine Swelling’ of their legs.
English Doctors in India
One of the earliest English doctors to visit India was Dr John Freyr, who came through Goa in 1675.
The contemporary Portuguese doctors of Goa were aware of 4 types of colics along with looseness of the bowels which they termed as ‘Mordechin’. In his opinion it was nothing but Cholera. In severe cases death was the only outcome. Some doctors used rhubarb with cumin seeds, lemon water or rose water for treatment. The local people prescribed rice water along with sour milk.
Dr John Francis Gemelli Careri came to India as a traveller through the port of Daman on the 11th of January, 1695. He was a doctor by profession. The physicians who came from Europe in those days came in close contact with their Indian counterparts to orientate themselves with the local diseases. He also came across a hospital for birds and beasts. He suggested that a man must have to be very regular in his eating habits to save himself from Mordechin.
In August 1705 a British surgeon was appointed to assist Dr Warren and in October 1707 when it was resolved to build a hospital because the sick and dying were superabundant. On the 27th December, 1711, William Hamilton was appointed second surgeon at Calcutta. He had been in request at the Mughal’s camp and court. At first, he was ordered to give medicine to the high custodian, with whom he took up his residence, but whose distemper he pronounced incurable. In August, on his return to Delhi, King Farrukhsiyar was found to be suffering from swellings in the groin and put himself in Hamilton’s hands with the most beneficial results.
There were some other surgeons, like, Phillip Richardson, the Factory Surgeon, and John Parney, the Assistant Surgeon, being both in very bad health, were given their discharge in order that they might try to go back to England.
In 1757, a settlement fell prey to a severe epidemic. Holwell’s name was immortalised by the "Black Hole Tragedy", in which several hundred English people died of ‘Asphyxiation’. Doctors were few and badly paid and badly educated; the two eminent doctors were Zephaniah Holwell and Fullarton. In 1762 another epidemic visited the settlement which is said to have carried away 50,000 blacks and 800 Europeans.
Ancient History of India
Vedic Civilisation in India
Traditional Indian Medicines
(Last Updated on : 09-06-2016)