Govt. Rajah Mirasdar Hospital (RMH) and Eye Hospital, Thanjavur- a legacy of Thanjavur Maratha Bhonsle Dynasty !!

Thanjavur  Municipality came into being in 1866  under the  British Raj to improve the amenities for the people - drainage facilities, better roads, supply of potable water, etc.,to the town, etc.  In the wake of increasing population of the town many  diseases had  impacted the health of the people, so starting a hospital became a necessity to help  the common people. 

The  District collector and Thanjavur District Board President  H.S.Thomas 1874 to March 1877 in  1879 laid the foundation stone for a self contained hospital  with buildings for wards, operation theatre, outdoor facilities for visiting patients and a medical dispensary to keep keep in tune with latest developments in medicine.

In 1880  the first  hospital was reopened to public called Raja Mirasdar r hospital to offer free health services to the people. Several single story wards with tiled slanting roofs were built into several wards over a period  of time right along the present hospital road stretching  from  Gandhiji road (near clock tower and ophthalmic hospital) up to  the Big temple road on the west. The cost of construction was borne through public subscription.  Even today the  emergency  and OP ward  (opened in 1898) is popularly  known as 'Thomas Hall' and it offered  emergency medical services for more than 130 years, for the people of Thanjavur and surrounding towns. The buildings were constructed under the guidance of Sir Sullivan Thomas,

People of  Thanjavur may not know the historical fact about the now popular  RMH and the ground where it is functioning now.  The place where RMH is standing was known as the Bagh, once a sprawling  beautiful  garden (Bagh) with various trees and flowering plants. The entire stretch of the garden was  owned by the Thanjavur Maratha Bhonsle  family.  

Ranee Kamatch Bai,Tanjore Maratha dynasty

According to a  senior  doctor, Dr. R. Krishnamurthy,  ''the R.M. Hospital  was built on  vast   land donated by Rani Kamatchi Bai Saheba (1852-60 "died in 1892) , grand daughter of Rajah Serfoji II''. Rajah Serfoji, the then ruler not only  practiced 'Native Medicine and Ophthalmology, but also had a good collection of books on medicine in the famous Saraswati Mahal Library which is in the Aranmanai premise.'  He patronised native medicine - Siddha, Ayurveda and Unani. Apart,  he also introduced the European system of medicine in Thanjavur from 1810 onwards. He  founded an institution 'Nava Vaithiya Kalanithi Sala' in 1827. Dhanvantri hall was his medical centre, and it acted as medical research centre in Thanjavur.

After Raja's death his descendants continued the  Arokya Sala services for a few decades and later by Raja Sertoli's grand daughter Ranee  Kamatchi Bai Saheba.  Being a compassionate royal woman of charitable disposition,  she  granted  40 acres of   land opposite to Big Temple (present RMH hospital) to build the hospital. No doubt the RMH is a a surviving legacy of the Thanjavur  Maratha family. The queen's monetary contribution was Rs.30000, a huge sum in those days,  the rest of the construction cost Rs.66000 was met by donations from prominent landlords of Thanjavur district such as Poondi  Veeraiya Vandayar, Thiruppanandal Kasi Mutt,  Kabisthalam Duraisamy Moopanar, Poraiyar Thavasimuthu Nadar and many others.  Hence it was named Raja Mirasdar Hospital (RMH).   Managed by the Madras Presidency Govt.,  Tanjore District Board and Chatram  Administration, the hospital initially  had 144 beds for  in-patients under the management of  District Medical officer (DMO).  

The hospital is still functioning  in the old  limestone- sand mortar masonry building with Madras ceiling  and independent wards with Mangalore tiled roof. There  are several spacious and airy  wards with tiled slanting roof and windows of similar design style.  A common wide  passage with covered tiled ceiling is built  through out, connecting all  wards. These independent wards were built over a period of time, stretching the entire Hospital road  from the Ranee's clock tower on the east to  the parking lot on the west side  across the  Big temple.  

The wards are made of thick walls  with high tiled roof  supported by quality wooden (mostly teak wood) rafters and beams. The doors are large and wide. The window doors were levure type with wide sunshade to cut down heat and to prevent rain waters.  The  thick masonry  walls with lime-sand mortar, high tiled roof with wood cover  and spacious windows keep the interior cool during hot summer season.  Besides,  wards are surrounded by landscaped greenery with numerous trees.

 I understand most of the wards underwent major repair work and replacement of roof tiles after 1952 cyclone that had  caused severe damages in the delta region. During that time countless big trees all along the hospital road  were uprooted. So were the zinc roofing sheets of many movie theaters and from this one could understand the severity of the cyclone.

In  those days smallpox was the most dreaded  disease - contagious, deadly and disfiguring and   killing people all over the world.; out of 10 patients, 3 would die.  The discovery of vaccination against small pox by the British doctor Edward Jenner in 1796 was  a blessing in disguise and countries in North America, South America etc.,  started using it.  There was  an unprecedented global immunization campaign against smallpox .  

Maratha kingdom

When vaccination against  smallpox was introduced in the RMH, natives who believed in siddha treatment etc., were  reluctant  and objected to it initially.  To meet the health care demands of the people RMH opened two dispensaries  one at Karunthattankudi and the other one at Manombuchavadi  and they were run by popular doctors of bygone days  P. Narayana  Rao and  Dr. K. Anantharaman. 

Natives of Thanjavur will be surprised to know that there was a government run medical school functioning on the RMH premises between 1880 to early 1900s offering LMP certificates to limited students less than 20. The young physicians were trained in all aspects of health care.   The Prince of Wales - (later King Edward VII), on a long visit to India in 1875, advised  the British Raj  to open  medical  schools to train doctors. Accordingly,  medical schools came up  in six places  across  India including Thanjavur, Nagpur, Madurai, Visakhapatnam, Royapuram (Chennai) and Calicut and were authorized to issue 'Licentiate Medical Practitioner' (L.M.P). The schools came up to commemorate  the Prince of Wales' (future British king Edward VII) visit to India. In  1933  the medical school  was closed for unknown reasons.

Govt. Eye Hospital Thanjavur.

Above image: Thanjavur RMH Eye hospital, on Gandhiji road is one of the oldest eye hospitals in the world that came up in the colonial period. It is housed in a 100 plus year old colonial   building and in 2019 it completed 100 years of its existence..........

George Goschen Gov. of Madras

Above image:  George Joachim  Goschen  (2nd viscount Goschen  Hawkhurst), Conservative British Parliamentarian and the Gov. of Madras from 1924 to 1929. He was involved in the early development of Loyola college, Madras and renamed SPG college to Bishop Heber College, Trichy, TN...........

Yet another historical fact is it was in 1919  an  Eye Hospital was opened  in a colonial building built on the land donated by Rani Kamatchi Bai of the Maratha royal family. It  was opened to public in 1926 by George Joachim  Goschen  (2nd viscount Goschen  Hawkhurst), Governor of  Madras Presidency.  It was on 13 December  1919 the foundation stone was laid  for the  Ophthalmic ward  by Sir. E. H. Wallace, ICS, Judge and  Collector of Tanjore. The building is 102 years old and as part of Smart City project, the old building will be restored back to old glory. Further,  a sum of Rs. 16.47 crore  is already allotted by the government to construct a  Regional Eye Care Center with  120 bed block to house the center. Though functioning under the Ophthalmology Department of Thanjavur Medical College, the Eye hospital is part of RMH.  It is the third oldest Eye hospital in the world. Thanjavur medical college after Madurai Medical college came up in the early 1960s and it evolved from the RMH hospital, With the increase in population, the establishment of the TMC was a boon to the people of Thanjavur and countless villages nearby.

(I found the post by  Shri AYSP. Anthonysamy MABL in the Facebook quite useful and informative.; unfortunately I could not find  relevant images on the RMH old buildings).