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- Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Bihar in the year 1873
- He grew up specializing in medicine and surgery
- The doctor is said to have saved millions of lives through curing a viral disease called Kala-Azar
August 22, 2017: A renowned and prominent name in the hall of fame list of Indian scientists is Upendranath Brahmachari who was famous in the field of medicine.
Dr. Brahmachari’s most important work during his lifetime was his discovery of Urea Stibamine, a treatment for the fatal disease called Kala-Azar.
BACKGROUND: Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari was born in Jamalpur, Bihar on 19th December 1873. At the time, Bihar and Assam were in shambolic states. But Dr. Brahmachari had a fairly secure growing up phase. His father, Dr. Nilmony Brahmachari, was a famous medical practitioner in the Indian as well as European communities. Dr. Nilmony Brahmachari worked as a physician in East Indian Railways.
Dr. Upendranath did his schooling from Eastern Railway’s Boys High School. He loved math and had excellent academic records. The young genius went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry and mathematics in 1893 from Hooghly Mohsin College. Further, Brahmachari did polymath. He got a Master’s degree in medicine from Kolkata’s Presidency College. His Ph.D. was a thesis on ‘Haemolysis’ which he earned in 1904.
CAREER: Upendranath Brahmachari began his career as a doctor in Kolkata under Sir Gerald Bomford. Impressed by the talent, in 1901 Sir Bomford offered Brahmachari, who was 27 at the time, to teach physiology in Dacca Medical School.
Later in 1905, Brahmachari was appointed as a teacher in medicine and physician at Kolkata’s Campbell Medical School. This is where Dr. Brahmachari made some of his remarkable and outstanding discoveries, most notably, the discovery of Urea Stibamine.
This discovery was to become a significant treatment for the fatal disease called Kala-Azar. Kala-Azar is a disease strictly limited to the Mediterranean as well as South Asian nations. Sand flies are known to transmit this disease. Various characteristics broadly include irregular fever, anemia, and enlarged liver and spleen. Kala-Azar was known as the second largest parasitic killer of the world, followed by Malaria.
A treatment for Kala-Azar existed at the time but it was not helping the rapid death rates due to the disease. Dr. Brahmachari had been devoting his time to finding a treatment that had little to no disadvantages but could not come up with anything.
In 1919, his breakthrough came knocking at the door. The Indian Research Fund Association had granted resources to Brahmachari for conducting more in-depth research for the treatment of the disease. With this help, in his Campbell Medical School lab, the Doctor discovered Urea Stibamine.
Kala-Azar today is a rare disease only present in a handful of remote places. Especially in Assam where the disease thrived, many lives were saved.
Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari instantly became a popular figure in the Indian science academia. His discovery was now successfully incorporated into the growing scientific knowledge in medicine. His masterpiece “Treatise on Kala-Azar” became an essential reference reading in medicine. Moreover, his other works include treatment of malaria, dermal leishmaniasis, quartan fever, blackwater fever, and more.
Brahmachari retired in 1927 but continued to participate in Kolkata’s cultural and humanitarian activities. He stayed connected to all literary and scientific organizations in Kolkata.
Achievements: The World’s Second Blood Bank which was formed in Kolkata was driven by the efforts of Dr. Brahmachari. He was also the Head of Department for Biochemistry in Kolkata’s University College of Science, where he was also the Honorary Professor of Biochemistry.
The Asiatic Society of Bengal awarded Upendranath Brahmachari with ‘Sir William Jones Medal’. He was also awarded the Griffith Memorial Prize by the University of Kolkata. The Kolkata School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene awarded the Doctor a Minto Medal.
He became the first Indian to be elected as the chairman of Managing body of Kolkata Branch of the Indian Red Cross Society.
For his numerous contributions to science, he was awarded the title of Rai Bahadur in 1924. The same year, Brahmachari was also awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind gold medal.
In the year 1929, the famous scientist was honored with being nominated for the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine and almost won India the first Nobel Prize in the category, however, it was won by Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins and Christiaan Eijkman for their detailed work on vitamins. Brahmachari was also conferred a knighthood by the British Government in 1934.
Brahmachari was also conferred a knighthood by the British Government in 1934.
Dr. Upendranath Brahmachari’s name comes along with Satyendra Nath Bose as two main figures during the Bengal Rennaissance.
Death: On 6th February 1946, Brahmachari passed away aged 72. For his contributions to the Kolkata society’s well-being, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation changed the name of Loudon street to D.R UN Brahmachari Street.
– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394
Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
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Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamor and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
ALSO READ: India's first Residential Transgender
Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.