The history of Kozhikode has two storylines. One, propagated by those
from other lands; deferentially, perhaps even unquestioningly
accepted and imbibed by the denizens of the city. A myth. And the other? Drawn from
the dusty pages of recorded history.
Myth: An ancient age. A
seafaring merchant reaches the coastal sands of Kozhikode. During an audience with the
erstwhile sovereign, the traveller requests that a consignment of
jars filled with pickled food be entrusted with the royal house for
safekeeping until his return from the next voyage. The merchant’s son returns
the following year to reclaim them from the ruler’s custody. The king knowing only too
well that the jars in fact contained hidden gold, returns the entire
The young merchant proclaims: “This is the harbour of
17th century European voyager Pyrad De Laval (1607)
writes: “Nowhere in
India does peace and tranquillity abound as in Kozhikode. And not least on account of
the innate natural beauty and prosperity; those of many religious
faiths and independent beliefs coexist here in amity, interacting
seamlessly with each other. The rulers seek not to
restrict or govern religious convictions in their land. It is not uncommon to see
those of many faiths living together under a same roof”.
The passage of
time saw Arabs’ ‘Qualiqut’ make way for the
institutions (including the university) continue to bear the latter
name with all its colonial connotations. Nevertheless, it is the name
‘Kozhikode’ that evokes glamour, sanctity and romance; it is this
name entwined with history, culture, myth and legend.
‘The land that lies within
earshot distance of a rooster’s crow from the Thali
– may be all there is to this city’s name. Then again, historians may
well conclude that it was the region comprising the Koyil grounds (Kovil = palace) between
Cannanore road and Oyitty road, stretching all the way from Palayam
road to Mananchira, that eventually came to be known as
Kozhikode. Victory in
war saw the Samoothiri
(Zamorin) take Velapuram fort, convert it into his palace and
thus immortalise his connection with the city’s name forever.
nonetheless compels us to delve further into times past.
11th century to 12th century AD. Rama Varma Kulasekharan
Cheraman Perumal chooses to convert to Islam and embarks on holy
pilgrimage to the Mecca.
Manavikraman and his henchmen from Eranad / Nediyirippu
principality (near Kondotty of present day) helps thwart the attack
of Krishna Raya’s army.
(Another version of the story has it that the brothers
Maanichan and Vikkeeran were the main architects of the victory).
Even as the royal
houses of Parappanad, Valluvanad and Vettathunad rapidly achieve
commercial prosperity as a result of geographical access to maritime
commerce, Nediyiruppu principality literally suffocates from being
cut off from the access to the Arabian Sea.
As a token
of his appreciation, the triumphant Cheraman Perumal bequests
Kozhikode and Chullikkad to the Nediyirippu Eradis with his blessings,
thus proclaiming: “To die for, to slay for, to conquer: Long may you
comes as little surprise that Porlathiri, the ruler of
Polanad would view the new developments across the borders of his
lay as a threat to his own commercial interests, leading eventually
to long years of military conflict. Victory for the Eradis of Nediyiruppu over
the Porlathiri ensued.
From their base at Velapuram fort, the Eradis built the palace,
established their royal court and renamed it:
records confirm that four separate provinces or amshams were in existence:
Kasaba, Nagaram (city), Kariyakkunnu and Kalaththinkunnu. The land gifted by Cheraman
Perumal to the Eradis lay
within the Kasaba area.
Kozhikode which skirted the banks of Kallai river bestowed
geopolitical and tactical advantage, while Chullikkad which lay
north to the present day Puthiyapalam was an established commercial
hub. Salt pans in this
region provided the thrust for the main produce, sea salt. And by 12th
century BC, Kozhikode had become the Samoothiri’s seat of
did the term Saamoothiri
merchants called Eradis
by the name Saamiri.
Swami Thirumulpad may
have evolved into Saamoothirippad and
eventually into Saamoothiri. Alternately, Saamudri or ‘Lord of the
seas’ (Samudram = ocean)
may have evolved with the passage of time to Samoothiri.
12th and 13th centuries: Arabian trade links
flourished and influenced all walks of contemporary life. The Vattezhuthu scripts that
survive to this day on the walls of Muchunthi Palli (Palli = mosque) is a tribute
to the harmonious relationship that existed between the Zamorins of
Kozhikode and the intrepid Arab traders. These 13th
century edicts from an age otherwise represented by few surviving
stone inscriptions bear the royal proclamation of “a daily allowance of one naazhi
of rice and decreed land in Kunnamangalam area towards the upkeep of
the mosque”; and exist as indelible historical testaments to the
religious concord that existed therein. There is ample evidence that
Chinese traders frequented Kozhikode during the course of their
voyages in the 13th and 14th
Ma Huan from
Chengho’s chinese trading fleet braved the seas seven times to reach
Kozhikode and provides us with excellent descriptions of the
city. The China street
near Tagore Centenary Hall and Silk Street in Valiangadi bear
testimony to the Chinese connections of yore.
Gama’s historical landing on the bright sands of Kozhikode in 1498
illuminated the twilight of 15th century. History pauses, bookmarks
and redefines itself from this point in time.
articles by Dr MR Raghava Warrier, Dr MGS Narayan and Dr NM
Namboothiri in the souvenir which commemorated the Malabar Mahotsav of 1993 are
hereby gratefully acknowledged.)
does history record of the medical profession and its traditions in
this hallowed city?
the Physician who traditionally tends to ignore the march of social
history predictably yet again failed to record the age and times of
his own profession. And
scanty records remain thereof. Yet again, we must attempt to
piece together the scattered jigsaw pieces, of words that linger as
memories… the written, the spoken, the recalled and the
newsletters, souvenirs, articles… penned by the likes of Dr CK
Ramachandran, Dr AJ Herman, the late Dr MG Sahadevan; Dr A
Ramanathan, Dr CK Jayaram Panicker and Dr K Madahavan Kutty, who
have spent long years of their lives in this city: from these shall
we attempt to compile our memoirs.
be claimed that modern medicine reached the shores of India when
Albequerque landed in Goa in 1510, twelve years after Vasco Da
However, the first hospital opened its gates in Goa in the
year 1591. Another
century passed before the first Medical school was established
(1703). The Dutch, the
French and the English contributed to the spread of modern medicine
in subsequent decades.
When Calcutta Medical College opened in 1835, it was the
first of its kind in India and indeed the whole of Asia. Soon after medical schools
were set up in Madras (1835), Bombay (1845) and Amritsar
(1860). Many more years
were to pass before Malabar had its first medical school.
in 1882, a major boating accident on the Koduvally River at Nettur
near Tellicherry resulted in the tragic loss of many lives. Liben Der Fur, a Basel
missionary who lived nearby saved many survivors by administering
First Aid as well as he could.
This episode proved to be a turning point in his life: Liben
Der Fur set off to London, qualified in Medicine and returned to
Kozhikode in 1886 to set up practice in the city. By 1892, he had established
the Mission Hospital which was the first of its kind in the
region. He also took
the lead in setting up the first Leprosy Hospital in Chevayoor in
1901 on four acres of donated land. By then, a Government
Headquarters Hospital had also come into being at the site of the
present day Education Offices east of Mananchira.
laid to start a medical school in Malabar under the auspices of
Madras Presidency well before the outbreak of World War I. The Rev. Dr Robert Herman
(The illustrious father of Dr MJ Hermen, who rose to become a doyen
of medical profession in Kozhikode) came to the Mission Hospital
after qualifying from Miraj Medical school established by Basel
Mission in Maharashtra state.
The animosity generated in the wake of the First World War
against Germans caused brief interruption to the operation of
Mission Hospital during this period.
1920s, the British Government started a Medical school near
Headquarters building mentioned above housed the hospital section
and the Training College of present day became the seat of the
medical school. The
late Prof. MG Sahadevan who was well versed with the history of this
institution would bristle with righteous indignation whenever a
claim was voiced that medical education in Kerala had its historical
origins in Trivandrum.
We know of
at least one graduate of the Mananchira Medical School who made his
mark as a family physician in Kozhikode, Dr A Balakrishnan
Nair. In the 1930s, the
Rajaji ministry abolished the MLP course and all medical schools
(barring Royapuram Medical School which was later to become Stanley
Medical College) ceased to function. This marked the end for
school. L Vaidyanathan,
Mangesh Rao and Narasimha Aiyer were amongst the eminent teachers
who had taught here along with the British District Medical
1940s saw the heydays of Family Practice in Kozhikode. In1930, Dr VA Raman
established Ashoka Hospital - perhaps the first private hospital in
the region. Meanwhile,
Dr A Balakrishnan Nair in the north of the city, Dr A Narayana Sami
in the central town area and Dr CK Menon to the south had laid equal
and honourable claims to the patient clientele of Kozhikode, despite
the lack of facilities for inpatient hospital care:
recalls Dr Ramanathan and Dr Madhavan Kutty.
It was only
later that Karunakara Pharmacy established by Dr A Balakrishnan
Nair, an alumnus of Calicut Medical College, started offering
inpatient care. Dr
Balaram who ran a clinic in SM Street had meanwhile opened Rajendra
Nursing home. Passing
decades saw the emergence of new medical institutions within the
city area by Dr Muhammed Koya (Calicut Nursing home), Dr Appu Nair
(Haridas clinic), Dr MK Koya (Koyas Hospital) and Dr Subrahmaniam
(Manohar Hospital). Dr
PB Menon, (father of Dr KB Venugopal) lays claim to being the first
specialist physician in Kozhikode; and as an ophthalmologist
conducted the first corneal transplant in Malabar. The trend towards specialist
medical care continued with the arrival of the TB specialist, Dr PC
incredible progress made in the private hospital sector in the 1960s
and 70s is well known.
However, the government hospitals continued as the three
beacons of hope, providing care to citizens of all social strata:
the Beach Hospital overlooking the majestic Arabian Sea, Calicut
Medical College Hospital and the Kottaparamba Hospital which
overlies the site of the original Koyil Kotta.
Panicker recalls Dr AB Das in animated conversation about a hospital
which existed in Chalappuram in the 1930s. People’s Hospital, which has
found scant mention in spite of its historical origins, was modelled
after the famed Motilal House at Allahabad. Freedom fighters who bore
the brunt of police brutality were denied medical treatment. Even those in the medical
profession who tried to offer them care were subjected to
citizens of the day like Manjunatha Rao took the lead in setting up
People’s Hospital in the face of such antipathy and discrimination
from the officialdom.
clinical practice in 1953, Dr Ramanathan became the most senior of
general practitioners in Kozhikode. He started a nursing home in
1973, unable to cope with the barrage of requests for home visits:
he celebrated the golden jubilee of his illustrious medical career
in 2003. The
fascinating fabric of medical history is further
interwoven into by the lives of many others: Dr Mriga Seth,
Dr CV Narayan Aiyer, Dr Aiyyathan Gopalan (the superintendent of the
Mental Hospital, a literary connoisseur and father of late Dr AV
Subbarao), Major Dr Achuthan, Dr UG Menon, Dr T Balakrishnan and Dr
AB Das, to name a few.
end this story without recalling the name of Dr AR Menon who made
his mark on the history of Malabar by becoming
instrumental in the establishment of Calicut Medical
College. Although he was never to
practice in Calicut, he became the Health Minister in EMS
Namboodiripad’s cabinet in 1957 that brought the second medical college
of the state to Calicut.
years on, Calicut Medical College which lays proud claim to having
moulded thousands of medical graduates dispersed all over the globe
and became the adopted home of many a teacher of medical science,
commemorates the Golden Jubilee of its establishment. We rest assured that future
generations will cherish the memories, celebrate the traditions and
carry on the successful journey forward.
Translated from original
Arun Dev Vellore
MBBS (Calicut) MRCP
Birmingham, United Kingdom