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Tagore’s miraculous Panchatikta Panchan to cure students during Spanish Flu pandemic

4 June, 2020 02:47:11
Home / Tagore’s miraculous Panchatikta Panchan to cure students during Spanish Flu pandemic
Tagore’s miraculous Panchatikta Panchan to cure students during Spanish Flu pandemic

The date was May 29, 1918. A ship loaded with Indian troops from World War I anchored at the port of Bombay and with it arrived the infamous influenza virus, also known as the Spanish Flu that created another pandemic just 100 years ago. Soon, the virus spread like wildfire across Bombay and then to the rest of the country. The ‘war fever,’ as this new pandemic was then called, killed more than 18 million people until the end of 1920 in India alone, exceeding the number of lives lost in the World War I. A dearth of doctors and medicines made the already difficult situation worse. Victims died en masse without any help from any quarters. 

The fever found its way to Santiniketan and Rabindranath Tagore dealt with the pandemic in a unique way and succeeded in his venture as well! The poet had always been interested in Ayurvedic medicine. Now when the students were afflicted with influenza, he felt impelled to put his knowledge to the test for the sake of the Ashramites. He made an Ayurvedic antidote and fed it to the sick and was overjoyed when the results turned out to be positive and the condition of the convalescents improved dramatically. Shanta Devi, daughter of Ramananda Chattopadhyay, noted editor of Probashi wrote this incident in detail in her memoir, Punya Smriti.  

Rabindranath visited all the students suffering from influenza every day to inquire about their health and hygiene. He prepared an Ayurvedic concoction— the ‘Panchatikta Panchan.’ The medicine was prepared with extracts from different parts of five medicinal plants and included  neem-leaves, gulancha, nishinda (Nirgundi, or Vitex negundo),  teuri (roots of banana), and thankuni (Centella asiatica or Indian pennywort). These ingredients were measured and made into a fine paste and blended. This bitter Panchanwas was then administered to the ailing patients.

On January 1, 1919, the poet wrote a letter to Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose wherein he mentioned, “We are dealing with about 200 patients suffering from influenza here while the local hospital has no patients and the beds lie empty. This is a unique situation, one that I have never come across before. I wonder if the cause of this confidence emanates from the intake of the magical Ayurvedic Panchan.”

Story Tag:
  • Ayurvedic Medicine

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