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Dr Bhau Daji Lad
bhaudajilad.jpg

Bhau Daji was born on June 8, 1824 in a village called Manjre on the borders of Goa and Sawantwadi. His family hailed from Parse and his real name was Ramkrishna Vithal Parsekar. His father was a man of humble monetary means, a painter of clay models by profession and also a good poet.

Bhau received his early education in a local school and came to Bombay in 1833 with his father. He joined the Central Marathi School located on the campus, later known as Esplanade and at present as Azad Maidan under Narayan Shastri Puranik. After completing studies at this school, he joined English School in 1836 where he studied. He won prizes, scholarships and a gold medal, and was selected as the West & Clare Scholar.

In 1840 he passed the School Leaving Examination, standing first in History and Geography and sec­ond in Chemistry and distinguished himself in Literature. In 1843 he was appointed as an assistant teacher in Chemistry and Natural Philosophy in Elphinstone Institute and studied Sanskrit privately. While at Elphinstone Institute he wrote an essay on Female Infanticide for a Government sponsored scheme and won the first prize.

Bhau Daji joined Grant Medical Gollege on November I, 1845 when the college had started functioning and was one of the first 12 students in the college. Dr. Charles Morehead, the first Principal of the college had 'considered it very essential to have the services of a young man of education well acquainted with English and applied specifically for Bhau Daji who was then an assistant master at the Elphinstone Institute. The Board of Education made the appointment as asked for' and Bhau Daji joined Grant Medical College while still holding an administrative post, which he later resigned.

In the Grant Medical College, Bhau Daji was not only a free student but also a salaried official. He won the Farish scholarship at the end of the first year. In his second report for the year 1846-47, Dr. Charles Morehead states, 'Considering the extent to which his time is taken up in the duties of his office, to have successfully competed for the Farish scholarship is considered highly creditable of him; but as a consequence of holding this office, Bhau Daji was desirous of foregoing the pecuniary advantages of the scholarship, satisfied with the honorary distinction which this award conferred on him'. In the second year examination he stood fourth and in the final examination he won prizes and scholarships which he again declined to receive. He wanted this amount to be awarded to the next best student so that the latter would be helped. This idealism characterised his entire life, and he often gave more than what he received.

 

On April 15, 1851 Bhau Daji received his Diploma of Graduate of Grant Medical College. On graduation, he was appointed Assistant Sur­geon - a post especially created by the government to absorb the young doctors till they could find a footing. Bha u soon resigned and went in for private practice. Technically his academic education was over in 1851, but he carried with him the advice of his principal Dr. Morehead, "Never forget that the life of a medical man, if rightly spent, is one of constant study and observation, and progressive improvement". He associated himself with the Grant Medical College Society and was elected its President for the the year 1855-56. He read papers before this Society regularly and they were very highly appreciated by the members.

Dr. Bhau established himself in a short time as a great physician and surgeon. But what is of great importance is that he was a helper of the poor and down-trodden. In 1853 he started the Nagdevi Charitable Dispensary at which he rendered free service to the poor. He was a research worker who tested the efficacy of indigenous drugs.

Besides his profession, Dr. Bhau Daji had varied interests. He was an Indologist of international repute and several Oriental Research Soci­eties conferred their membership on him. Max Muller rightly observed 'the little he has written is worth thousands of pages written by others'. Dr. Bhandarkar observed that no one could write a paper on the antiquities of the last two thousand years without referring to his writings. Bhau Daji was Vice-President of the Bombay Branch of Royal Asiatic Society from 1864 to 1873. He was a Sanskrit scholar and had planned a critical edition of Kumar-sambhavam.

Dr. Bhau was an educationist who firmly believed that education was an asset of great value and took active part in the spread of knowledge. He was a member of the Board of Education - an appoint­ment which was hailed in all quarters as could be seen from the views of the contemporary news papers. He was a member and later the President of the Students' Literary and Scientific Society, which conducted seven schools. He was a staunch advocate of female education.

Dr. Bhau took a leading part in the political activities of his times.

He was the secretary of the Bombay Association, a political organisation which was striving for a better government that would ensure the prosperity and well-being of the people here through necessary legislations and administrative steps. This Bombay Association was the forerunner of the Indian National Congress.

Bhau's passion for research in medicine led him into establishing a botanical garden and a museum in the city. We owe the Victoria Gardens (now called Jijamata Udyan) to him and the Albert Museum. He also had a passion for books and manuscripts, and played a very leading role in the establishment of libraries in Bombay and in all the leading institutes. He was a lover of literature, arts, and the contemporary theatre, and helped idealistic managers of theatrical companies like Vishnudas Bhave of Sangli. He lent prestige to the theatre by personally attending the performances. Along with Nana Shankershet he was responsible for the performance of the first Hindi play, Raja Gopichand, at the Governor's residence. He has been spoken of as the patron of the Bombay Native Drama.

 

Bhau was appointed twice as Sheriff of Bombay and on both occasions his appointment was looked upon as a reward, well-earned for his long and faithful public service. He played a very crucial role in the establishment of Universities in different Presidencies. It was his petition as secretary of the Bombay Association to the British Government, which led to the establishment of Universities in 1857. Bhau's name is thus included in the Act of Incorporation of the Bombay University. He was a member of the Faculties of Arts and Medicine from 1857 to his last day and a Syndic from 1869 to 1873.

The Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum at the Jijamata Udyan in Byculla is named after him.

(Text quoted from "Men and Memorabilia of Grant Medical College" ; author : Dr NG Talwalkar)

Dr. Jamnadas C. Patel

Dr. Shirodkar

Dr. O.P. Kapoor

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