Mindscape and Landscape: An illustrated history of NIMHANS
Authors : P. Radhika, Pratima Murthy, Sanjeev Jain
Edition : 1st
Publisher : Dr. P. Satishchandra, Director and Vice-Chancellor, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru - 560 029, Karnataka, India
Pages : 161
Here is a book to treasure!
This is the product of a labour of love by three staff members of the Department of Psychiatry from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore.
As the subtitle indicates, it provides an illustrated history of their institute. President Pranab Mukherjee released the book at a function in December 2015.
The front cover shows a colour image of the building of the 'new Mental Hospital on Hosur Road' when it was opened in 1938. At present, it houses offices of the psychiatry consultants in NIMHANS. The rear cover shows an old 'Plan of Bangalore' and traces the establishment of a separate ward for the mentally ill patients in the General Hospital in Bangalore Cantonment in 1838; the construction of the Lunatic Hospital in 1850 (renamed the Mental Hospital in 1926); the creation of the Mysore Government Mental Hospital in 1937 and its later avatars – the All India Institute of Mental Health and NIMHANS.
The note provided by the authors on the page facing the table of contents is an apt introduction to the contents of the book and sums up the early development of what is now an institute of national importance not only in psychiatry and psychology but also in the basic neurosciences, electrophysiology, neuropathology, neurovirology, neuroimaging, neurology and neurosurgery.
The narrative is divided into four sections.
The first, 'Lunatic asylum 1850–1926', actually starts with a description of British Mysore (1831-1881) and provides a timeline of the setting up of hospitals (including the Leper Hospital) between 1831 and 1868. A biographical note on Dr. Charles Irving Smith (1809-1871) follows. He set up a ward for 'insane native patients' in 1838. This ward was 'the germ of the Lunatic Asylum to be built later'. The text is enlivened by reproductions of entries from Dr. Smith's diary, from his Commonplace Book and from contemporary issues of the British Medical Journal.
Such generous reproductions from official papers, reports, budgetary statements, gazetteers, patient case records, photographic archives and other difficult-to-obtain sources enhance the text and provide invaluable matter for the student of history.
The narrative in this section also includes descriptions of the Mysore Famine (1876-1878); the transfer of the administration of Bangalore from the British to the Wodeyar Kings, medical arrangements in Mysore under the royal rule and the impetus provided to science and medicine under Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. A biographical note on Dr. Francis Xavier Noronha with reproductions of his medical certificates, photographs and official documents, including patient records made by him with his autograph on them, give the reader a glimpse into the workings of the Lunatic Asylum of Bangalore under this pioneer psychiatrist.
The second section, 'Mysore Government Mental Hospital 1926-1954' starts with the change in terminology from Lunatic Asylum to Mental Hospital. Mr. Gustav Krumbiegel, the chief consulting architect to the Government of Mysore and an ardent botanist, drew up the plans for the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens and, later, the new Mental Hospital in the vicinity of the Gardens. Mr. Krumbiegel and Dr. Noronha deserve applause for the botanical riches on the NIMHANS campus.
The blueprint for the new hospital building was based on that of the Bethlem Hospital at Lambeth, London (The name of the hospital in London was derived from St. Mary Bethlehem but was differently spelt. It was nicknamed 'Bedlam' after the uproar and confusion within it consequent to 'the mad patients housed in it'). The foundation stone for the new hospital was laid by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in 1936. The photograph showing this ceremony also includes Sir Mirza Ismail, the Maharaja's Dewan, who was to play an important role in the development of the institution.
A segment of this section is devoted to Dr. M. V. Govindaswamy – the first Director of the All India Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Govindaswamy introduced the then novel techniques of insulin coma therapy and leucotomy in the treatment of psychoses. Two pages from the paper by Dr. D. N. Balakrishna Rao and Dr. M. V. Govindaswamy on the effects of leucotomy in patients with schizophrenia, published in The Indian Medical Gazette, have been reproduced here. Dr. D. L. N. Murti Rao's work and his meticulous notes on patients are also described here.
The third section describes the development of the All India Institute of Mental Health from 1954-1974 and the creation of the logo of the swan gliding on tranquil waters bathed by moonlight and a lotus in the vicinity. The logo appears to have been inspired by Dr. Govindaswamy. By now the institute was attracting the attention of such luminaries as Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Sushila Nayyar. The development of departments, facilities and activities is chronicled. The appointment of Drs. R. M. Varma and Dr. K. S. Mani resulted in the formation of departments of neurosurgery and neurology, respectively. Their blossoming is well documented here.
The institute was registered under its present name on 27 December 1974.
The fourth section of the book deals with the period from 1974-2014.
Brief biographical notes of all the directors from 1954 to date with excellent photographic portraits are provided. Descriptions of work – past and in progress – in the various departments; visits by eminent personalities, including Directors of WHO; and accounts of recognition as deemed university and as an institute of national importance bring the book to a close.
There is much, much more to fascinate us. The brief account of the development of Bangalore and an illustration in colour of a part of the city in the 19th century; descriptions and illustrations of the botanical treasures on the campus, carefully selected and cultivated over the decades and how they have developed from the 1950s to the present time; remembrances of past students and patients are some portions that I found attractive. You may have other choices.
Searches for material to be included in this volume involved tracing the surviving pioneers; descendants of those who had passed on; obtaining archival records from them; poring through the chronicles in the institute; the government of Karnataka; British Library and the Wellcome Institute in London and ferreting out photographs, reminiscences and memorabilia. The discovery of meticulously maintained patient records thrilled the authors. Their material finds have now been housed in a museum in NIMHANS.
An index to the contents of this volume would have helped those wishing to return to the volume again and again, searching for specific details.