A forgotten centre of medical excellence

Though the hospital came up during Uthrittathi Thirunal Gowri Parvathi Bayi’s time, it was during Swathi Thirunal’s reign that it was converted into one exclusively for women and children.
 Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud, Thiruvananthapuram
Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud, ThiruvananthapuramPhoto | B P Deepu

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud in Thiruvananthapuram has seen its fair share of controversies. But all can agree on one thing: The immense heritage value it possesses.

The exact date of its construction is not known, says Uma Maheshwari, a researcher on Travancore history.

“I feel it came up around 1818 around the time when the charitable hospital inside the Fort premises came up. It was during the reign of Uthrittathi Thirunal Gowri Parvathi Bayi that several such charitable hospitals came up in Travancore,” she says.

The Mathilakam records too have mentions of additions being made to the hospital’s existing structure somewhere around 1839, during Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma’s time.

Historian M G Sasibhooshan says the hospital was initially a part of the charitable hospital on the Fort premises and shifted to its current location after Thycaud Namboothiri (architect Kesavan Vishnu Thrathan who supervised the 18th-century redesign of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple and who spotted the location of the Fort) vacated the residence allotted to him.

“After his family left for their native place in Kunnamkulam, the Travancore government took over the space and the hospital was shifted there for people who could not visit the one on Fort premises,” he said.

Though the hospital came up during Uthrittathi Thirunal Gowri Parvathi Bayi’s time, it was during Swathi Thirunal’s reign that it was converted into one exclusively for women and children.

 The Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud in Thiruvananthapuram
The Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud in Thiruvananthapuram

“This was primarily because back then women would not venture out to seek medical aid, that too from male physicians,” says Uma.

Sasibhooshan feels the strides Kerala made in health indices can be traced back to the foundation laid by hospitals such as the one in Thycaud. An array of legendary doctors who served at the hospital at the start of the 20th century played a pivotal role in its progress. They include Dr Mary Punnen Lukose, said to be the first female surgeon in Kerala, and her colleagues Dr J Chellamma and Dr Kamalamma, besides Dr Thankamma.

“There were many gifted licensed medical practitioners, whose names are mentioned on a plaque that had been kept in the hospital until recently,” Sasibhooshan says, recalling how the hospital was a seat of medical excellence, encouraging similar ventures across the state, and remained a major health landmark, until private hospitals began springing up in every nook and cranny and until the “humanitarian approach in medical profession got diluted.”

Meanwhile, for people who witnessed it being a centre of medical excellence, the hospital’s current state does not bring cheer. Sasibhooshan feels the way the old building has been maintained reflects the authorities’ attitude towards preserving the state’s medical legacy.

“What now exists is a poor apology of what the hospital once was. The hospital witnessed milestones in medical development like small-pox vaccination process. In all ways, it reflected the scientific temperament of the rulers and leaders of Travancore when it was set up,” he says.

What’s in a name

Weekly column on the history of place names. Got any suggestions? Write to xpresskochi@gmail.com

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com