• the-south-asian.com                                               APRIL  2002




APRIL 2002 Contents



 A Journey through Bhutan

 'Baikunth' - the mountain
 resort overlooking Kasauli in 
 Himachal Pradesh


 At Home in the world

 Visual Arts

 Jatin Das - 4 decades of 

 Studio Potters


 Zakir Hussain - Compelling


 Hakim Ajmal Khan's ancestral
 Sharif Manzil & Hindustani


 Eco-friendly Tyre furniture 

 Business & Economy

 Textiles of Pakistan

  Performing Arts

 'Fakir of Benares' -1922 French
 Opera revived in Delhi


 Revathy Menon's 'Mitr - my


 The Power of Vastu Living

 'Knock at Every Alien Door'
- Serialization of an
 unpublished novel by
 Joseph Harris - Chapter 4


 Naveen Jindal


the craft shop

 the print gallery


 Silk Road on Wheels

The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in Bangladesh



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 Page  2 of  2


Sharif Manzil & Hindustani Dawakhana

- crumbling memories of India's First Unani family



Sanjeeb Mukherjee

ajmal-1.jpg (58048 bytes)

Royal Doctors

Interestingly, all members of the family of Hakim Ajmal Khan were Unani doctors. The family had been practicing this ancient form of medicine from the time of the Mughal rulers. When the Mughal rule came to an end, these Hakims became doctors to the British rulers of India.

Ajmal Khan’s grandfather, Hakim Sharif Khan, who was the physician of King Shah Alam built the Sharif Manzil, a hospital-cum-college that taught Unani medicine. The brilliant though whimsical Hakim had his own set of rigid rules. Women were not allowed to study here and it was a ‘men only’ institute. Secondly, if any family member decided to leave the fold and start his own practice he lost any right to inheritance on Sharif Manzil which was later to become the first office of the Muslim League in India.

However, the place became popular not because of these rules but because of its philanthropy. For one, no fee was ever charged from poor patients and all members of the Sharif family were deeply nationalistic.

Ajmal Khan first founded the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi along with the Ali brothers of the Khilafat Movement. He went on to establish the Tibbia College for higher studies in medicine. To fund the working of these institutes he established the Hindustani Dawakhana. Doctors practicing in the Sharif Manzil could recommend medicines only from the Dawakhana.

Sharif Manzil was a very busy hospital and its dispensary, Hindustani Dawakhana was busier making and giving medicines to patients. Such was its fame that people were referred for medicines not just from Sharif Manzil but from other parts of the country as well. In its hey day in the twenties it clocked sales of over Rs 2 lakhs a month---a mindboggling sum at the time. Most of this went to fund Jamia Islamia and Tibbia College.

The dispensary took out patents for 84 rare herbal formulae. Some of these like Musafi, Sarbat-E-Sadar, Akise-Nisama, Sekhon and Hebab-Kebat—are still well known..

According to Shahid Zafar Khan, one of the descendents of the Hakim and the president of Hakim Ajmal Khan Memorial Society, who now lives here, "The medicinal formulae were passed on from one generation to another and they were a closely guarded family secret. Although Unani medicine was taught at the Sharif Manzil, the concoctions sold at the Hindustani Dawakhana were known only to family members."

Rare Distinction

Hakim Ajmal Khan was well-known for his secular views and also for his expertise in Unani medicine, a tradition which he inherited from his forefathers who were court physicians from the time of Mughal Emperor Babar. Ajmal Khan had the rare distinction of being the only Muslim leader to have been ever elected to a senior post in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was an expert Quranic scholar well versed in Arabic and Persian.

Such was his medical acumen that it is said that he could diagnose any illness by just looking at a person’s face. The British rulers were highly impressed by his generosity and medical skill and bestowed him the twin titles of Haziq-ul-Mulk [philanthropist] and a Qaiser-e-Hind both of which he later returned as a protest against the British rule.

ajmal-2.jpg (48112 bytes) ajmal.jpg (48064 bytes)
L-R:Tibbia College moved to its new premises in 1922; at the foundation ceremony seated from left to right: Subhash Chandra Bose, Motilal Nehru and Hakim Ajmal Khan

The foundation stone of Tibbia College was laid in a room in the Sharif Manzil by the Viceroy Lord Hardinge, attended by leading luminaries of that time including Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das and others. The college was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi and it was here that the future father of the nation met Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

When the popularity of Tibbia College grew it was shifted from Sharif Manzil to a mosque nearby and from there Ajmal Khan brought it to Delhi’s Karol Bagh where it is presently located. Interestingly, Karol Bagh’s most popular area today is called Ajmal Khan Road.

Thought he Jamia Islamia University and the Tibbia College are thriving, family feuds and Governmental apathy have turned Hindustani Dawakhana and Sharif Manzil into decrepit buildings. The formulae of many priceless medicines that had miracle healing powers have long been lost. The building itself is in tatters. Most rooms that housed the famous Hakims have been given out on rent and there is a general stench all around.

Shelves infested with white ants, empty jars covered with fungus and broken medicinal gadgets are the only legacy of a place where some of the world’s best known Unani medicines were made which till date find mention in all Unani medical books.

Descendents of Hakim Ajmal Khan say that ever since the management went into the hands of Delhi Administration in 1954, the condition of the place started deteriorating and the buildings went to seed.

Earlier, as many as 300 employees served at the Hindustani Dawakhana now there is only one. Though the Dawakhana is listed in Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s records as a heritage site, some parts of this prized building were pulled down a few years ago and priceless books and formulae for rare medicines were lost or destroyed.

ajmal-4.jpg (50990 bytes)The present descendent of Ajmal Khan, Shahid Zafar Khan says, " The motto of our family has been Azal-ul-Allah-Khudatulmal, which when translated means that the best way to keep oneself busy is by serving humanity, which we have followed since ages, but the Government is now mercilessly destroying this priceless heritage".He says that the government should either construct a hospital for the poor with a free dispensary or turn it into a museum. But in an area where there’s hardly any place to walk is anyone listening? Does anyone really care?




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