Udayavni Special

The Indian Queens who modelled for World’s first-ever Vaccine


Team Udayavani, Sep 29, 2020, 4:17 PM IST

Indian queens modelled for the world’s first-ever vaccine to overcome the fears of vaccines passing through bodies of all races, religions, castes and genders.

Mysore Wodeyar queens posed for painting in 1805 to promote small pox vaccination in India, that had just been invented by Edward Jenner in England just 6 years before

The cure for smallpox was fairly novel, it had been discovered just six years before by Edward Jenner, an English doctor and met with suspicion and resistance in India. Not least because it was being championed by the British, whose power was rising at the turn of the 19th century.

According to BBC, Krishnaraja Wodiyar III was the new ruler of the southern Indian kingdom of Mysore when Devajammani arrived at the royal court in 1805, to marry him. Both of them were 12 years of age.

Devajammani soon found herself recruited for a more momentous cause, to publicise and promote the smallpox vaccine. And her unwitting role was captured in a painting commissioned by the East India Company to “encourage participation in the vaccination programme”,

The painting was thought to be of dancing girls until recently when a Cambridge historian Dr Nigel Chancellor, figured out the royalty posing in it.

Dr Nigel Chancellor identified the woman on the right in the painting as Devajammani, the younger queen. He said her sari would have typically covered her left arm, but it was left exposed so she could point to where she had been vaccinated ‘with a minimum loss of dignity’.

As reported by BBC, The woman on the left, he believed, was the king’s first wife, also named Devajammani. The marked discolouration under her nose and around her mouth is consistent with controlled exposure to the smallpox virus. The woman on the middle is Rani Lakshmi Ammanni

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