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The Indian queens who modeled for the world’s first vaccine

Ns News Online Desk:Ns News Online Desk: When Devajammani arrived at the royal court of Mysore in 1805, it was to marry Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. They were both 12 years of age and he was the newly minted ruler of the southern Indian kingdom. But Devajammani soon found herself recruited for a more momentous cause – to publicize 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 program me”, according to Dr Nigel Chancellor, a historian at Cambridge University.
The cure for smallpox was fairly new – 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.
But the British would not give up on their grand scheme to inoculate Indians – they justified the cost and effort of saving “numerous lives, which have yearly fallen a sacrifice” to the virus with the promise of “increased resources derived from abundant population”.
What followed was a deft mix of politics, power and persuasion by the East India Company to introduce the world’s first ever vaccine to India, their biggest colonial enterprise. It involved British surgeons, Indian vaccinators, scheming company bosses and friendly royals – none more so than the Wadiyars, indebted to the British who had put them back on the throne after more than 30 years of exile.

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