Sake Dean Mohamed: Patna-born man who introduced the word shampoo to the world

What do we know about the origin of shampoo or one who introduced it to the world or how it was used for the treatment of patients? In this article, let’s go back in time to learn the answers to these questions.

Sake Dean Mohamed was born in 1759 now Patna, then came under the rule of Nawabs of Bengal. He came from a family of Nai or Barbers who worked for The East India Company. His father who knows how to take care of hair made him learn at an early age to make herbal potions, soaps, cleansers, or do head massages, which we Indians refer to as champi.

After his father’s death, Sake then 10 was given under the care of British Officer Caption Godrey Baker. He served the East India Company’s army as a trainee surgeon, but later in life resigned and decided to go back to his homeland Ireland, Sake accompanied him and they landed in Corks in 1784.

25-year-old Sake studied English language and literature when he fell for an Irish girl Jane Daly. Despite their racial differences, they lived their life with their many children far comfortably.

In 1793, ‘The Travel of Dean Mahomet’ described Delhi, Patna, Allahabad and the downfall of Nawabs of Bengal, Mughal Emperor Shah Alam ll, Rohila Wars and Wars with Hyder Ali.  The book was published in a series of letters becoming the first known English book written by an Indian.

Around 1807, along with his family, he left for England. There he worked in a steam bath with the additionally introduced procedure ‘CHAMPOO’ which later became famous as Shampooing. Not satisfied with his work, he later opened London’s first Indian Restaurant ‘Hindostanee Coffee House’ in 1810. The restaurant even offered home delivery service, but since the eating-out culture was not in fashion the venture failed resulting in filing for bankruptcy in 1812. In 2018, his handwritten menu was auctioned for 8,500 pounds.

Mahomed moved with his family to the seaside of Brighton, his previous experience and love for enterprise made him open Mahomed’s bath’s in 1821. In this idea, he introduced the ‘Indian Medicated Vapour Bath’ in a foreign land. This became the turning point in his career. With his work, he treated George IV and King William IV for years. Thus, giving him the title of ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to royalty. Hospitals soon started referring their patients to him, and his reviews turned him into a public figure known as Dr Brighton. His book ‘Shampooing: results from the use of Indian medicated vapour bath’ came in three editions. In his time, the term ‘SHAMPOO’ came into the English wordbook.

At 92, Sake Dean Mohamed died in 1851 in Brighton. He would soon be forgotten in History. But it was only in 1980s, that his story was rediscovered in England. Unfortunately, today he is a pioneer is British-Asian community but In Patna, or India as whole, he is still very unsung and and discovered.