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Rani Chandramani Devi (1906 - 1957): Queen with a noble heart


Her magnanimity in donating her palace and a large extent of land and granting Rs.1 lakh to the State Government has resulted in the setting up of a premier hospital for children at China Waltair. She also donated the Leprosy Home building, which she was managing, to Prema Samajam and her Ambica Bagh palace on Waltair Main Road for a temple.

That was Rani Chandramani Devi, the Rani of Chemudu. Born in Bissamcuttack of Koraput district in Orissa, she was the eldest daughter of the Bissamcuttack zamindar. In those days, girls from royal families had to observe the `purdah system' (wearing a veil) and they were not allowed to go out even to school.

She married the Raja of Chemudu, Vyricherla Narayana Gajapathi Raju, who was a Member of the Legislative Council of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. The Rani Chandramani Devi Hospital (popularly known as RCD Hospital), which now caters for the needs of polio-afflicted and orthopaedic patients from different parts of the State, Orissa and other parts of India, was her Lakshmi Vilas Palace, where she had lived with her husband and children.

The palace constructed on a raised ground, provides a majestic view of the Bay of Bengal. Both her daughters were born at this palace. She had no sons. Her elder daughter, the late Rani Rukmini Devi, married the Raja of Gangpur in Orissa state and the second one, Rani Kamala Devi, married Raja Purna Chandra Deo Bhanj of the erstwhile Daspalla principality in Orissa.

"Rani Chandramani Devi used to suffer from back pain. She was treated by Mangalampapalem Gopala Kini, the first orthopaedic surgeon of the King George Hospital. After retirement from service, Dr Kini had settled in Bombay. She visited him there and was impressed with his clinic for orthopaedic patients," says S.V. Adinarayana Rao, former superintendent of the RCD Hospital.

Dr. Kini suggested to her that she should set up a hospital in Visakhapatnam. She donated her palace and the land surrounding it for the purpose. A children's' hospital was started with 20 beds. The bed strength was gradually increased over the years.

Dr. Adinarayana Rao became the first full-fledged superintendent of the hospital in 1992. Prior to that, the head of the Orthopaedics Department in KGH was in-charge superintendent of the RCD hospital. "I obtained grants to the tune of Rs.1 crore from the Government for constructing additional buildings for the hospital. The bed strength was increased from 70 to 100 and an anaesthetist post was also sanctioned," he recalls.

Only children up to the age of 12 years were admitted to the hospital for treatment of polio and orthopaedic problems. "I had suggested that even older patients with orthopaedic problems could be allowed to avail of the facilities at the hospital and the Government had agreed," he says.

She was actively connected with Prema Samajam, a voluntary organisation working for the cause of orphans. She also associated with the Guild of Service, another social serivice organisation.

A bust of this queen with a noble heart adorns the hospital premises.

B.M.G.

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