Sake Dean Mahomed (Bengali: শেখ দীন মুহাম্মদ; Hindi: दीन मुहम्मद; Arabic: شيخ دين محمّد Sheikh Din Muhammad) was a Bengali Anglo-Indian traveller, surgeon and entrepreneur who was one of the most notable early non-European immigrants to the Western World. He introduced South Asian cuisine and shampoo baths to Europe, where he offered therapeutic massage. He was also the first Indian to publish a book in English.
Born in 1759 in Patna, Bihar, then part of the Bengal Presidency, Sake Dean Mahomed came from Buxar. His father, who belonged to the traditional Nai (barber) caste, was in the employment of the East India Company. He had learned much of Mughal alchemy and understood the techniques used to produce various alkali, soaps and shampoo. He later described the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and the cities of Allahabad and Delhi in rich detail and also made note of the faded glories of the Mughal Empire.
Sake Dean Mahomed grew up in Patna. Mahomed's father died when Mahomed was young. He was then taken under the wing of Captain Godfrey Evan Baker, an Anglo-Irish Protestant officer at the age of 10. He served in the army of the British East India Company as a trainee surgeon and honourably served against the Marathas. Sake Dean Mahomed also mentions how Mir Qasim and most of the entire Bengali Muslim aristocracy had lost their famed wealth and complained regarding Shuja-ud-Daula and his campaign against his Rohilla allies and how Hyder Ali defeated the British during the Battle of Pollilur. Mahomed remained with Captain Baker's unit until 1782, when the Captain resigned. That same year, Mahomed also resigned from the Army, choosing to accompany Captain Baker, 'his best friend', to Britain.
The Travels of Dean Mahomed
In 1794, Mahomed published his travel book, The Travels of Dean Mahomet. The book begins with the praise of Genghis Khan, Timur and particularly the first Mughal Emperor Babur and describes several important cities in India, and describes a series of military conflicts with local Indian principalities.
Editor Michael Fisher suggested that some passages in the book were closely paraphrased from other travel narratives written in the late 18th century.
In 1810, after moving to London, Dean Mahomet opened the first Indian restaurant in England: the Hindoostanee Coffee House in George Street, near Portman Square, Central London. The restaurant offered such delights as the Hookha "with real chilm tobacco, and Indian dishes, ... allowed by the greatest epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England." This venture was ended due to financial difficulties.
Introduction of shampooing to Europe
Before opening his restaurant, Mahomed had worked in London for nabob Basil Cochrane, who had installed a steam bath for public use in his house in Portman Square and promoted its medical benefits. Mahomed may have been responsible for introducing the practice of champooi or "shampooing" (or Indian massage) there. In 1814 Mahomed and his wife moved back to Brighton and opened the first commercial "shampooing" vapour masseur bath in England, on the site now occupied by the Queen's Hotel. He described the treatment in a local paper as "The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame legs, aches and pains in the joints".
This business was an immediate success and Dean Mahomed became known as "Dr. Brighton". Hospitals referred patients to him and he was appointed as shampooing surgeon to both King George IV and William IV.
Mahomed died in 1851 at 32 Grand Parade, Brighton. He was buried in a grave at St Nicholas' Church, Brighton, in which his son Frederick was later interred. Frederick taught fencing, gymnastics and other activities in Brighton at a gymnasium he built on the town's Church Street.
In 1784, Mahomed emigrated to Cork, Ireland, with the Baker family. There he studied to improve his English language skills at a local school, where he fell in love with Jane Daly, a "pretty Irish girl of respectable parentage". The Daly family was opposed to their relationship, and the couple thus eloped to another town to get married in 1786. At that time it was illegal for Protestants to marry non-Protestants, therefore Mahomed converted to Anglicanism to marry Jane Daly. They later moved to Brighton, England, at the turn of the 19th century."
Sake Dean Mahomed and his wife Jane had five children: Rosanna, Henry, Horatio, Frederick, and Arthur. They also had a son, Dean Mahomed, baptised in the Roman Catholic church of St. Finbarr's, Cork, in 1791, as well as a daughter named Amelia in 1808. His son, Frederick, was a proprietor of Turkish baths at Brighton, and also ran a boxing and fencing academy near Brighton. His most famous grandson, Frederick Henry Horatio Akbar Mahomed (c. 1849–1884), became an internationally known physician, who worked at Guy's Hospital in London and made important contributions to the study of high blood pressure,
Another of Sake Dean Mahomed's grandsons, Rev. James Kerriman Mahomed, was appointed as the vicar of Hove, Sussex, in the late 19th century.
Sake Dean Mahomet began to lose prominence by the Victorian era and until recently was largely forgotten by history. The literary critic Muneeza Shamsie notes that he also authored the books Cases Cured and Shampooing Surgeon, Inventor of the Indian medicated Vapour and Sea Water Baths etc.
Modern renewal of interest in his writings followed after poet and scholar Alamgir Hashmi drew attention to this author in the 1970s and 1980s. Michael H. Fisher has written a book on Sheikh Dean Mahomet: The First Indian Author in English: Dean Mahomet in India, Ireland and England (Oxford University Press, Delhi — 1996).
On 29 September 2005 the City of Westminster unveiled a Green Plaque commemorating the opening of the Hindoostane Coffee House. The plaque is at 102 George Street, close to the original site of the coffee house at 34 George Street.
- Dean Mahomed, 1794 The Travels of Dean Mahomet, a Native of Patna in Bengal, Through Several Parts of India, While in the Service of the Honourable the East India Company
- S. D. Mahomed, 1838 Shampooing, or, benefits resulting from the use of the Indian Medicated Bath, 3rd edition, William Fleet, Bath