NIMHANS: Legacy of a Legendary Institution

Oct/12/2021 / by Rashmi Gopal Rao

NIMHANS is a landmark that is hard to miss in Bangalore.

Known for its excellence and high standards in mental health care, it has grown by leaps and bounds since its formal inception in 1974. In 2012, the Indian government recognized the multidisciplinary institute dedicated to research, patient care, training and academic pursuit in mental health and neurosciences, as an institute of national importance.

The NIMHANS Heritage Museum, set up in partnership with EDC Creative Technology Solutions and INTACH, opened in December 2015.

What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation ~ Glenn Close

A Trove of Information

Surrounded by greenery and replete with traditional vibes, the NIMHANS museum is situated in the erstwhile Children’s Pavilion, which was opened on Children’s Day (November 14) in 1962. Divided into seven zones, the museum provides information about NIMHANS, through boards, audio visuals, models, photographs, and artifacts. While Zone 1 and 2 give visitors an idea of NIMHANS as an institute of national importance, Zone 3 traces the history of this institution from the days of the Bangalore Lunatic Asylum, established in 1848. Zone 4 and 5 explore the initial years of NIMHANS, formed from what was then the Mysore Government Mental Hospital and the All-India Institute of Mental Health (AIIMH). Zone 6 and 7 depicts the evolution of the contemporary NIMHANS — a pioneer in clinical service, training, and research, and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.


A Rich History

Visitors learn about the lunatic asylum, as it was called, established by Dr. Charles Irving Smith, a medical officer in the East India Company, to take care of people with mental illnesses. The asylum became the Mysore Government Mental Hospital in 1926. Maharaja Sri Krishna Raja Wodeyar laid the foundation for a larger hospital in 1936 on land where the head office of the State Bank of Mysore stands today. In 1954, the Indian government set up AIIMH, based on the recommendations of the Bhore Committee report. Finally, in 1974, both these the mental hospital and AIIMH were merged. Dr. R M Varma, the first director of NIMHANS, gave it a solid foundation. Several displays at the museum depict the NIMHANS mission, and the various disciplines and facilities at the institute.

Tools to Test the Mind

Several displays of the highlight testing methods, such as the Finger Tapping (Oscillation) test, Koh’s Block Design Test, and the Stroop word and color test. Medical apparatus dating back to the 19th century, such as the patent magnetoelectric machine used to treat physical and nervous disorders by providing “electrotherapy,” is interesting. Other examples are the Memory Drum, used to assess a patient’s memory, the Tachistoscope, stereoscopic slides, and Ruckmick pictures.

Along with images from “Pratibha,” an early research journal from AIIMH and NIMHANS, there is trivia on the human brain bank, a national research facility established in 1955. The museum describes various departments in the institute, and all the clinical facilities available, including psychiatric, neurological and allied services. It focuses on the various national and international collaborations and the educational courses NIMHANS offers. The section on human rights of patients with mental illness is significant, considering NIMHANS has always championed it.

Given the sprawling campus NIMHANS is in, there is also a section dedicated to the flora and fauna there. The campus has over 90,000 fully grown trees and more than 75 species of herbs and shrubs, including medicinal herbs.

All images courtesy of Rashmi Gopal Rao