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While most of us look up to spas and steam baths as modern-day inventions, they were introduced long back in the 14th century by the Turkish. Hammam in Arabic means the 'spreader of warmth'. Originated in Central Asia these were not only bathhouses but turned out to be places where people could socialize, relax, and take part in various rituals. Hammams have been considered beneficial for their qualities that make one feel relaxed, refreshed, and reborn. Hammams have had a colorful history in India since their arrival during the medieval era.
Among the various treasure troves and royal Mughal history of Bhopal, these Turkish baths have a major role. Bhopal is home to a public Turkish bathhouse, named Hammam-e-Kadami. It's here since the rule of the Nawabs. It was built in the 18th century by Nawab Dost Mohammad Khan; inspired by the Cemberlitas Hammams of Istanbul. In the entire Indian-subcontinent, this one is the only Hammam that's still active. The Nawab gifted it to Hajjam Hammu Khalida who was one of his most trusted servants and the ancestor of present-day masseuses at Hammam-e-Kadami. It’s situated in the bylanes of the Kamala Park area in Bhopal.
Hammams used to be an integral part of residences, public buildings, and mosques under Mughal Emperors. For the royal population, these were not only bathing spaces but were also used for leisure, exercises, and beauty treatments.
Like any other hammams around the world, this one is also built near a mosque to let the locals wash up before they move for daily prayers. It has a modest structure. Outside the bath, sits a posse of masseuses with kohl-rimmed eyes to welcome the visitors. There are traditional masseuses here who have been trained well for generations. The treatments here are different from the ones at modern spas, vigorously kneading, and pummeling the limbs of the visitors. The scrubs used here are made using local oils and spices. These recipes are being followed for over five generations.
There are various windowless chambers in Hammam-e-Kadami's public bathing area. In the main steam room, thick, hand-hewn limestone slabs are known to be laid over a hollow floor with circular glass aperture in the vaulted roof from where light peeps in. The arched basement with a large copper vessel and burning logs are used for generating steam. It is then transferred through copper pipes that are embedded in the walls of the steam room along with various doors and chambers.
You will experience a gradual transition in the hot 60 degree Celsius steam chambers and rooms that are relatively cool and dry from the outside. The five openings of the hammam, often called the naak and kaan can be seen from the rooftop. These openings act as ventilation in the building. This Turkish bath in Bhopal is popular for both men and women.
With the various services offered here including scrub, steam, rinse, and scents, this hammam lets the visitors experience a little slice of history every time. It is one of the most valued places for reliable beauty treatment, massages among women, rheumatic, and asthmatic patients. This historic hammam opens from the festival of Diwali to Holi every year. So, if you're in Bhopal during this time, you should surely look for a relaxing massage here.
Considering the great health benefits and a medium of a better lifestyle, the Government of India had been planning to revive this ancient tradition of hammams. Various teams under the AYUSH Department and Health Ministry have been researching and studying about hammams in India so that these criteria can be integrated into the operations of modern hammams. They are also a great source of promoting health tourism in India. While we are so dependent on modern techniques and treatments, this ancient invention and its existence in Bhopal is quite interesting.