Shantipur Leper Homes (Dhamtari, Madhya Pradesh, India)

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John & Genevieve Friesen with patients at the Shantipur Leper Home, ca. 1970.
Scan courtesy Mennonite Church USA Archives-Goshen IV-10-7-2 Box 4/17

Shantipur Leper Homes situated four miles southwest of Dhamtari near the Dhamtari-Balodgahan highway, Madhya Pradesh (formerly Central Provinces), India. During the famine of 1899-1900 the lepers among the thousands who came for food and shelter were placed in separate huts and were fed from separate kitchens. The British government and the municipality of Dhamtari gave grants of money and private individuals subscribed sums for their later maintenance.

In 1901 J. A. Ressler, an American Mennonite missionary, was asked to assume the responsibility for founding an institution for the lepers. He received financial aid from the Mission to Lepers in India and the East, with headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland. The American Mennonite Mission was to have free access to the lepers for religious work and for organizing and supervising the living and work of the lepers and also built up a Christian staff of overseers and helpers.

The first leper asylum was located on a plot of ground donated by Dhamtari at the southern edge of Dhamtari, where a group of lepers had previously lived in little bamboo matting huts, subsisting by begging. The first substantial buildings were constructed in 1902-3. Much of the material was donated by the Government Forest Department. Gradually kitchens for cooking, a medical dispensary, a house for the caretaker, and a chapel were built. Ultimately the Government provided a per-capita grant for the maintenance of the lepers to supplement the sum given by the Mission to Lepers. To care for the increasingly large number of lepers applying for admittance it was found necessary to find a larger site. Accordingly in 1920 the Mission to Lepers sanctioned a scheme for a project estimated at $60,000 which would provide for Leper Homes with all the facilities for their care and treatment. By this time the enrollment of inmates was 251 of whom 227 were baptized Christians and 22 were applicants for baptism. In 1922 an area of 115 acres of land was purchased from a village for $2,400. The estimated cost of the entire plant to accommodate about 500 inmates with medical and other facilities would be about $60,000 of which Government and the Mission to Lepers each would provide half.

In 1924 the lepers were transferred from Dhamtari to Shantipur. By 1929 there were cottages to house the 450 lepers and healthy children of lepers, two large hospital wards, a large medical dispensary with laboratory, school buildings for leper and non-leper children, buildings for administration and hospital staff, and the bungalow for the missionary superintendent. The medical staff had at their disposal all the latest remedies for the treatment of the lepers. Shantipur became one of the largest leper homes in the interior of India.

A word of tribute must be given to Dr. C. D. Esch who untiringly gave his time and effort to the building up of Shantipur.

Author(s) George J Lapp
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Lapp, George J. "Shantipur Leper Homes (Dhamtari, Madhya Pradesh, India)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 12 Aug 2020.,_Madhya_Pradesh,_India)&oldid=104858.

APA style

Lapp, George J. (1959). Shantipur Leper Homes (Dhamtari, Madhya Pradesh, India). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 August 2020, from,_Madhya_Pradesh,_India)&oldid=104858.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 510. All rights reserved.

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