Established in 1906 by Hakeem Abdul Majeed, Hamdard (meaning “Sympathizer”) was a Yunani medicine shop in Delhi’s Lal Kuan Bazaar. Around 1907-1908, Hakeem Majeed launched a non alcohoalic medicinal concentrate called ‘Rooh Afza’ (Soul Enhancer) to combat Delhi’s hot loo winds.
Packaged in glass bottles with the iconic label by Delhi artist Mirza Noor Ahmad, Rooh Afza contained a perfect mix of fruits, vegetables, herbs and roots all infused in a sugar syrup. It is said that the first consumers were so mesmerized by the taste of this ambrosial drink that over a hundred bottles were sold in a few hours.
The name #RoohAfza was adopted from the book Masnavi Gulzar-e-naseem written by Pandit Daya Shankar Naseem Lakhnavi. RoohAfza was a character in the book. Pic: cover of the #book.#URDU #Hamdard @iamrana @DalrympleWill @UsamaQureshy @RoohAfzaIndia @DalrympleWill pic.twitter.com/4Lk1RTq5H9
— Heritage Times (@HeritageTimesIN) May 8, 2019
An ad of Rooh Afza in India from 1960s.
Aaj lagta hai mujhse matlab hai
Aaj lahja hai uska Rooh Afza pic.twitter.com/2M8mqp9fJF
— Heritage Times (@HeritageTimesIN) April 27, 2019
What started as a medicinal drink became popular as a delicious summer drink all over Delhi. To meet the rising demands, Hakeem Abdul Majeed started to mass produce Rooh Afza at a factory in Ghaziabad, just outside Delhi.
Soon this drink became one of the most iconic delicacies of Delhi along with Nihari and Bedami poori. By 1947, Rooh Afza was found in every kitchen in Delhi and most of the places in the United Provinces.
With the September riots of 1947, Delhi’s Muslims started to flee their homes and started to take refuge in the refugee camps built in Purana Qila and Jama Masjid.
Many families were torn apart, as one part opted for Pakistan and the other chose to stay behind. Hamdard was no exception. In 1948, one part of the Hamdard family headed by Said migrated to Karachi in the new state of Pakistan.
Hamdard Pakistan was started from scratch in a two room rented space. The magic of Rooh Afza worked, and in no time Hamdard Pakistan became very successful. The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 resulted in a final partition when Hamdard Pakistan gave birth to Hamdard Bangladesh.