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Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination

Mitra Desai

With bags packed and nowhere to go, Tara's plans are crushed by the COVID pandemic. Waiting it out at home and watching tragic deaths around her makes her furious and helpless at the same time. An animated conversation with her grandfather about the impending vaccination, adds fuel to the fire!

India enabled vaccination, Nana claims. What an absurd thing to say! More than seven decades after independence there is hardly any infrastructure in place to respond to this pandemic. It is impossible that a dilapidated system like this can make such a tall claim. Tara sets out to prove Nana wrong.

What she discovers in the process boggles her mind and shatters her world view. The colonial plunder and erasure of Indic knowledge extended far beyond her imagination!


Mitra has taken up a complex subject, peeled back all but the critical core and has set out the fundamental truths of Dharma in a simple, understandable, and enjoyable form. Shitala is a fascinating read. After all, as observed by great Mark Twain, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

Foreword - Nilesh Nilkanth Oak: Bestselling author of Rama Ravana Yudh - 12209 BCE

Mitra Desai combines ineluctable historic facts cocooned inside the story of a family that could be almost any Indian family. It is woven around a delightful story in exactly the same way that our own Indian epics and narratives inform us of our past via the medium of enchanting stories. Thank you for writing this Mitra Desai. I recommend this book to all Indians. You will not regret reading it.

Dr Shiv Sastry: Surgeon and author of Aryan Invasion: Myth or Fact? Uncovering the evidence.

Want to educate the masses? Do it through storytelling like 'Shitala'! This book is an eye-opener as it narrates the Ayurvedic references of Shitala, Masurika and contemporary references of their Bharatiya treatment in a refreshing manner. The author has made an extraordinary effort to show unknown historical facts, the light of day. I congratulate her and thank her as well on behalf of the entire Ayurvediya Vaidya fraternity.

Dr Pareexit Shevde: MD (Ayu.) and author of Gharoghari Ayurved.

The wise physicians explained the mechanisms that intertwine the deepest truths of our immune system, physiology, and microbiome with the larger ecosystems around us. All we have to do is listen and connect with the evidence collected from centuries of medical experience. As Ayurveda whispers quietly, the profound teachings in the ancient chapter on janapada-uddhvansa will again come alive as it has in Nana's heart.

Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya: MPH MD PhD, Physician, Fulbright Specialist in Public Health and author of Everyday Ayurveda.

Author of the book Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination, Mitra Desai calls the towns of Canberra – Satara – Kolhapur, home. She migrated from India to Australia some 13 years ago and is employed in the Public Service. She holds a Masters degree in Criminal Justice.

She simplifies complex technical facts through unique storytelling on her website and Youtube channel – Tejomaya Bharat.

She has enthralled audiences with a 10 part series on Maharishi Sushruta – The Father of Surgery in collaboration with the renowned Mahabharat researcher Nilesh Oak. In this series, she shed light on the contributions of Sushruta and how it shaped the world of surgery. This series was produced first in Marathi, followed by an English version.

Her other works include India’s unacknowledged contribution to the First World War, a series on How Europe stole the secrets of making coloured cottons from India, series on Indic Culture with noted Indologist Deepali Patwadkar and several other interesting Indic topics.

Her most recent endeavour is the book Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination. An endearing conversation between a granddaughter and her grandfather that could happen in any Indian home but is relevant for humanity.

Mitra masterfully documents colonial references that demonstrate inoculation was a well known, firmly established practice in India long before Jenner materialized his vaccination technique. She takes up a complex subject, peeled back all but the critical core and has set out the fundamental truths in a simple, understandable, and enjoyable form. The colonial plunder extends far beyond her imagination. For the first time, this story is being told from the perspective of the knowledge tradition it emerges from.

Come along and discover a brand new perspective!