Sad Tale of Odisha’s first known conjoined Twins “Radhika and Dudhika”

The English press carried a report on the twins in 1892. London showman Captain Colman sent his agent to Odisha, who convinced the Mahima sadhus to hand over the twins for their better treatment. The twins sailed for the Americas to take part in the Chicago Fair of 1893.

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Insight Bureau:  Renowned historian and researcher from Odisha, Anil Dhir has unraveled the sorry tale of the State’s first known conjoined twins from a very poor family who were taken abroad in 1893.

According to him, the twins were born in 1888 to Khestra Nayak of Haopara village in Dhenkanal district.

The birth of these conjoined twins was seen by the superstitious villagers as a symbol of wrath. The family was ostracised by the community. However some local officials prevented him and the local Mahima sadhus took them under their protection. They named the girls Radhika and Dudhika.

The English press carried a report on the twins in 1892. London showman Captain Colman sent his agent to Odisha, who convinced the Mahima sadhus to hand over the twins for their better treatment.

The twins sailed for the Americas to take part in the Chicago Fair of 1893.

They were centre of attraction at the Chicago Fair and drew the attention of P.T. Barnum of the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus. The twins were soon a part of the “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The sisters were shown on colourful posters and postcards as the “Orissa Twins” or “Hindu twins” and were big crowd pullers wherever the shows went.

They learnt English, french, German and travelled all over Europe and the USA and the Englishman took both to worldwide shows like Barnum and Bailey Circus and World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

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In 1902, while in France, Doodica developed tuberculosis. With the hope of saving Radhika, Dr Eugene Louis Doyen, the famous surgeon of France and a pioneer scientific film maker, did the separation surgery on February 9, 1902. He filmed the surgery and showed it as “La Separation de Doodica-Radica”.

Sections of Doyen’s film were part of the 1995 BBC documentary series “The Last Machine”.

But the operation was a failure as Doodica died just seven hours after the surgery on February 16, 1902. Radhika too died in November 1903.

Both the sisters were given secret burials in Paris. Nothing was known about them until Thierry Lefebvre, wrote about them in his 2004 book titled “Flesh and Celluloid: The surgical cinema of Dr. Doyen”.

Sad Tale of Odisha's first known conjoined Twins "Radhika and Dudhika" Sad Tale of Odisha's first known conjoined Twins "Radhika and Dudhika" Sad Tale of Odisha's first known conjoined Twins "Radhika and Dudhika" Sad Tale of Odisha's first known conjoined Twins "Radhika and Dudhika"

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