Deen Muhammad, the head massage expert, is mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) for helping Europe coin the word “shampoo”. He hailed from Bihar. The ODNB carries the name of those persons who played a major role in England over the last 2000 years. This lowly barber, Deen, now stands in the same row in the roll of honour as Princess Sophia Alexandra, who was married to Maharaja Duleep Singh of Patiala.
Deen’s father was an employee of the East India Company and collected tax from the people of Bihar and Bengal around mid 1700. Deen settled down in England in 1775 and was the first Indian to write and publish a book in English, ‘Travels of Deen Muhammad’ in 1794. It is believed that Deen was born in Buxar where the famous Battle of Buxar between the East India Company and early India revolutionaries took place. Deen’s father had fought for the Company in that battle.
Beginning his career as a servant of the Company, Deen used to massage the heads of war-fatigued soldiers with soap and a special oil. He was called the shampoo champion by these soldiers because they could not pronounce “champi”, the Hindi word for head massage. In England, Ireland and Scotland, Deen gained fame as a shampoo surgeon. The ODNB describes Deen by this name. Deen learnt the art of massaging from local barbers, and hakims from the different towns of Bihar.