The Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic, was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus.⁣

To keep morale up, countries that had been at war, such as the US, UK, France, and Germany, underreported and minimised their numbers through wartime censorship. But the media was free to report about Spain, which had been neutral during the war. This created the impression that the disease hit Spain particularly hard, and thus the name Spanish Flu.⁣

Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people–about a third of the world’s population at the time–in four successive waves. ⁣

In India, it is also known as the Bombay Influenza or the Bombay Fever. ⁣

Research on 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic in India shows the disease was brought to the Indian shores by the soldiers returning home after World War I. The outbreak then spread across the country from west and south to east and north, reaching the whole of the country by August.⁣

It hit different parts of the country in three waves with the second wave being the highest in mortality rate. The pandemic is believed to have killed up to 14-17 million people in the country, the most among all countries.⁣

The outbreak most severely affected younger people in the age group of 20 – 40, with women suffering disproportionately.⁣

Due to devastation of the Spanish flu pandemic, the decade between 1911 and 1921 was the only census period in which India’s population fell.⁣

The spread of the disease was exacerbated by a failed monsoon and the resultant famine-like conditions, that had left people underfed and weak, and forced them to move into densely populated cities.⁣

Mahatma Gandhi was also infected by the virus.⁣

The provincial death rate in the Bombay Presidency was a relatively high 54.9 people per thousand inhabitants. ⁣

The consequent toll of death and misery, and economic fallout brought about by the pandemic led to an increase in emotion against colonial rule. In his memoirs the Hindi poet, Suryakant Tripathi, wrote “Ganga was swollen with dead bodies.” ⁣