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Thousands Flock to Hyderabad for 'Fish Prasadam' Believed to Cure Asthma

Annual distribution of fish prasadam in Hyderabad draws crowds seeking relief from asthma. Administered by the Bathini family, it's a tradition dating back over 175 years, blending faith with skepticism amidst scientific inquiries.

By Ground report
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 Thousands Flock to Hyderabad for 'Fish Prasadam' Believed to Cure Asthma

The fish prasadam administering for asthma patients at exhibition grounds in Hyderabad. Photo credit: Flickr/radha krishna

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On June 8th, thousands gathered at the Exhibition Grounds at Nampally in Hyderabad for the annual fish prasadam distribution. This ritual has drawn devotees and skeptics for over 175 years. It takes place on the auspicious day of 'Mrigasira Karti', marking the onset of the monsoon according to the Hindu calendar.

Bathini family treats asthma tradition

The Bathini family administers prasadam by inserting a yellow herbal paste into the mouth of a live fingerling fish, then into the throat of asthma patients. They claim this can cure asthma and respiratory ailments, a belief passed down through generations.

The distribution started at 9 a.m., but eager crowds gathered at 6 a.m., with some travelling from distant corners of the country. Praveen Yashwantrao Patil, who came from Jalgaon, Maharashtra, shared his motivation: "My relative took the prasadam last year, and his asthma was cured. So, I'm here this year."

R.K. Tiwari, a 50-year-old visitor from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, was on his second visit to the event. "My niece was cured a few years ago," he said. "This time, I am here for my granddaughter, who has asthma."

The distribution was divided into four time slots: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.,12 p.m. to 6 p.m., 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday, and 12 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday.

According to Bathini Gowri Shankar Goud, a member of the Bathini family, the response this year has been overwhelming. "We administered fish prasadam to around 100,000 asthma patients on Saturday and expect another lakh on Sunday," he told the Times of India.

Fish prasadam tradition began in 1845 when a mendicant from the Himalayas sought shelter at the Bathini family's home. The sage whispered the fish cure formula to Veeranna Goud, the head of the Bathini family as a gesture of gratitude. Since then, the Goud family has been distributing the prasadam to those with respiratory ailments.

Administering a live murrel (snakehead) fingerling fish stuffed with a yellow herbal paste to asthma patients on an empty stomach. The Bathini family believes the wriggling fish pushes the phlegm, making it easier to breathe and potentially alleviating their respiratory condition.

Fish cure's effectiveness questioned

The belief in the fish prasadam's efficacy is strong among its devotees, but the scientific community has questioned its curative properties. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has challenged the herbal paste's ingredients, citing concerns about potential harmful heavy metals.

In response to concerns, the Goud family no longer refers to their offering as a "fish cure" and acknowledges its spiritual and traditional nature by calling it a "fish prasadam."

Samanth Subramanian, an author who has researched the fish prasadam, writes in his book that the Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow found no curative properties in the herbal paste, but also no steroids or dangerous amounts of heavy metals in the mixture.

The Ministry of AYUSH, which oversees alternative medicine in India, refused to classify the Gouds' paste as an Ayurvedic cure. Instead, they labeled it as "folk medicine."

Despite scientific skepticism, the fish prasadam continues to draw massive crowds annually, a testament to faith and tradition. The Fisheries Department of Telangana set up 16 counters to issue tokens for the murrel fingerlings, stocking 1.5 lakh (150,000) fishlings. The Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) provided five lakh (500,000) water sachets to keep the fish alive and ensured an uninterrupted supply of tankers.

Pandals shelter patients; trust persists

Pandals were set up to shelter patients, anticipating rain. "Every year, we administer fish prasadam to over 100,000 asthma patients," a Bathini family member told the Times of India. "We've been doing this for 175 years, and the patients trust us. This year, we expect 200,000 patients."

The Bathini family offers the herbal paste mixed with jaggery for those with dietary restrictions. However, they believe vegetarians may take longer to experience the benefits.

The event's popularity is driven by belief in its healing powers and the steep medical costs of asthma treatment. Many seek affordable relief through alternative remedies like the fish prasadam, with one in ten asthma patients in India.

The Goud family is committed to upholding this centuries-old tradition as the debate over the fish prasadam's efficacy continues. The fish prasadam represents a potential cure and a symbol of hope and faith in difficult times for thousands who flock to Hyderabad.

The fish prasadam is a medical cure or a spiritual practice, its enduring appeal reminds us of the power of belief and traditional wisdom despite modern skepticism.

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