Fish Prasadam: Miracle or myth?

Image: spokesman.com
Image: spokesman.com

Hyderabad: In a world where science and technology is paving way for advancement in the field of medicine, there still lies a plethora of ‘believers,’ who undoubtedly depend upon ancient techniques for treating incurable diseases like Asthma and Cancer.

Since 1998, an ancient practice takes place in different parts of Andhra Pradesh called the Fish Prasadam. The ancient remedy is said to be passed on to the Bathini Brothers, a Brahmin family that administers the proceedings where a little over 100,000 people gather to get treated for Asthma by the ‘miracle cure’ for free.

Fish Prasadam being given to a lady in Hyderabad, June 2013
Fish Prasadam being given to a lady in Hyderabad, June 2013

Bathini Mrugasira Fish or the Fish medicine is made into a small ball and packed inside the mouth of live murrel fish of nearly 6cm in size. The fish is then slipped into the mouth of the asthmatic patient by a technique initiated by the Bathini family.

“The fish is slippery, so there is no problem in swallowing it. The live fish moves, wagging it tail and fins, through the throat and negotiates the phlegm congestion, providing cure to asthma,” claimed Bathini Harinath Goud from the Bathini family.

Dr R.Vijay Kumar of Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad said, “Psychologists and researchers have noticed a rise in the concept of the mass placebo effect. It parallels the very idea of a positive therapeutic effect claimed by a patient after receiving a placebo believed by him to be an active technique for treatment.”

Kumar also added that Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition for which several medicines are available. However, the latter can control and prevent attacks to a certain extent but can never cure the problem. “Doctors have never said asthma can be cured. That is why a lot of people opted for non-Allopathic treatments.”

Thousands had thronged to the fish prasadam mela at Exhibition Grounds in Hyderabad earlier in June this year. Asthma patients from across the country and abroad started queuing up for the tokens right from early hours where 23,000 murrel fingerlings were sold. The same medicine is treated to vegetarians but mixed in jaggery.

S G Koti, a driver with the road transport corporation hailing from Karnataka got 15 people including eight women battling asthma in the hope of getting a cure. “I took the prasadam for three years and I don’t need to depend on inhalers and medication anymore,” he said. Adding that before taking the fish prasadam, his monthly expenditure for the illness was around Rs 500 and but now he does not spend anything.

The medicine was declared harmless by the State Government after NGOs like Jana Vignana Vedika and Allopathic doctors protested against the distribution of the medicine couple years ago. “Treatments like ‘fish prasadam’ provide nothing but a placebo effect,” said Dr Sailaja of Apollo Hospital, New Delhi. He adds that the procedure could lead to diseases like hepatitis if hygiene is not considered by takers.

Bathini Fish Medicine is served and administered on a specific day called “Mrigishira Karthi”, which normally coincides with the arrival of monsoon rains, during the first or second week of June.

Bathini Harinath Goud throws light on the specifics of the traditional remedy, “The secret formula of this wonder cure was passed to Shiva Ram Goud who later passed it on to Shanker Goud. People from Middle East, UK and US also came this year. After taking the medicine the patient has to be under strict diet control for 45 days,” he said.