This year, the event on June 8, which offers ‘cure’ to asthma patients is expected to see at least 6 lakh visitors.

In its 173rd year Telanganas controversial fish prasadam continues to draw in lakhsFile photo/ PTI
news Fish Prasadam Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - 18:59

77-year-old patriarch Bathini Harinath Goud is a busy man. He has to oversee preparations for the huge ‘fish prasadam’ event which is to be held in Exhibition Grounds, Hyderabad on June 8. At least 6 lakh people are expected to visit the stall of Bathini Goud’s family, which offers ‘cure’ to asthma patients and others suffering from respiratory problems. Last year, 5.54 lakh people were administered the ‘medicine’, according to Harinath.

“From 4,000 members in the 1990s to more than 5 lakh patients visiting our stall, is proof of our credibility,” Harinath says.

Despite strong opposition from rationalists who rubbish the ‘prasadam’ as a placebo (medicine prescribed for the psychological benefit rather than therapeutic effect), the number of patients with respiratory problems who throng to Exhibition Grounds, continues to swell. Harinath claims that now they are getting patients from Europe and the Middle-East too.  

This year, the ‘prasadam’ will be administered on June 8, from 9am till 9am the next day. According to Harinath, a patient needs to be administered the ‘prasadam’ for four consecutive years, to be completely relieved of respiratory problems. “Earlier, we would give the medicine for the patient for only three years, but owing to the growing pollution, the medication has been extended to one more year.”

Jana Vignana Vedika member, Prof Satya Prasad, says, “After conducting scientific tests, we have proved that the so-called medicine has nothing which can cure asthma, and also made them change it from calling it a medicine to prasadam. If the crowds are still coming, it is because of a bleak hope that somehow, they can get rid of their asthma, free of cost.”

Rationalists from the state also rubbish the ‘fish prasadam’ as a gimmick and have been opposing the state government’s aid in conducting the event and providing accommodation. “As per the constitution, scientific temper should be maintained and pseudo-science should be opposed. However, in this case, the government helps organise the event. The fisheries department of the state makes revenue through the sale of the mullet fish, which the patients gulp down along with the yellow ‘medicine’,” Prof Satya Prasad says.

The organisers also face flak for unhygienic ways of administering the ‘prasadam’. While earlier, the event would be publicised as ‘medicine’ and ‘cure’ for asthma, after the intervention of Jana Vignana Vedika- forum of rationalists, the name ‘medicine’ has been changed to ‘prasadam’. Harinath had served one-week’s jail term in 2013 for violating the court’s order by not clearly publicising that it was ‘prasadam’ and not medicine.

Background

‘Fish prasadam’ is a medicine which Bathini Goud’s family have been traditionally giving to patients with respiratory problems, annually. Every year, the ‘prasadam’ is served on the first day of ‘Mrigasira Karti’ (June), free of cost.

Started in 1845, the event is now in its 173rd year. Harinath credits his great-grandfather for inventing the cure for respiratory problems. He proudly claims, “It was my great-grandfather Veeranna Goud, who found the cure for respiratory problems. He then passed it onto his son, then they passed it to us... which we have passed to our sons. The legacy is continuing.”

The Bathini family don’t share the ‘knowledge’ about how to prepare the fish ‘medicine’ with their daughters, fearing that their husbands would exploit the tradition. “We don’t share the secret of the medicine or the process of preparing it with the girls, they will go to a different house and their husbands might force them to commercialise it. Hence, they are forbidden from learning about the medicine.”

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