fish prasadam, Hyderabad
Lakhs of people will throng the exhibitions grounds at Nampally to get a live, wiggling fingerling fish stuffed with herbal paste - a so-called miracle cure for asthma - stuffed down their throat by the Hyderabad-based Bathini Goud family. PTI file pic

Fish prasadam for 'asthma cure' in Hyderabad: All you need to know

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After a three-year hiatus due to COVID pandemic, the famous fish prasadam event will take off at Nampally in Hyderabad on Friday (June 9). Lakhs of people will throng the exhibitions grounds at Nampally to get a live, wiggling fingerling fish stuffed with herbal paste – a so-called miracle cure for asthma – stuffed down their throat by the Hyderabad-based Bathini Goud family.

The event, with government support, was kicked off this year by Telangana animal husbandry minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav. In fact, the government has taken steps to ensure lakhs of people who come from different states to receive the prasadam do not face any inconvenience, said Srinivas, adding that people have a lot of “faith” in the fish prasadam administered by the Bathini Harinath Goud family members, he said.

So, what is the big hullabaloo over this fish prasadam – what is its origins and why is it so popular?

Firstly, what is the fish prasadam made of?

It comprises live murrel (snakehead) fingerling fish stuffed with a yellow herbal paste. It is then slipped into the asthma patient’s mouth, who has to swallow this slithery concoction without water.

When can it be swallowed?

Asthma patients or people suffering from respiratory diseases have to consume this paste through a fish on the day of Mrigasira Karthi every year, which marks the onset of the monsoon. The visitors are also prescribed a diet and asked to take the fish prasadam for four to six consecutive years.

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Is the recipe different for vegetarians?

Vegetarians are given the prasadam sans the fish. The yellow herbal paste is mixed with jaggery and it is said vegetarians take a much longer time to be cured of their respiratory ailments.

fish prasadam, HyderabadHow is the prasadam effective?

The Goud family says the prasadam works in this fashion: They claim the small live fish wiggles inside the person’s throat, pushes the phlegm and makes it easier for the individual to breathe, thereby helping him or her to tackle the respiratory condition.

Dos and don’ts of the ‘fish prasadam’ treatment

The person should not have water for a half-an-hour after the medicine is administered.

The fish prasadam beneficiaries go home with three additional doses of the ‘medicine’, to be taken once a fortnight. They should observe a strict diet for 45 days.

The origins of the fish prasadam

The story akin to an Amar Chitra Katha story goes like this: On a stormy Mrigasira Karti night in the year 1845, a wandering soaking-wet holy mendicant from the Himalayas knocked on the door of the Bathini family. He was tired and hungry. The man of the house, Veeranna Goud, a toddy merchant, who always helped people in need, fed him, and gave him dry clothes and shelter for the night.

The next morning when the sage was leaving the house, he whispered the secret formula of the fish cure for people with respiratory issues to Veeranna Goud. This secret fish recipe has been passed down the ages and currently, Veeranna’s great-grandsons Vishwanath Goud and Harinath Goud are honouring the legacy and distributing the fish prasadam.

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Is it given to the public for free?

The fish prasadam is provided free of cost. However, the murrel fish is sold to the public at ₹25 a piece by the government.

The popularity of the prasadam

Thousands of people from all over India and even from foreign countries flock to Hyderabad every year around this time to receive the prasadam. Around 450 kg of the prasadam is made and sometimes thousands of fishlings are sold by the department of fisheries at the event.

Seeing the popularity of the prasadam distribution event, government authorities have over the years organised facilities such as free meals, drinking water, and access to toilets.

Why is it so popular?

One in every 10 asthma patients lives in India. Experts believe that the steep medical costs linked to asthma patients force them to take to these alternative remedies and believe in these ‘miracle cures’.

How genuine is this fish prasadam cure?

Many scientists, rationalists and others have questioned the medicinal properties of the fish prasadam. The ingredients used in this traditional remedy were even questioned in court by the Indian Medical Association. According to them, the herbal paste contains heavy metal that can cause serious harm to a person’s health. In fact, their efforts led the Goud family to refer to their offering as ‘fish prasadam’ and not a ‘fish cure’.

According to author Samanth Subramaniam, he writes in his book that the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, could not find any curative properties in the herbal paste. However, neither did it find any steroids or dangerous amounts of heavy metals in it. Meanwhile, the ministry of AYUSH, which handles alternative medicinal traditions, has refused to classify the Gouds’ paste as an Ayurvedic cure. Instead, they called it folk medicine.

Whatever its nomenclature, the Goud family, for now, is not fishing in troubled waters by referring to their legacy shared by a sage as a ‘prasadam’!

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