The fish prasadam remedy: Annual Festival where thousands swallow live fish to cure asthma

The fish prasadam remedy: Annual Festival where thousands swallow live fish to cure asthma
A woman swallows fish prasadam, live fish with herbal paste, in Hyderabad in 2019BCCL
  • In Hyderabad, fish prasadam is administered to people with asthma every year during the first week of June.
  • A herbal paste is placed in a live murrel (snakehead) fingerling fish, which is then slipped into the mouth of the patient and swallowed without water.
  • It is believed that fish prasadam cures asthma. Here’s all you need to know about it.
During the first week of June, which usually marks the beginning of monsoon, the city of Nampallay in Hyderabad decks up to welcome thousands of asthma sufferers. At the festival, patients swallow live fish with herbal paste to cure their ailment.

They line up at Nampally exhibition grounds every year to avail the benefit of the wonder drug, fish prasadam, which is believed to cure respiratory problems.
The fish prasadam remedy: Annual Festival where thousands swallow live fish to cure asthma
Fish prasadam takers show their packets of murrel fingerlings at the fish prasadam mela in 2019BCCL

However, the festival has been called off for the third consecutive year in view of Covid-19 pandemic. The organisers have decided not to conduct the festival this year as a precautionary measure.

Every year, the Telangana government makes elaborate arrangements for the festival. In 2018, the Department of Fisheries had procured around 2 lakh fishlings and 80,000 people attended the annual festival. More than 2,000 policemen were deployed, including experts from the crime department.

What is fish prasadam?


This practice dates back to 1845. It was started by the Bathini Goud family in Hyderabad. The family claims that their 177-year-old secret recipe has the potential to cure asthma for life.

Prasadam is a Sanskrit term for prasad, which is consumed by attendees as a holy offering.
The fish prasadam remedy: Annual Festival where thousands swallow live fish to cure asthma
<em>Bathini Harinath Goud, key organiser of the festival</em><em></em><br /><em></em>BCCL

The 'miraculous' fish prasadam includes a specific kind of murrel fish. The fish is stuffed with a yellow herbal paste in its mouth, which is the family’s secret recipe, before the visitors swallow it. It is known to work if the wriggling of the fish is felt while swallowing it, which allegedly helps to tackle the respiratory condition
The fish prasadam remedy: Annual Festival where thousands swallow live fish to cure asthma
<em>The fish being stuffed with herbal medicine before distribution</em><em></em><br /><em></em>BCCL

The family also has a cure for vegetarians. The yellow herbal paste is given with jaggery instead of fish.

It is organised on the day of Mrigasira Karti, which marks the onset of monsoon according to the Hindu calendar. The prasadam is distributed by the Bathini family free of cost. Over 450 kilos of prasadam is made every year.

The visitors are also prescribed a particular diet and are asked to take the fish prasadam for three consecutive years. Vegetarians take a much longer time to be cured of their respiratory ailments.

From three-year-old children to 70-year-old patients, people from all age groups gather from across the country every year hoping to get better.

Cure or superstition?

With an estimated 1.5-2 crore asthma patients globally, at least one in every 10 asthma patient lives in India. The economic costs associated with asthma are known to exceed those of TB and HIV/AIDS combined.

So, the prospect of living an asthma-free life from this life-long ailment that burns a hole in their pockets is too tantalising for asthma sufferers.

Despite the controversies, which hit its popularity before the pandemic put an elaborated pause on it, people gathered from all over India and even abroad.

It has also been challenged by scientists and activists, time and again.

The traditional remedy was even questioned in court by the Indian Medical Association, challenging its ingredients. They claimed that the herbal paste contains heavy metals that can cause serious health problems.

However, Goud family has denied these allegations and said that the herbal paste has been tested in laboratories as per court orders and marked safe.

According to the camp’s website, a holy man passed on the herbal remedy to Veeranna Goud and since then, they have passed it down through generations.

Currently, Vishwanath Goud and Harinath Goud – Veeranna’s great-grandsons – are currently responsible for distributing it to the public for free.