Bathini Harinath Goud, the head of Hyderabad's Bathini family famous for administering fish medicine to asthma patients every year, passed away following prolonged illness. He was 84.
Harinath Goud breathed his last at Kavadiguda on Wednesday night. He is survived by wife, Sunitra Devi, two daughters and two sons.
His last rites will be performed on Friday, family sources said.
He was the last of the fourth generation Gouds distributing free fish medicine to asthma patients from across the country.
Harinath Goud was instrumental in organizing the event for the last three decades after the demise of his elder brothers.
The Bathini Goud family claims to be distributing the fish medicine free of cost for the last 178 years. The secret formula for the herbal medicine was given to their ancestor in 1845 by a saint after taking an oath from him that it would be administered free of cost.
Members of the Bathini Goud family administer the 'wonder drug' on 'Mrigasira Karti', (during the first week of June) which heralds the onset of the monsoon.
A yellow colour herbal paste prepared by the family is placed in the mouth of a live 'murrel' fingerling, which is then slipped through the throat of the patient. It is believed to provide much-needed relief if taken for three consecutive years. For vegetarians, the family gives medicine with jaggery.
Asthma patients from various parts of the country flock to Hyderabad to take the fish medicine. However, the medicine lost its popularity during the last 15 years due to controversies over the contents of herbal paste.
Some groups, working to inculcate scientific temper among people, termed the fish medicine a fraud. They also approached a court, claiming that since the herbal paste contains heavy metals, it can cause serious health problems.
But the Goud family claims that the tests in laboratories conducted as per court orders revealed that the herbal paste is safe.
After the challenge by the rationalists, the Goud family started calling it 'fish prasadam'.
Despite the controversies, people continue to throng the venue every year in the hope of finding some relief to their nagging respiratory problems. However, the numbers have dwindled over the years.
The family claimed that in 1845, a holy man met their ancestor Veeranna Goud, a toddy merchant, as he was impressed with his charity work. The saint shared a secret formula of herbs to cure asthma. He blessed the well and Veeranna Goud's house in Doodh Bowli in the old city.
Veeranna Goud later passed on the secret formula to his son Shiva Ram Goud, who later shared it with his son Shanker Goud. The family continued distribution of the 'miracle drug' at their ancestral house.
Shanker Goud passed on the secret to his sons, including Harinath Goud. It gained immense popularity in the 1980s. Thousands of people from different parts of the country and some from even abroad used to queue up in the dingy lanes and bylanes around the house for the medicine.
Harinath Goud along with his brothers Somalingam Goud, Shiram Goud, Vishwanath Goud and Uma Maheshwar Goud continued the tradition. During the 1990s, the then TDP government headed by Chandrababu Naidu started patronizing the event.
Despite the requests from successive governments, the family refused to shift the venue to an open place saying the medicine would lose its efficacy. However, following communal violence in the old city in 1998, Naidu succeeded in convincing the Goud family to shift the event to sprawling Exhibition Grounds in Nampally in the heart of the city. Since then, the family has continued the annual event there.
After a gap of three years due to Covid-19 pandemic, the event was held in June 2023.
Harinath Goud had said recently that they prepared the fifth and sixth generations of the family to continue the tradition. Children of Harinath Goud and his four brothers all take part in preparation of herbal medicine.
(With inputs from IANS)