Magicians of anti-venom

Most people will mock the idea of getting cured of a snake bite by hearing some mantras over the mobile. However, when it is a matter of life and death, snake healers provide relief. They have saved lives of many who have been turned away by hospitals. Shalini Saksena talks to some healers and those who have been pulled out from the jaws of death 

Year: 1960. Place: Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. A man is walking towards his home when he sees a huge King Cobra slither past him over the tall grass. Seeing snakes during rainy season was not rare, but this one had wandered too close to the human habitat. “Lana toh danda, bahut bada hai (Get me a stick, it’s a big one),” he tells a few workers who had been working at the construction site nearby. Immediately, the snake turns back and bites him in the ankle.

The man, who happens to be the chief engineer’s manservant is rushed to the Government hospital. The doctors do everything in their power to save him, including administering anti-venom, but none of it shows results. The chief engineer also rushes to the hospital. A lot of people have gathered. The man is turning blue when someone in the crowd suggests that they call the person who has the ability to cure snake bites by reciting mantras. Even though the chief engineer and the victim’s family do not believe in jhaar-phoonkh, the diminishing condition of the patient makes them relent.

The man arrives at the hospital and orders that the victim be laid outside in the garden. What happens next is nothing short of a miracle. “The doctors had given up hope. But as the jhaar-phoonkh wallah started reciting some spells, the body twisted like that of a snake. The man then tried to keep a utensil full of water on the head, but the patient’s hand would topple the water. After 20 minutes, the utensil was finally put on the head without the hand stopping it,” the chief engineer recalls.

While reciting more mantras, the jhaar-phoonkh wallah asked a question: “Why did you bite the man?

“It was such a shock when my manservant spoke. For all practical purposes, he was dead, but, surprisingly, he replied. ‘I was going my way but this man wanted to kill me so I bit him’. The jhaar-phoonkh wallah then asked the snake to leave the man’s body. ‘I won’t,’ pat came the reply. The mantras continued. Finally after much cajoling, the snake agreed but on a condition that every poornima (full moon night) he would light an oil lamp and offer obeisance. The body twisted again. It started to loose the blue tinge and in 15 minutes he was able to stand and walk,” the chief engineer recounts.

Today such stories will be termed as the old wives’ tales, but there are certain real life instances to show how mantras have the power to cure not just diseases, but also scorpion and even snake bites. “These spells are powerful. Medical science doesn’t have answers for everything. If it did, why do doctors ask people to pray to God when medicines don’t work,” says Pandit Ramesh Bhojraj Dwivedi who has authored many books on mantras.

The Sagar incident is not one of its kinds. It is said that the mantras have such a power that people have actually seen a jhaar-phoonkh wallah throw kauris (coins) in four directions and then the snake come from one of those directions with the kauri on its head. A few mantras later, the bitten man has been known to get up and walk with no side-effects.

While doctors refute such claims calling them wild and baseless, it doesn’t stop people from calling the modern-day jhaar-phoonkh wallah Pradeep Kumar Singh who is an officer with the Forest Department in Cuttack. “My father, who was also with the Forest Department, taught me the mantra to cure snakebites. I am a man of science but the miracle I see every time I cure a victim makes me believe in it. I call it God’s divine power,” says Singh.

Singh was only 18 when he cured the first snake bite victim. It was in 1983. Twenty-seven years hence, Singh has lost the count of the number of people he has cured. What makes his feat remarkable is that he can cure victims over a mobile phone call also. 

I just need the name of the person who has been bitten, but I need to know all the names by which he is known, even his nickname. I recite a few mantras and the victim gets well within some time. In fact, I get most of the calls from hospitals where the victim has been taken for the cure. Those who don’t go to the doctor, I insist that once the victim has been cured, he be taken to the doctor to ensure that there is no poison in the blood. I want people to know that I am not a quack,” Singh tells you.

Singh, who gets more than 30 calls a day, claims that he only needs five minutes over the phone and it is not that the mobile has to be put to the victim’s ear. But there is one condition — the victim has to be breathing. And not all calls he gets are from far-flung areas in India. He gets calls from Egypt, Ethiopia and even Nigeria. “I get calls even from abroad. Friends of friends call me. I can cure a man in coma too. My family is full of doctors and they have been a witness to what I do. They can’t refute the fact that mantras have the power to cure,” Singh says.

It happened last year. I have a catering business and one of my workers was bitten by a snake from the Cobra family. His family immediately took him to the local hospital who said they didn’t have proper vaccine to treat him and he had to be taken to Bhubaneshwar. We rushed him to the Government Medical College. Luckily, I had Singh’s number. So, on the way I called up Singh and told him what had happened. He asked me if the person who had been bitten was alive. I told him he was in coma. We were only half way to the hospital and my worker was up and moving around. But Singh insisted that we take him to the hospital and get all the tests done. The doctors said that there was no evidence that he was bitten by a deadly snake. As a precaution, the 20-year-old victim was in the hospital for four days,” Akshay Kumar Patasani tells you over the phone from Chandabali district, Bhadrak, Odisha.

An eyewitness has a similar story to narrate. However, he is not convinced if it was Singh who cured him or the doctors or whether it was a combination of both. Mukti Kanth Bari who was visiting the Government Medical College in Bhubaneshwar because his mother had been operated, tells you how a 10-year-old was brought to the hospital with a snake bite. “I was told that the snake was poisonous. The doctors had given the child an anti-venom and were struggling to save him. Suddenly, someone in the crowd suggested that Singh be called. I was told that he cured people over the phone. I am not sure what finally cured the boy because the injection had also been given. The fact remains that the child, who was in a comatose state, was up within minutes of the call made to Singh,” Bari says.

There are bound to be people who are sceptics. I can understand their dilemma. After all, we live in a world where we want proof before we believe in anything. But there are certain things that can’t be explained. One needs to have faith. Those whose relatives and family members have been cured despite doctors giving up all hopes, they become believers. All others will look at what I do with suspicion,” Singh remarks.

Such is Singh’s faith in his divine gift that he told this reporter to go visit AIIMS in the Capital and get herself bitten by the deadliest snake they have and give him a call. “I will recite a mantra from here and within minutes all the poison will be neutralised. Get a test done and you will find out for yourself what I say is true,” Singh tells you with conviction.He may reached at his Phone Number  9338039119 for any poisonous bites . We just need to tell the patient's name and place for doing the poison removal mantra jabam. 

What Baba (Singh) does is a miracle. In 2007, a relative was bitten by Krait. She was working in the field. Her body started to turn blue. The local hospital refused to admit her. We took her to the big hospital near our village in Bhusandpur district Khordha. But on the way, I called up Baba who just asked me the name of the victim. He said he will recite some mantra and it worked like a miracle. People in my village have been known to die when a Krait bites,” says Rajinder Lenka who is into local politics and takes up small Government contracts of building roads.

However, Singh is not alone. Shahadat Ali from a small village in Madhya Pradesh has also mastered the art of saving people’s lives by reciting mantras over phone. His method though is a little different from Singh’s. When he receives a call, he not only needs the name of the victim who has been bitten by the snake, he also asks for the mother’s name and the zila/tehsil or the gram’s name. “Just the name is not enough. There can be many people by the same name. The mother’s name is also important. I ask a family member to boil around 250 ml of milk and call me once it is done. In the meantime, I start chanting my mantras. I then ask a relative to feed five to six teaspoons of milk to the victim. If he is able to retain the milk, all is well, if he rejects it, the process is repeated till he drinks the milk,” Shahadat tells you.

While the victim is able to stand within minutes, the work for Shahadat has just started. He spends the next hour offering puja. “Even though the person, who has been bitten, is able to walk in 15 to 20 minutes, the entire process is much longer. After all I am, in a way, interfering in the ways of the nature and I need to appease it — ask for forgiveness. I am an illiterate person, can’t read or write and the only language I know is Urdu but I do understand the laws of nature. My guru, Pandit Yashwant Baghwat Maratha, taught me all I know today. He told me that there was one thing that I had to be careful if I wanted to save a life — cleanliness. I can’t start reciting the mantra with dirty hands,” Shahadat says.

The Agni Puraan, too, has an entire section dedicated on how to treat snake bites. It has a list of herbs and various techniques that can be used in the treatment. Different snake bites have different treatment. The puraan says if a person has been bitten by gonasa snake, a portion of lehsun (garlic), ramatha fruit, kushth, agni, vyoshak and milk be given to the victim to cure him. Similarly, if a person is bitten by rajila, then a mixture of Krishna, rock salt (saindha namak), clarified butter and honey mixed with puritati will cure the person. However, the Agni Puraan has a stipulation — before administering any herb, mantras have to be recited.

Shahadat also recounts other details that his guru told him. He can’t charge money for saving a life. He cures people free of cost. How does he earn his living if this is not the source of income? “I am a farmer and, by God’s grace, I manage to earn enough so that I can feed my family. I don’t charge a penny from people who call me. But the people in my village, once in a while, recharge my mobile so that I can continue to save lives,” the 63-year-old says.

Interestingly, he saves not just human lives. Animals, too, have been saved. He also tells you that in India there are only four varieties of poisonous snakes. And that all bites are fatal. There are symptoms that differentiate a poisonous one from a non-poisonous one. Slurring, not able to see, headache and body starting to twist are some of the symptoms of the bite from a poisonous snake.

How Shahadat learnt the art is also an interesting story. “I was 40 and felt restless. It was as if something was pulling me to leave the village. One day I just walked out of the house and visited many religious places. I came across a group of sadhus and stayed with them. They introduced me to my guru,” says the father of 16 children.

In the last 23 years he has saved many lives. Though he has lost count of the number, he tells you that he gets around 10 calls a day and since he has become a celebrity within his profession, he now keeps a record. “Gone are the days when people blindly followed what one said, they want proof. Therefore, I keep a record now. Till now I have saved 263 lives. And it gives me a sense of purpose. I used to think I am worthless because I didn’t know how to read or write, but I have found my calling and it gives me immense satisfaction,” Shahadat concludes.

Power of Mantra:
Almost everyone will tell you that spells have the power to make the impossible possible. Mantras are Vedic by origin. They have the power to cure diseases, ward off evils, gain wealth, acquire supernatural powers and be able to cure snake bites. Though it may sound bizarre, saints and sages thousands of years ago cured people by simply chanting them. Of course, each cure had a different mantra that had to be pronounced in a certain way.

Pandit Ramesh Bhojraj Dwivedi, who has written many books on how science and occult go hand-in-hand, tells you how powerful spells are. “Mantras have been with man for thousands of years. And there have been millions of cases where it has been proved that they have the power to cure. There is only one thing that has to be kept in mind — the pronunciation has to be perfect. A mistake can have dire consequences,” Dwivedi tells you.

But what about cases where people have claimed that they can cure snake bites? “Well, it is possible. Medical science doesn’t have all the answers. Why else would the doctors tell patients’ family when nothing works, they should pray to God. ‘Bhagwan se dua maango’ is what they say. What is dua? It is a type of mantra,” says Dwivedi.

While there may be a mantra to not only cure scorpion bite but also cure the deadliest of all bites — that of King Cobra, an important point to keep in mind is that it will lose its essence when recited over the phone.

While there are mantras for curing snake bite, the victim has to be in front of the person who is reciting it. Mantras are about vibrations that have to reach the victim to have good effect. Curing snake bite, in my opinion, over the phone is not possible. First, the vibrations can’t reach the person who has been bitten. Second, over the phone, the pronunciation loses its meaning. When that happens, it can cause more harm than good to the person who is reciting it and the victim,” Dwivedi concludes.



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