Bonesetters in Kashmir: Healing power beyond modern medicine

Bonesetters in Kashmir: Healing power beyond modern medicine

Though medical practitioners oppose their method of treatment, well-known bonesetter claims that if this were the case, they would not have received any patients

By Nusrat Sidiq

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Mohammad Ayub was waiting in a long queue for his shoulder treatment, the second visit to a bonesetter after tripping in his home washroom.

The 49-year-old chemistry teacher in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, had a good experience with a bonesetter because he took his son to the well-known Mohammad Ramzan Bangi and was cured, which is why he returned to the same person for his injured shoulder.

Bangi, 58, sits at the corner of a famous Sufi shrine in the heart of Srinagar, clutching a bag containing bandages, plasters, medical tape rolls, cotton, and a small knife.

In Muslim-majority Kashmir, bonesetters are believed to have spiritual healing powers that transcend modern medicine.

The bonesetters are able to assess the injury by using a bone-related special art that they learned from their ancestors. They place their thumb on the broken bones and press, assessing the intensity of the fracture or injury solely through touch.

"It is a God-given ability for us, and by His grace alone, we are able to cure many patients who come to us," Bangi, who was dressed in a traditional winter cloak known locally as a pheran, told Anadolu.

He nodded to the next patient, Ayub, who had a shoulder injury. Bangi pressed his shoulder with his thumb and asked him if it still hurt, Ayub gestured, and the bonesetter slicked a medical tape roll with cotton.

“I feel much relieved from the pain and now I am able to move my shoulder,” Ayub told Anadolu with a visible smile on his face after 10 minutes of treatment. "I didn't go to a hospital and came here, and by the grace of God, it was a good decision," he added.

Many people in Kashmir, like Ayub, prefer to go to a bonesetter for bone treatments rather than an orthopedic surgeon or a general physician.

Bangi is one of the bonesetters in Srinagar, but he is more famous because he chose his father's profession, who was sitting at the same Naqshband Sahab shrine, which was built in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and named after the well-known Bukhara mystic, Khawaja Syed Bahauddin Naqshband, the founder of a Sufi order.

He has been sitting in the same corner of the shrine where his father used to sit, and treating people with bone problems for the past 32 years.

Known as watangor in a local language, or the bonesetters, this group of indigenous people in the Kashmir region claim to cure different orthopedic injuries based on spiritual belief.

“I was a young boy when I used to accompany my father to this shrine,” Bangi said, recalling a large crowd of people waiting for his father to treat them.

His father, Ghulam Mohammad Bangi, was a traditional bonesetter for nearly 50 years and belonged to a family of bonesetters – a unique traditional practice in Kashmir that dates back decades before the advent of modern science.

“I think I would have been 17 years old when I started this practice as a profession after learning it from my father,” Bangi said, adding that he has devoted his entire life to this practice since 1981, and receives hundreds of patients every day seeking treatment from him.

He explained how years of practice and belief have enabled him to heal people’s broken hands, shoulders, feet, or any other bone without any formal medical training or scientific knowledge.

- Health experts discard

However, medical practitioners in the region say many times they received patients with additional complications after being treated by the bonesetters.

Dr. Naseer Ahmad Mir, a senior orthopedic surgeon, told Anadolu that he has received many cases where patients were in a worse state of health after being treated by these traditional bonesetters.

"In some cases, we had to cut down limbs and operate on patients for dislocated bones and joints because bonesetters don't understand anatomy," Mir said.

For bone and joint issues, the Kashmir region is dependent on a single health care facility, the Government Hospital for Bone and Joint, Barzulla, in Srinagar.

He explained that the use of bandages and adhesive tape rolls by bonesetters on fractured bones causes more damage because it blocks blood vessels, resulting in the death of body tissue.

"Many times, bacterial infections and blisters develop as a result of the continuous use of such bandages," he cautioned.

But Bangi, on the other hand, disagreed, claiming that if this had been the case, they would not have received any patients.

There are some people, he asserted, who do not adhere to this traditional practice and instead treat people without regard for practice or belief.

"We have dedicated our lives to this practice, and experience teaches you a lot," the bonesetter said while treating a patient.

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