Saturday, January 5, 2008

Apatani medicine in former times

Bloodletting in one of the oldest medical practices in the world. In this historical document shot by anthropologist Fürer-Haimendorf in 1944-45 and made available online by Digital Himalaya, the bloodletting devices used by Apatanis are small bamboo tubes called take-birii. A female traditional healer applies them to face, nose and leg of a number of women of different ages who have come to her for bloodletting. They submit their affected parts to the suction of the bamboo tubes. The blood oozes into the tube and the healer then comes round to collect it - she sucks it out and spits it into a bowl.

It is interesting to remember that in Europe, for centuries fever was commonly relieved by removing an excess of blood up to the late 19th century : suction cups, pumps, and leeches were used to suck out the infected blood. Medieval medicine in particular was based on a theory that human activity was regulated by a balance of four elemental fluids resident in the human body-blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. When the fluids were in balance, the person was healthy physically and psychically. Any overabundance of a fluid produced characteristic symptoms that could be controlled medically by releasing the superfluous fluid; consequently, a fever was relieved by removing an excess of blood… Although today it is well established than bloodletting has no or very little beneficial effect on health, it would be interesting to know the set of ideas that were underlying this practice among Apatanis.
P. Bouchery


NPR said...

Thats another good post from you and video link is also very rare one. Though we have heard of such practices existed in the past,but never could imagine how they used to do!!! From video we can see the clear view of bloodletting process. These practices must have been carried untill the medical practices were not much familiar with the Apatani people in their vicinity.

Since the day we are born,we are more luckier to live with the modern medical practices and I could never imagine about how people of the pasts used to live without the present medical facilities!!! And most interesting thing is that still our older folks of the communities believes in existing of "TAKE" (literally which means some foreign substances in human body) which makes body itching or painful.

prava said...

Amazing video.Good job.