Still in vogue


Century-old practices and professions continue to co-exist with modern technology and advancement in various fields in Amritsar. Though medical science does not often recognise and even counters the claims of patients being treated successfully with them, there is a section of society that still visits the khandani hakims (traditional medicine practitioners), jarahs (traditional surgeons) and pehlwans. The city has renowned hospitals of orthopaedic surgeons and a number of physiotherapists practice along with pehlwans who treat fractured bones and dislocation of joints by setting a ‘manji’ (bed) in the markets. The Government ENT Hospital, which specifically deals with ear, nose and throat ailments, was established in the city in 1920 but the ‘red topi’ wearing squad is still in demand at the bus stand, railway station and Bhandari Bridge. They have permanent customers who enjoy the cleaning of their ears by these red topiwalas. However, ENT specialists claim that these ear-cleaners induce infections. Still, the practice remains in demand. Medical science does not consider that dharan (navel displacement) is a health issue but the city has century-old hikmatkars who treat only dharan. The Nai community is mostly barbers but some use their knives and cutters for ‘jarah’ (surgery) also. They claim to have the skills to remove small lumps on various parts of the body and address other physical issues. Outdated techniques remain in practice, a question of belief perhaps. However, mainstream medicine now tends to relegate them to the sidelines. Still some persons earn their bread by taking up vocations like repairing wrist watches, sharpening knives and selling roasted millets. Tribune correspondent Charanjit Singh Teja and lensman Sunil Kumar team up to highlight some of the extant professions.

House of Surgery: Descendants of Shado Nai, a famous Jarah, still run the House of Surgery. Though the family treats several health issues with medicine, they were once known for performing surgery.

A shop claiming navel displacement cure near Hindu College in the city.

A vendor sells “Buddhi Maaee Da Jhaatta”, commonly known as cotton candy, at Katra Jaimal Singh.

A vendor sells roasted millets at a local market in the walled city area.

Ear cleaners (red topiwalas) clean the ear of customers at Bhandari Bridge.

These khandani hakims claim to have natural medicines to treat chronic diseases.

An elderly mechanic fixes a wrist watch at Hall Bazaar.

A self-styled dentist runs a dental care unit outside the railway station. The family profession has been passed on to him by his forefathers.

A ‘pehlwan’ at Macchi Mandi treats the ligament of a person.

An elderly man sharpens the blade of a kitchen knife.