Temple healing

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7370.968 (Published 26 October 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:968

Healing temples may breed superstitions

  1. S P Kalantri, professor of medicine. (sp_kalantri@rediffmail.com)
  1. Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sevagram 442102, India
  2. York Clinic, Guy's Hospital, London SE1 3RR
  3. Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore 560 029, India

    EDITOR —Raguram et al report that when patients with psychiatric disorders stay briefly at a healing temple most of them improve significantly.1 They describe at length the legend of Muthuswamy and endorse the local notion that the temple is endowed with mysterious healing power.

    This suggestion could leave unwary patients with an unjustifiably favourable impression that healing temples can cure their diseases. Most Indians are deeply religious and superstitious. In Indian villages myths, misconceptions, blind beliefs, and superstitions abound. Quacks and local healers thrive on the illiteracy and ignorance of naive and gullible people and try to hoodwink them into believing that they have magic cures for their ills.

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    Muthuswamy temple

    Muthuswamy temple might be an exception, for it does not charge people who stay there, and, more importantly, offers no specific healing rituals. But local newspapers and quacks may distort the conclusions of the study by pointing out that even a Western journal recognises—and endorses—the hidden healing powers of Indian temples. The news might make thousands of people seek a cure for their chronic diseases in temples and shrines. Even people with potentially curable diseases may choose not to see doctors in the hospitals but seek shelter in holy places. The consequences of such an attitude could be terrible.

    History tells us that when tuberculosis was a formidable foe in the …

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