Like all folk beliefs, the practice of eating fish on Mrigasira Karthe too has two sides, writes Prabalika M. Borah

Tuesday evening as the sun set, millions of believers waited for the morning after so they could indulge in ‘fish eating.' Mrigasira karthe which began from June 8, 5 p.m. lasts for a day. Those heading for the fish medicine will ensure they are at the right venue for the medicine and those who aren't suffering from asthma make sure to eat fish without fail to keep all ailments at bay.

“Fish eating is a must during this time for non-vegetarians,” says a believer. Ask her why? And she appears clueless. “It is something that I have grown up listening to in our house. We don't eat but we respect the practice,” she says.

Others say the benefits from eating fish isn't restricted to mrigasira karthe, which seems to be a week-long ritual. “Besides being a fish-loving household, we strongly go by the belief that fish should be consumed during this week without fail. We have seen our mother do this and we are following the practice, with the explanation of “vontiki manchidi” (it is good for health to eat during this time).

No wonder fishes are almost selling at double the price in fish markets except for the stalls set up by the Fisheries Department. If you are looking at buying live fish, you should be ready to shell out anything between Rs. 450 and Rs. 500. Vendors who deliver fish to homes seem to be working over time to meet the orders.

Fish as food seems to have a lot of benefits. Eaters benefit in more ways than one by eating fish, but the benefit tag attached to eating fish for a week during mrigasira karthe seems to be a myth. Nutritionist Zohra Jabeen recommends fish to those dieting and wanting to lose weight. “It is believed that eating fish during this time cures breathing disorders, but it is far from true,” she says. And none other than Bathini Harinath Goud who administers the fish medicine seconds her. “Mrigasira Karthe lasts for a day. We give a particular fish with a medicine to cure asthma. But eating any fish without our medicine during this time isn't a cure for asthma. Folks at home have been eating fish cooked with hing (asafoetida) during this week. This is a belief that is passed on to every household by the ancestors,” says Harinath Goud.

Medically, eating fish seems to be good as it carries with it Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acid and several types of minerals. Because of the presence of these minerals, fish food seems to fight bad fat which keeps heart ailments at bay. “That doesn't mean we can eat fish and do no physical exercise at all. Eating fish is one of the components to remain healthy,” adds Zohra.

While these are the folk beliefs of eating fish, there is another belief that says fishes shouldn't be consumed during the month without R in the Gregorian calendar. The explanation to this is: Months through May to August is the time when most fish breed and spawn and to sustain a continued supply of fresh and healthy fish, it is necessary that the fish are given an opportunity. It is unwise to consume shell fish too during these months because of the pesky red algae blooms in summer in the seas (usually referred to as the ‘red tide'). These are known to poison and contaminate shell fish and cause food poisoning when consumed by humans.

However, for a die-hard fish eater there is no logic besides ‘I love fish, come rain or sunshine, I will eat it everyday.'

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