In Pictures: Bloodletting in Delhi

In a city with world-class hospitals, some turn to a 3,000-year-old practice to cure illnesses.


New Delhi, India - Rahat Open Surgery boasts of curing its patients using the 3,000-year-old practice of bloodletting.

A practitioner known as a Hakeem ties the hand or leg with a cloth rope and makes an incision with a razor blade to let the blood rush out from the body, following the ancient medical practice that assumed draining small amounts of blood would prevent illness and cure disease.

"My family has been practicing this for generations and this is a gift of God," says 40-year-old Mohammad Iqbal, who began running the clinic after his 78-year-old father Mohammad Gayas became too old to handle patients.

"No money is charged for this treatment because if we start taking money from people, then the special power to heal will be snatched from us by God," Iqbal says.

The clinic opens at 9am and shuts at noon, treating about 40 patients a day. After the incisions are made with new razor blades, patients stand in the sun so the blood flows out freely. A helper pours water on the incisions. 

"My work is to just take out the bad and impure blood by making these incisions, and the cure is up to God. While some patients get cured in 10 days, there are others who take months. Most of our patients are those who have given up on their doctors and their treatments in hospitals. They come shouting and moaning in pain when they enter the clinic, but go out laughing and smiling," says Iqbal. 

In a city with world-class hospitals and facilities, people still queue at this open-air clinic to be treated for various ailments through the process of bloodletting.

Inderjeet Singh, 19, has been visiting the open-air clinic for more than two weeks now. "I used to walk with the help of a walking stick because of some problem in the left side of my body," he says. "I did not want to undergo a major surgery. Instead I decided to come here and I can now walk easily. Few more days and I will be completely cured."

Iqbal says people from all around the country visit him to cure their ailments, though the number of foreigners visiting has dwindled. 

While no money is charged for bleeding and curing the patients, Iqbal makes his living by running a family shop where he sells clothes and bags.