The Siran valley of Mansehra is filled with natural springs and small rivers that ultimately find their way to the mighty Indus. They help with irrigation and provide people a source of fresh water. But one of the springs stands out for having a unique and rather mystifying quality to heal.
Chaito da Choha or Chaito’s spring attracts people from near and far. They come in droves to escape the summer heat by taking a dip in its chilly waters, which incidentally turn warm during the winter. However, what makes this spring truly extraordinary is that it can supposedly heal skin conditions.
Villager Yaqub tells the tale of a woman who suffered from severe rashes, but one bathe in Chaito da Choha miraculously cured her. “That is when people started believing the water was sacred and started visiting it for their skin diseases, especially seasonal ones,” Yaqub claims.
The spring is named after a landlady of Bogarmang, which is some 32 kilometres from the main town of Mansehra. It was discovered by locals around 150 years ago.
Amjad Khan Swati, another local, recalls that there was a time when people openly bathed in the spring but this posed a problem for women. This prompted the elders to build a small wall around it and run a small pipe through to the other side of the spring for the boys and men. He claims that people usually need to bathe three times to be cured over the same number of consecutive weeks. “Sometime they can get rid of the disease after two visits,” said Swati.
He tells The Express Tribune that skin problems are common in the area as the people don’t have access to proper toilets and generally lack awareness about personal health and hygiene.
“This spring falls on the land of my ancestors, but I have yet to discover why people are cured after bathing in it,” says Bogarmang’s former union council chairman, Muhammad Sadiq Khan Swati. It has either some spiritual quality or the water has some natural ingredients that benefit the skin, he adds.
It certainly proved beneficial for Gulzar’s four-year-old son whose seasonal scabies was cured after two consecutive visits to the spring. He chose to take the boy to Chaito da Choha instead of relying on antibiotics and anti-allergic medicines. “It is true; the spring has something spiritual that cures skin problems within weeks,” says a relieved Gulzar, who lives in Jabori village.
Noor Jehan Bibi from Khanpur Maira village was also there for a second time with her granddaughter, who suffers from skin problems. She claims that the water is more effective than any medication.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Ehtesham Khan, a local landlord and managing director of a private hospital, says that while the origins of the spring remain a mystery he contests the belief that it has some spiritual healing power. “The emerging point of the spring is beneath a hill in the backdrop which has natural reserves of sulphur and other medicinal minerals,” he explains. He points out that the minerals mixed in the natural flow of water will definitely cure ailing people.
He adds that the hill ranges of his village have large reserves of sulphur and other untapped minerals, which would explain why it is seeping into the water. This is generally why medicinal plants tend to grow around springs.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2014.
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