Healers of Dharavi was an exhibition in the Alley Galli Biennale, a three-week arts and festival that took place from February 15 to March 7, 2015 in Dharavi, Mumbai’s largest informal settlement.

It featured a series of eight portraits made by four local artists, who also create hand-painted signage in the city. Evoking Bollywood poster art of the 70s and 80s, they showed purveyors of the health and healing options available to the people of Dharavi. The works highlight the abundance and variety of medical practices; and offer an intimate insight into the working lives of those practitioners in Dharavi who provide its residents with affordable relief in an increasingly crowded, expensive and stressful city.


Healers of Dharavi was held in a ten-metre long shed at Shama Building, Dharavi. The fit out of the shed, including painting and decorating, electrical work and carpentry were all commissioned from local residents. Wherever possible, local goods and services were procured.

Capturing moments from the making of Healers of Dharavi, this film celebrates the health practitioners and artists of Dharavi.

An artefact we uncovered in Dharavi found its way into our finale exhibition at CSMVS, ‘Tabiyat: Medicine and Healing in India’. Sunanda Pawar, who has had the Raktabahuli or 'Blood Doll' in her family for generations, demonstrates the right way to use this beautiful healing object.

Home Remedies and Nutrition: A talk by Prof. Veena Yardi

“If charity begins at home, so does good health,” says Professor Veena Yardi, Senior Faculty Member at the College of Home Science, Nirmala Niketan Institute, Mumbai. Addressing twenty five local women at the Healers of Dharavi exhibition venue, Prof Yardi focused on simple steps and staple foods that are crucial for better health. 

Surrounded by eight imposing portraits of different health practitioners in Dharavi, Professor Yardi drew attention to the key space for healthy living – the home. Glad to have such easy and unusual access to a nutritionist, the audience were delighted to learn in a lively Q&A session that the kitchen, a predominantly feminine space in most Indian homes, can be a mini-clinic. Professor Yardi shared some handy tips: do not mix roti and chai, since tannin can diminish the roti’s nutrients; make use of water in which pulses are soaked; and, consider the essential food categories that should be found in children’s lunch boxes. There were ample warnings of the consequences of women sacrificing their own health for their families’ and frank, constructive discussion of managing pregnancy, menopause and vitamin D deficiency. Every woman in the audience left the event with confidence that, equipped with new knowledge and leading by example, she could be a great health resource – just like the Healers exhibited on the walls.