Thursday, 27 October 2011

Diwali is Dark for Owls In India

The  festival  of  Diwali  known  as  the  Festival  of  lights  is   a  time  of  celebrations, giving  gifts, shopping,  decorating  and   special  food and  sweets. but  it  is  a dark  time  for  owls  and   other  animals. On  Diwali   night  Tantrik  pooja is  performed  in  which these  birds  and animals  are  sacrificed  and  there  are  reports  of  human  sacrifice   too. Diwali  is   being  celebrated  this   week.
Why  Owls  of India  do  not Like Diwali?

For Hindus, this time of the year is the most awaited and most auspicious period in the annual calendar. While many get ready to be part of the celebrations with two major festivals of Dussehra and Diwali coming one after the other, there are also a few who wish to seek the blessings of the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi through whatever ways and means. Even today, therefore the goddesses’ traditional mount, the owl, is sacrificed by blinded individuals to ensure prosperity in their lives but forever doom the life of a harmless bird.

In the period between Dussehra and Diwali therefore business is booming for people like Babu Baheliya. It is this specific time of the year when many come to this bird catcher seeking priced owls. But while the bird catcher rejoices, it is another matter for the captured owls that are sacrificed to appease the Goddess Lakshmi and to ward off bad luck on the night of Diwali.

People like Babu Baheliya sitting in his dingy alleyways of Meerut can easily pocket up to Rs. 50,000 selling 2 or 3 owls to individuals blinded with superstition. The trade flourishes during the festival of Sharad Poornima (the full moon night right after Dussehra) and continues to peak near Diwali. It is these two days when Lakshmi is worshipped most arduously in many homes and therefore the rise in demand for the sacrificial owls.

“Owls are associated with various myths, folklore and superstitions concerning black magic and witchcraft, prophecy, birth, death, and many other natural and unnatural phenomena. Given the mysteries usually associated with them, it may also come as a surprise that owls are heavily targeted for illegal trade,” says Ravi Singh, secretary general at WWF-India.

Pricey Owls

Owls were included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and protection under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. But according to wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, out of 32 species of owls in the country, 15 have been found in the illegal domestic bird trade.

Exotic Pet & Sacrificial – The popularity of Harry Potter has prompted many to buy owls as pets but most of the birds sold in the illegal pet market are sacrificed during traditional rituals. Mostly, people behind the sacrifice are so called shamans or tantriks, the black magic experts.

“Such tantriks claim to be able to cure a variety of maladies and ill-fortune, ranging from desire for a male child, prolonged sickness, infertility, the need for vashikaran (being able to control someone). The demands are either from tribal areas or from towns and cities where demand is created by practising tantriks. Owls are sold at a premium,” says Abrar Ahmed, an expert on the bird trade.

Body Parts – Owl parts are in great demand too in many tribal areas where bones, beaks and talons of owls are sold. The busy by-lanes around the Ajmer Dargah Sharif, the Delhi Jama Masjid, and Chowringhee and Kalighat in Kolkata abound in vendors doing a brisk business selling amulets and other charms made from owl parts.

According to Paul D. Frost, author of Owls Mythology and Folklore, “In India, ‘food’ made from owls was believed to have many medicinal properties, curing seizures in children and rheumatism. Eating owl eyes was believed to enable a person to see in the dark, while owl meat was believed to be an aphrodisiac.”

Bird Traps – Another use of the captured owls is as birds such as minlas, sibias, thrushes, magpies and yuhinas, all birds that fetch a good price in the pet market. Collared owlets are most frequently used for trapping silver-eared mesias and red-billed leiothrixes, while jungle owlets are used to trap thrushes and magpies.

But the owl is in no way treated with care when it helps the catcher lure other birds. According to the investigative report by Livemint, they sew its eyelids shut, and then train the bird to sit on a bamboo pole to which it is tethered by a cotton thread. The trappers then conceal themselves and mimic the distress calls of various birds, all the while shaking the pole to make the captive owl flutter. Small birds begin mobbing the owl and are caught using glue on a bamboo stick.

Rising Demand

The demand for owls is not limited to a state or two in the country. In fact, be it Delhi or Mumbai, Kolkata or Bangalore all over the country markets are thriving with owl business.

The highest demand is for the horned owls. Catchers often disguise spotted owls to look like them or the rock eagle owl. They are dyed with tea and lamp-black mixed with mustard oil and feathers are stuck with latex to the head, besides red colouring agents being injected into the eyes of the bird. Shikras and sparrowhawks are often beheaded and their body parts passed off as those of owls.

Ahmed says that the way owls and other animals are treated in India is as much a social problem as a legal one.

“To find solutions at the grass roots level, rehabilitate communities which are engaged in the trapping of birds, bust myths on owls, crack down on taxidermists, and develop rescue centres for owls” is what can solve the problem he says.

An Appeal
What readers can do this Diwali is keep your eyes open for such barbaric activities in your community and neighborhood and report the matter immediately to local animal rescue centres or even the police. When you celebrate Diwali to usher in light in your life, let the light not cease then in another creature’s life.


8 Fertilize my soul:

Zim said...

I read Your note with big attention. For me this topic is exotic, but in Poland there are people who believe in similar way, that dog's fat is good medicine - there was big affair about this, especially in villages. People in India need Gospel and Jesus Christ - this is answer for them, and not only for them.

Mari @ Mari's Cakes said...

It's so sad what they do to this owls. It also happens here with cats and birds. Many people also disappear and it all happens around Halloween time. Everyone keeps celebrating these days and following pagan traditions. All we could do is spread the word and pray for wisdom.


JI said...

When I was a young boy in India, I used to enjoy the fireworks during this festival of Diwali. It was good good to light sparklers, Catherine wheels and fountains as well as watch rockets go up in the air. I enjoyed that, as most children do. I didn't care too much about the religious aspect. I beleive Diwali is a celebration of truth over falsehood, of life over death and of good over evil. Sounds good in theory. However, it does seem like it is becoming too commercialised and a major threat to owl population of India. I think Diwali is a bigger festival in northern India and in the south. In Kerala the main festival is Onam (harvest festival), celebrated by all communities.

David Edward Linus said...

how very sad, sacrifice of blood has always been a powerful 'potion' but these who practice it remain in darkness and in their sin. May the perfect Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Come through His spirit and wash, cleanse and purify your countrymen ( and mine) of our ruthless acts against man and beast. By his stripes we are healed, by His blood we have forgiveness for our sins. In Him we live and move and have our being.

Amrita said...

Dear JI , we also enjyed bursting loads of fire crockers as children, and up until the time we were not truely born again we lit our house with Diwali lights too - no puja of course.

The fire crackers are fun if used safely.

Dusshera is the victory og good over evil - with goddess Kali slaying the demon and Ram slaying Ravan.

Diwali is the worship of goddess Lakshmi goddess of wealth.

Its a big festival in the northern states and among the business community.

Amrita said...

Yes David only the blood of Christ can save us from our sins

Julia Dutta said...

My God Amrita, even tho' I was born a Hindu, I never knew this gory story behind the night of Kali pooja. It surely makes it the darkest and the most evil night of the year, as does its day as well with all those crackers that pollute the air and frighten poor animals. I absolutely dislike both these days - Diwali and Holi, they are meant only for hooligans.
But I must tell you that Holi is not as ugh a festival in Bengal as it is in the north. I was in Kolkata during one March, and really the air was full of Krishna songs because, it is a great day for the Vaishnavis and they sing and dance in abandon for their love of Krishna. I found it rather romantic LOL.

poona said...

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Diwali Gifts to India