How many bird myths and superstitions do you know? We tend to take the presence of our feathered friends very much for granted, some age old traditions of Dussehra are a disquieting example.
In many parts of Telangana and some parts of Andhra Pradesh, the once fun-filled venture involving a spot of bird-watching amongst the lush green trees has now become a death trap for the charming little Blue Jay.
Palapitta, which is also known as the Indian roller or blue jay, is believed to bring good luck when seen on the eve of Dasara. It is also believed that if one makes a wish before palapitta, it will convey the wish to Lord Shiva, who will fulfil it. People still buy these birds from the bird market to set them free after making a wish.
Another superstition attached to this bird is that adding its chopped feathers to grass and feeding them to cows will increase the latter's milk yield.
Taking advantage of the situation, Poachers typically capture the birds a month before the festival, tie their legs with thread, trim their wings and stick them with glue to prevent them from flying. The birds are usually starved up till the day of Dusshera and kept in small cages for public viewing. Most of these birds die in captivity or immediately after being released.
During Dusshera, many devotees pay hefty sums of money to buy these captured birds from local markets and release them as a good deed which they believe will absolve of their sins. These birds are often sold or placed outside temples for viewing during Dusshera.
The neelkanth, which is another name of Shiva, is revered by Hindus. In north India, there's a saying when people spot it: "Neelkanth tum neele rahiyo, dudh bhaat ka bhoj kariyo, hamri baat Ram se kahiyo (Neelkanth, you stay blue, feast on rice and milk and convey our wishes to Ram)." In southern states, where its density is 50 birds per sq km, the Indian roller is the state bird of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Palapittas are an ecologically important species as they help control pests in farm land. This species is protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which makes its capture, hunting and trade an illegal activity punishable with a fine of Rs. 25,000/-or an imprisonment for up to three years or both
In the past, the local authorities have conducted raids and confiscated birds from temples and the Murgi Chowk market, but this has not had a lasting effect.