Diwali is around the corner and the excitement has started building up. As everyone is busy preparing for the festival, the Indian market has welcomed varieties of beautiful diyas, lanterns, sweets and crackers. While people across the country burst crackers just for a little fun, two villages in Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu follow a different tradition.
This is not the first year that the villages of Kollukudipatti and Singampunari are doing this, but this is a tradition that they have been following for years. But why do they follow this tradition? To take care of their bird guests who nest in the villages when winter arrives.
“I am 47 and all these years, I have never seen my people burst crackers inside our villages,” says Veeriya, a forest watcher in Kollukudipatti, to The Hindu.
The villagers have taken this step to protect their visitors including Grey Herons, Asian Open-Billed Storks, Black-Headed Ibis, Little Cormorants and Egrets who fly to the Southern Indian state in the winter months from Northern India, Siberia and New Zealand.
“They arrive in October and stay on till February, after which they fly off with their fledglings,” says S. Jayakumar, a college professor.
Koonthankulam is declared a bird sanctuary and it has been many years since the villagers have touched firecrackers. “A loud bang would scare nesting mothers away from the nest. This could leave the hatchlings and eggs in danger,” says S Balpadi, a bird expert from Sivaganga.
The tradition started around 30 years back when the locals observed how their enjoyment was causing trauma to the birds.
“Earlier, during the time of Deepavali, we had exploded loud crackers, and on hearing the sound, the birds started to shake vigorously. In the process, their eggs fell down and were damaged. On seeing the birds shiver, we held a meeting with our village elders and then decided not to burst crackers,” said Arumugam, former Panchayat resident of Kollukudipatti.
This isn’t law, nor is it a written rule. It’s just counter-tradition that is passed from one generation to another.
Even though the adults gave up on bursting crackers, it was difficult for them to convince the children to sacrifice their yearly custom. But when the head master of their school told them that it was to ensure a safe haven for the migratory birds, they knew their responsibility.
“Our school’s headmaster instructs our children not to disturb the birds. He tells them the babies are paavam and that they should protect them,” says Saraswati from Sankarapandiapuram.
Isn’t this tradition something that we all must follow as a country? Imagine the trauma caused to birds and animals who, unlike us, don’t have a place to hide and protect themselves. There is no compulsion for these children to not burst crackers but it is something that ‘they like to do’.
“I can see the birds from my window at home; hear their calls; when it rains, there is a certain smell that emanates when water mixes with their droppings. It’s not pleasant, but we’ve learned to live with it.”
Let’s all adopt this tradition, keep our environment safe, protect our fellow living beings and make this Diwali brighter.
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