Where Birds Fall: Mystery of Northeast India
Northeast is acknowledged for its exquisite greenery. Though the Seven Sister States has numerous places which are surely breathtaking and admirable, in one of them resides a small village which might leave one bewildered.
Jatinga is a tiny village in Assam located 330km south of Guwahati in the Dima Hasao district. The event befalls every year predominantly in the months September and October when thousands of migratory and local birds fly across this village. Although, before they cross Jatinga, the birds fall in collision with houses and trees and till morning thousands of birds are spotted lying groundless. Thus, Jatinga is also recognized as “The Valley of Death for Birds.”
The first ones to witness this incident were the native villagers of Zeme tribe in the mid 19th century. They were startled to see a flock of birds coming towards them and suddenly collapsing on the ground by colliding with houses and trees. The villagers were petrified, as they notion it to be the wrath of God and eventually deserted the village.
In the year 1905, when Jaintia tribe dwelled this village, they too claimed to observe the similar phenomenon. They remarked it when a group of villagers were out at night searching for their lost animals with flaming torches. They found this happening when ton of birds began to fall by colliding with trees in the forest where the flaming torch lights were illuminating. Unlike the Zeme tribe, the Jaintiya tribe believed it to be an endowment from God and accepted it blissfully.
Ornithologists and scientists all over the world attempted to discover the grounds of this mysterious happening. In spite of formulating numerous theories, no one is able to provide genuine evidence till date.
In the late 1950s Ornithologists E.P.Gee and Salim Ali investigated Jatinga. Later E.P.Gee published a book named “Wild Life of India” where he mentions Jatinga. In his book, E.P.Gee states that when he and his companions replicated an environment exactly akin to the bird suicide spot around different areas of the village, they were dumbfounded to observe that not a single bird fell to the ground. He ultimately concludes that this peculiar incident arise only in a small area of 1.5km. Besides, he also figured it to mostly occur in days when the moon is dim and the sky is covered with mist and cloud, chiefly at around 7’o clock to 10’o clock at night.
Further, in the book “The Birds of Assam” Anwaruddin Choudhury, a prominent ornithologist reasoned that due to high wind or other reasons when the nests of the birds get demolished, they migrate to other places. And due to the stress they take and the mist on their way, they initiate to follow light, and in this procedure they collide with houses and trees and stumble. However, in some cases villagers were too found slaughter the birds for their food.
Likewise, many Ornithologists and scientists gave several justifications, however indeed baffling.
With the spread of the news of mass bird deaths in Jatinga, many controversies regarding it scattered like a forest fire. For instance, many people started to consider the sky evils responsible for this occurrence. Villagers still believe that ghosts and spirits were behind it. Even at present visiting Jatinga at night is strictly prohibited.
Various initiatives were taken by the conservation groups and wildlife officials to educate the villagers about the impact of killing birds. And at present, bird’s death in Jatinga is gradually declining. Moreover, as E.P.Gee and others wrote about Jatinga extensively, it became an eminent tourist attraction by the coming of mid 1980s. Presently Jatinga is one of the most admired bird watching centres supervised by district forestry office in Haflong.
It is confounding, as till today nobody accessed a true basis of it. The deeper we go the more perplex we become. It produces several queries in our mind to which someone hardly has an answer. E.P.Gee and many other ornithologists’ held cloud and mist and as well as nights with dim moon responsible for the circumstance. But many events have been recorded where birds also plunge in the morning and afternoon.
Further, in some inspections it has been found that the event takes place only in a small area of 1.5 km. But with regards to this context a question arises, that what is so unusual in that particular area of the village that it has become a threat for birds.
And the questions are eternal.
Mysteries exist in the world since in certain situations it is beyond our philosophy to unearth its root. We may assume that till now mankind is not proficient of understanding the nature of the birds entirely. But in the future, with further advanced technologies we may presume it to be possible, except till then the cause of this mystery would remain within the birds and the Mother Nature. And accordingly, we must grasp the fact that where birds are supposed to fly high, nature has nurtured a site where they fall.
Anusha Mahanta, 14 is presently studying at Delhi Public School, Nazira. She has keen interest in creative writing. She has won Katha young writers award ,2019 and Katha student young reader- leader award 2019.